Dear Pharmacist,

You've said that if you have twitches, leg cramps, spasms or heart arrhythmias that you could be deficient in acid. What does this mean? I am taking an acid pill myself for reflux.

—L.B. Las Vegas, Nevada

Answer: You're not taking an "acid" pill, you're taking an acid-blocking pill for reflux. Those drugs are suppressing acid so you don't get reflux. But this is important to know. If you run low on stomach acid, you will experience those symptoms above due to your inability to extract minerals from your foods. You see, stomach acid is necessary to get minerals and nutrients out of your food, and into your cells.

Acid-blocking drugs inhibit that process, causing undigested food globules to pass through your stomach and then, microscopic proteins leak into your blood stream. It could launch an auto-immune attack, so having sufficient stomach acid is important to your entire digestive tract. I'm not against acid blocking drugs. Thank goodness we have them for when those spicy buffalo wings revisit us at 1am.

Controlling a genuine problem is fine with me, but indiscriminate consumption of acid blockers (sold without prescription in the United States) is not a good idea. Understand, stomach acid is not bad, it's only bad if it's produced in excess. Did you know that you will experience symptoms of heartburn if you make too much acid, but also if you are deficient? Weird but true. Healthy amounts of stomach acid keep the tiny trap door shut between your stomach and esophagus. This sphincter is pH sensitive and in a healthy person, it stays shut because of the natural production of acid in the stomach. When you reduce stomach acid, you then have insufficient amounts, and your stomach pH increases and this causes the trap door to swing open, causing heartburn. That's why some people who take a digestive acid supplement (like betaine) sometimes feel better. Small amounts of healthy digestive acids keep the trap door shut, and the acid where it should be (down in your stomach) as opposed to your throat!

The signs of low acid (termed hypochlorhydria) include heartburn! Surprised? It's true. Also, you see irritable bowel, belching, cramps, food sensitivities, rheumatoid, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, gallbladder disease, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, yeast infections and rosacea. You will certainly have chronic fatigue because acid is needed to give you minerals which then participate in the production of both thyroid and adrenal hormones. No doubt, a little betaine can breathe life into some tired people (but get your doctor's approval even though this is over-the-counter). I don't know what's right for you.

Digestive acids are sold at health food stores by names such as "betaine hydrochloride," "betaine with pepsin" or "trimethylglycine." Begin supplementation by titrating your dosage upward based on symptom relief. Take acid supplements during your meal, or right after and space them apart by 5 minutes if you take more than one pill. Ask a knowledgeable practitioner if acid supplements are right for you and have your zonulin and gastrin levels tested.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)
blockquote.article-intro { color: #333333; font-family: "Roboto","Helvetica Neue",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5; }