Hydrochloric Acid Production Critical for Optimal Health

| January 7, 2018 | 0 Comments

Stomach production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) is a big deal. HCl breaks down proteins in your food into individual amino acids–the building blocks of proteins. If HCl production is inadequate, protein digestion may be incomplete. Absorption of undigested proteins into the bloodstream can cause the immune system to react. These reactions are often mistaken for food allergies. True food allergies are genetic–you’re born with them. If you start to develop sensitivities to foods as an adult, it’s because your ability to produce HCl is declining. Most food “allergies” in children are simply due to inadequate HCl production.

Note that the pH (level of acid) of stomach acid is 3 million times that of arterial pH! How does that happen? Note at top of fig 64-6 that water (H2O) gets split into hydroxyl (OH-) and hydrogen (H+). The more hydrogen ions, the lower the pH, the more acidic. The “P” you see to the right of H+ represents a pump mechanism that pumps H+ from the stomach cell (Parietal cell) into the stomach. Pumping that many H+ ions require lots of energy.

Note to the left inside the parietal cell many smaller compartments. These are mitochondria. Mitochondria are where glucose, oxygen and thyroid hormone (T3) are combined to produce energy. Mitochondria in your cells function similar to the carburetor in your car. Gasoline, oxygen and a spark from a spark plug are mixed in the carburetor to create energy.

Soooooo, it should make sense that if thyroid levels are low, inadequate HCl production may be a consequence. Since producing HCl is a critical mechanism for keeping critters under control, critter overgrowth occurs if HCl production is compromised. These critters survive by fermenting the food you feed them. This causes the gas/bloat many experience. These critters also produce critter acid that leads to heartburn. The treatment for heartburn, paradoxically, is to add HCl–not block it.

One critter that over grows is Candida albicans. Candida overgrowth can manifest in many ways. If the critters migrate into the lungs, the immune system reacts with the production of chemicals (leukotrienes) that cause the symptoms of asthma. If Candida travels the opposite direction, the result can be irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, or hemorrhoids. If the migration moves to the vagina, we see vaginal yeast overgrowth.

Another popular destination for Candida is the liver. Candida thrives on sugar and your liver is your main repository for storing sugar. Again, the immune system responds to this overgrowth by producing chemicals aimed at killing the Candida. Normal cells can be damaged in the process. Also, Candida will create alcohol in the liver as a consequence of fermenting the sugar in the liver. The combination of damage from the alcohol and the damage from inflammation creates a condition called Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis–the number one cause of liver transplants in the U. S.

Another consequence of low HCl and Candida overgrowth is a weakened immune system. Candida produce immune system poisons called gliotoxins. Gliotoxins weaken a critical part of your immune defense–macrophages. This allows the advance of other critters. In children, this will manifest as repeated episodes of ear/nose/throat over growths. The elderly will be more prone to food poisoning, and viral/bacterial pneumonias.

Note in the schematic that H+ secretion is related to K+ (potassium) absorption. As thyroid levels decline and less HCl is excreted, less potassium and magnesium are absorbed. Deficiencies of potassium and magnesium cause blood pressure to rise.

HCl is required for the absorption of B-12 and other vitamins. B-12 is required for healthy red blood cells and nerve cells. If B-12 levels get low, red blood cells get bigger and less efficient at carrying oxygen (a critical factor in your energy equation). This can cause low energy episodes. The size of red blood cells is shown on your blood work as MCV–mean corpuscular volume. If your MCV is above 85, you should be evaluated for low HCl.

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Category: Digestive Health, General Health

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