Do antacids weaken the immune system?

 

Kinsei Newsletter
The Newsletter for MindBody Balance

Thanksgiving 2012
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Do antacids weaken the immune system?
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When it comes to health maintenance and disease prevention, nothing stands out quite like the digestive system.  In fact, Hippocrates, the father of medicine stated that “Aheadshotll diseases begin in the gut.”  If you’re one of the approximately 30 million American’s who have used an antacid such as Tums, Nexium, Prilosec, etc, what you may not know is that the use of such common medications can have very serious consequences for your immune system, particularly if you use them with regularity.  If you have any interest in your well being, and seek to prevent illness or disease then read on.

What does the gut have to do with immunity?
Your digestive system is an approximately 30 foot long tube in varying shapes and functions which begins in your mouth, and ends at the anus, whose purpose goes beyond extracting energy and building blocks from the food we consume.  It’s function is diverse, from maintaining our mental/emotional stateto preventing infections of all kinds.  Therefore, the integrity within this tubular system stands as king in the prevention of virtually every disease.

Between 60-80% of the immune system is found within the gut.
While our body is estimated to have 10 trillion cells making up our entire body, our gut is estimated to contain 100 trillion microbes (bacteria, fungus, yeast, and protozoa)!  Our health is largely dictated by the balance of the microbes living within this tube.

One of the most dominant species of beneficial microbes living in our guts is the lactobacillus acidophilus organism.  “Acidophilus” literally means, “acid lover”.   If the environment within the gut becomes alkaline, through the use of antacids, proton pump inhibitors such as Priolosec, etc then the beneficial microorganisms, such as L. acidophilus, are less able to survive which yields less desirable microbes taking up valuable real estate within the intestines.  It’s been shown that the beneficial microbes communicate directly with the cells of the intestines in order to target pathogenic microbes, so fewer beneficial microbes opens the door to infection and injury to the gut lining.

Consider a mosquito problem in a neighborhood that contained a swamp; it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that draining the swamp would be more productive than indiscriminately spraying insecticide throughout the neighborhood.  The point here is that what is important to the mosquitoes is the environment in which they thrive.  If you want healthy microbes within your gut, and therefore a healthy body, you have to make sure they are given a proper environment.  Conversely, if you want sickness and disease alter the environment that makes it less suitable for the good guys to survive.

The imbalance within the gut microbiology as caused by low stomach acid, poor diet (sugar, processed food), antibiotics for infection or through food, drinking chlorinated water (kills bacteria, including good bacteria), or preservatives sets the stage for many diseases by killing beneficial microbes and feeding harmful microbes, thus damaging the barrier between the outside world and you.  You see, the intestinal tract is really a barrier between you and the outside world although it winds through the center of your body.  The gut lining is intended to be tightly regulated to only allow for fully digested food and nutrients to enter the blood stream.  Once that barrier is damaged you can develop what is called “leaky gut” where pathogens, formerly restrained from entry into the blood stream by a healthy gut lining, migrate through the body, and begin many health problems including allergies, autoimmune disorders, etc.  Likewise, some of the latest research on AID’s suggests that it’s the degradation of the gut, and health status of the healthy flora, which may be the most significant aspect to the destruction of the immune system in this disease.

But my stomach burns if I don’t take antacids!    
When it comes to our gut and therefore our health, it’s critical to maintain adequate amounts of stomach acid.  Most people who think they have too much acid are actually dealing with too little acid.   If you’re over 40, it’s truly rare to have high stomach acid versus low, as you’ll produce less and less as you age.  Here are a few signs that you have low stomach acid (hypochlorohydria):

  • You don’t feel well after eating meat.
  • You have acid reflux or GERD after meals.
  • You burp, fart, or get bloated after meals.

There are a few different ways to asses stomach acid production, including the gold standard Heidelberg stomach acid test, but it’s around $300 to perform and there are other ways that are safe and pretty reliable.

 

A cheaper way you can do at home involves the following:

  1. Buy some Betaine HCL (approx 650mg capsules)
  2. Eat at least 6 ounces of meat
  3. In the middle of meal take 1 Betaine HCL pill
  4. Finish your meal as normal and pay attention to your body

What to expect:

  1. If you notice nothing, this means it is very likely you have low stomach acid levels.
  2. If as you go about your normal life and start to feel stomach distress characterized as heaviness, burning, or hotness – then these are signs that you don’t have low acid levels. *If corticosteroids, or NSAID’s have been used for long periods of time the likelihood of ulcerations in the gut increases and will make the use of the betaine/HCL very uncomfortable.  It’s therefore adisable to perform this test under a doctors supervision if you have used such anti-inflammatories for an extended period of time. 

Repeat the test.  If after two tests where no noticeable signs of burning, or heaviness occur following the ingestion of one betaine HCL tablet, increase it by another tablet, and repeat the test again to try and determine a baseline dosage.  It’s common to take between 3-6 capsules per protein based meal.

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Special Offer To Existing Patients:

Do you know of anyone suffering from allergies, fatigue, or pain of any kind?  You can help them, and help yourself by making a referral.  If you refer someone during the month of November you’ll receive 1/2 off your next visit.    

 

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Quote of the week: 

“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”

-Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.)

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