You Tube – ME and CFS Treatment – Stomach Acid
Alex: Hi, I’m Alex Howard and I’m with Tanya Page from the nutrition team at the clinic. And today we’re going to be talking about stomach acid and its role in CFS and ME treatment, Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and that group of illnesses. And I think this is particularly interesting because stomach acid not working the way that it’s meant to actually has a really big impact on symptoms, and on situations, and it’s actually also quite simple to treat.
Alex: So maybe a good starting point would be what stomach acid actually does, what it role is in the body?
Tanya: Well it’s got a massively fundamental role, and that role is to digest the protein for your food without which you can’t grow, repair or rejuvenate, so that’s pretty key. It’s 2nd but really, really important role is also for immunity, because essentially the stomach is the first line of defence of the immune system, so anything that gets in through your nose or through your mouth is going to hit the stomach, so if the stomach acid isn’t strong enough, you’re kind of shafted at that point, so….
Alex: And of course it being the beginning of the whole digestives system, other things we’ve talked about in other blogs that will be available at various points, from Candida and parasites and constipation, all these things can, if it’s not working in the beginning, it’s going to affect everything that’s happening further down.
Tanya: Absolutely. Yeah, so the other really important function of stomach acid in CFS and ME treatment is to actually trigger the pancreatic enzymes to be produced from the pancreas. Those are the things that digest the bits of food that don’t get digested in the stomach, so if you don’t have enough acid leaving the stomach to trigger the hormone that tells the pancreas to produce pancreatic juice with all the digestive enzymes, you have poor pancreatic function, so it’s hugely important on so many levels that if the stomach acid is not right, you get an affect all the way down the gut.
Alex: So what would be some of the more obvious symptoms someone would get from having low stomach acid?
Tanya: Ok, this is an area that’s not very well understood by the medical professional either unfortunately, but essentially if you get bloating, or flatulence or burping after food, that’s generally a sign that your stomach acid is too low. The reason for that is that the protein in your stomach isn’t being broken down quick enough, so the carbohydrates in there start to ferment, and that fermentation produces carbon dioxide, that pushes your stomach acid up your oesophagus and you get that sort of acid-reflux, or you can literally get the burping from the carbon dioxide, or flatulence later in the day, so that’s generally the feeling. And most people understand that, those sorts of symptoms as being high acid and in fact it’s the converse.
Alex: And people often would say antacids and that kind of thing to try and fix it, and it just perpetuates the problem.
Tanya: Indeed, absolutely.
Alex: Ok. So how do we test to find out if someone’s got low stomach acid in CFS and ME treatment?
Tanya: Well that’s the fun bit! We have 3 ways of testing…
Alex: Tanya’s aware of my great pleasure in burping, farting and these kinds of things. [Laughing] It’s my inner child coming out in my work.
Tanya: [Laughing] Yeah, so we have 3 ways of testing in CFS and ME treatment, and the cheapest to the most expensive, and the easiest way really is to use Bicarbonate of Soda, so just your average bicarbonate of soda, and we can do the bicarbonate burp test with that, so essentially you just take a little bit of…
Alex: It’s great fun at doing at parties actually. [Laughing]
Tanya: Indeed. It has to be on an empty stomach; just a little bit in some water to get it down into the stomach, and on an empty stomach essentially. The stomach acid should be pretty strong and the alkaline nature of the bicarb should react with the acid in order to produce carbon dioxide so you’ll either burp or you’ll get bloated, or you’ll have flatulence later.
Alex: Sounds like fun.
Tanya: So that’s the basic testing.
Alex: That’s the cheaper option, yes.
Tanya: So that’s the nice cheap option and we often use that to keep an eye on things. Now what should happen is you have quite a lot of belching, so not the sort of thing you’d want to be doing in public, so…
Alex: Or the kind of thing you might want to do in public, [laughing] if you have a childish side like I do, but anyway.
Tanya: [Laughing] Yes, so most of our patients in CFS and ME treatment don’t have any reaction to bicarb at all and even non-M.E patients often have no reaction to this at all…
Alex: Which means they’ve got low stomach acid?
Tanya: Yes, so it’s a bit of a ‘Heath Robinson’ method, but you know, it’s a good cheap way of finding out you know ‘Ball Park,’ what’s going on. Then we have something called… to get a little bit more accuracy on it, something called the ‘gastro test,’ which is essentially… I won’t be able to really show you because you can’t see it, but essentially it’s a capsule full of string, and you pin the string onto the side of your mouth, swallow the capsule which takes the string down into your stomach, sits in your stomach for about 7 minutes, and the delightful bit is pulling the string back up again and then you just develop the colour on the string; it’s a Ph sensitive piece of string essentially, and you can see specifically what your acid levels are in your stomach, all the way up to the oesophagus, up to the mouth, and that gives us a much clearer idea. There’s a colour chart that you can refer to, so you should be well down on the colour chart and a lot of people are up towards the alkaline or neutral levels which is a bit of a disaster.
Alex: [Laughing raising arms up] So that being how we test for it, what do we do about it?
Tanya: Well, actually it’s fairly simple. What you basically have to do in CFS and ME treatment is artificially put in some hydrochloric acid which you can put in, in tablet, liquid or capsule form, and that’s really just to bolster the basic amount of stomach acid so you can digest your food better. When you do that you can actually absorb the minerals that you need to produce to produce your own acid, so we have kind of a dosing procedure where we increase the dose of stomach acid in order to do this because everyone needs a different dose, and once you start building up that level to an almost normal point, then you just don’t have to supplement anymore, it’s really self-regulating.
Tanya: The only problems we get sometimes, if people have very, very low stomach acid in the CFS and ME treatment, the mucous layer around the stomach that protects the stomach from digesting itself can be a little bit weak because it doesn’t need to be strong because there’s no acid in there, then we have to use other methods to actually soothe and heal the stomach wall before we put the acid in, but it’s basically very straight forward.
Alex: Ok, fantastic. Well thank you for your time. [To Tanya] Hopefully that’s been useful to people watching the video. Again as I say at the end of these videos, if you’re a patient at the clinic receiving CFS and ME treatment, then your practitioner will already be looking at this. If you want more information, an information pack and a 15 minute chat is a great starting point. So thanks for watching, thanks Tanya, and we look forward to speaking with you again soon.