Dr. David Rakel would like to correct a long-held misconception about stomach acid. He says, stomach acid can be a good thing. And medications like proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers can cause more serious problems when they lower the acidity of the GI tract.
Dr. Rakel cautions against merely treating symptoms with medication. Instead he recommends looking at any lifestyle choices that may be contributing to stomach problems, with an eye to resolving them.
Transcribed from video interview
I think it’s one of the things we don’t realize is the potential dangers of long-term acid suppression. The normal pH of the stomach is about 1 to 3, the higher the pH the more alkaline, the lower the pH the more acidic. When we take a medicine such as a proton pump inhibitor or an H2 blocker, these are medicines that significantly lower the acidity of the GI tract.
Now again, if we touch base with nature, why did nature give us acid in the stomach? It allows us to absorb key nutrients and now the evidence and the research is helping us understand the potential dangers of long-term acid suppression. So just to go down a list we need acid to absorb iron and acid suppression can cause iron deficiency anemia.
We need acid to absorb our calcium and we are seeing that people who are on these drugs for a long-term have a higher risk of hip fracture. We need acid to absorb vitamin B12, the main vitamin that’s needed for our nervous system. We also need acid to keep the bacteria count low in the small intestine and we don’t want alot of bacteria in the small intestine, we want all of our bacteria in the large intestine.
If we have too much bacteria in the small intestine sometimes that can be aspirated up into our lungs and that we are seeing particularly in the elderly, an increased risk of community pneumonias on people who have long-term acid suppression.