Did you know that every three seconds someone around the world suffers a fracture due to osteoporosis?1 While eating a healthy, balanced diet – with plenty of calcium and magnesium – is key to protecting yourself against the condition, how you digest those nutrients could be just as important.
How digestion can influence osteoporosis
Hydrochloric acid – or stomach acid – helps break down or ‘dissolve’ nutrients in the gut, which makes it easier for our body to absorb them. But if we’re not producing enough stomach acid, those nutrients may never make it out of the gut and into our bones – this can lead to osteoporosis symptoms such as weak, brittle bones. According to one expert, 90% of those with osteoporosis have low stomach acid.2
Research has now confirmed this theory. A 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that ‘malabsorption of dietary calcium is a cause of osteoporosis’3 while in 2011, Spanish researchers found that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which reduce stomach acid, could increase the risk of developing the condition.4
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What causes low stomach acid?
There are a number of reasons we can start to produce less stomach acid:
• zinc and B vitamin deficiencies
• gastritis and bacterial infections – especially H. pylori
• an underactive thyroid
• medication, particularly PPIs
If you have low stomach acid levels, you may start to notice:
• heartburn (acid reflux)
• bloating and gassiness after meals
• brittle nails
• thinning hair
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How to tackle low stomach acid
Taking a digestive enzyme that contains betaine hydrochloric acid (betaine HCI) could improve digestion and nutrient absorption by temporarily making your stomach more acidic.
A study published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics in 2013 found that when six volunteers were given 1500mg of betaine HCI, this lowered their gastric pH – which then increases stomach acid production – for over an hour.5 Supplements often combine betaine HCl with digestive enzymes to boost nutrient absorption.
Support your bone health
A calcium supplement could also help counter the effects of low stomach acid. An early study by Creighton University School of Medicine in 1985 discovered that 11 people with achlorhydria (no stomach acid) were able to absorb calcium normally when they took a calcium carbonate supplement with breakfast.6
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. International Osteoporosis Foundation. Facts and statistics. Available from: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics
2. UHN staff. The Unusual Link Between Low Stomach Acid and Osteoporosis. Available from: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/bones-joints/osteoporosis-could-low-stomach-acid-be-the-cause-of-your-bone-health-problems/
3. Sipponen P, Härkönen M. Hypochlorhydric stomach: a risk condition for calcium malabsorption and osteoporosis? Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19958055
4. Martí-Cabrera M, Martí-Masanet M, Esplugues JV. Chronic use of proton pump inhibitors: is the risk of osteoporosis and fractures real? Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21419526
5. Yago MR, et al. Gastric Re-acidification with Betaine HCl in Healthy Volunteers with Rabeprazole-Induced Hypochlorhydria. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23980906
6. Recker RR. Calcium absorption and achlorhydria. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4000241