As someone that has been in clinical research for most of my adult life, I am well aware of Gastro Esophageal Reflux. GERD is one of the most misdiagnosed conditions in this country. The reflux of gastric juices with or without the presence of hydrochloric acid is extreemly bitter to the tast. Because of the bitter tast many people assume that they are over producing hydrochloric acid (HCL). In many cases this assumption is incorrect.
Many doctors assume that a patient with reflux is over producing HCL. The over production of acid is called Hyperchlorhydria. The under production of acid is called Hypochlorhydria. The symptoms associated with both of these conditions are virtually identical, they are as follows: belching, reflux, bloating, gas, nausea, diarrhea and or constipation, abdominal pain, etc. When a doctor assumes that you are over producing HCL, without the benefit of a pH diagnostic test, there is a better that 50% chance that his assumption is incorrect. Because of this misdiagnosis the doctor will most likely prescribe an acid reducing medication or Proton Pump inhibitor. When a person that is not produicing enough HCL is placed on an acid reducing medication they will become Achlorhydric. Achlorhydric is the complete lack of Hydrochloric acid production in the stomach.
Hydrochloric acid is absolutely necessary for proper digestion. The hydrochloric acid breaks down the nutrients consumed into a thick liquidy mass called Chyme. It also destroys many types of bacteria and fungus in the nutrients. Most importantly the acid is necessary for the conversion of proteins. The Peptic enzymes are responsible for the conversion of proteins into proteoses and peptones, which are the building blocks for the amino acids, necessary to sustain life. The Peptic enzymes are most active when the pH of the stomach is at 1.0 to 2.0 pH. As the strength of the HCL moves toward the neutral side these enzymes become less active in the conversion process. At pH 5.0 the Peptic enzymes are completely inactive in converting nutrients.
Many proteins are allergens and will cause allergies and other disorders if they are not broken down sterilized and converted by the Peptic enzymes and HCL. To complicate this problem the Pyloric Sphincter at the base of the stomach starts to relax and dump the contents of the stomach when the pH of the stomach is at 4.0 to 4.5 pH. Because of this, fluids from the duodenum will flush back into to the stomach, and in some cases into the esophagus, when a perastaltic squeeze occurs.
A large percentage of people over the age of 45, but not limited to these age groups, suffer from reduced acid production. As a person get older the stomachs parietal cells wane in their ability to produce strong enough acid. This is called Hypochlorhydria. When this occurs there is reduced sterilization and conversion of the nutrients consumed. It also allows raw nutrients to dump into the small bowel without the benefit of sterilization and conversion resulting in allergies and many other disorders. Many people with Hypochlorhydria will be deficient in vitamin B-12 and other essential vitamins and minerals. The same cells that produce the Hydrochloric acid also produce a glycoprotein call the intrinsic factor. The intrinsic factor is necessary for the absorption of B-12 in the small bowel. Before a doctor prescribes any type of medication for a digestive disorder, including GERD he must do a pH diagnostict test to determine the condition of a patients digestive process.
The over production of acid or Hyperchlorhydria is common in only 12% of the total population, compared to 48% that have Hypochlorhydria. People with Hyperchlorhydria will retain nutrients in their stomachs for long intervals. This is called Delayed emptying and in extreem cases Marked delay emptying. Nutrients, vitamins, and medications are subjected to prolong exposure to the caustic effect of the strong acid levels. If not corrected this conditon can result in excoriation of the stomach and intestinal mucosa and set the stage for cancer. An acid reducing medication or Proton Pump Inhibitor can be used on a short term basis to allow healing of damaged tissue. Long term use of these products will cause the patient to become Hypochlorhydric or even Achlorhydric. Hyperchlorhydria can be treated with a medication that mimics the normal physiologic buffering that occurs in the digestive process, and does not cause side effects.
All of this boils down to one simple fact: doctors must do a pH diagnostic test before prescribing a medication for a digestive disorder.
For more information on the clinical studies and pH testing search the net for pH capsule, gastrogram, pH diagnostic testing.