Digestion - The Acid Test

9 December 2020

Many older people complain of indigestion, acid reflux and belching. Their GP will prescribe a ‘proton-pump inhibitor’ – PPI – usually ending in ‘prazole’. These are handed out like Smarties as soon as you mention ‘indigestion’ or ‘heartburn’. They can even be bought now over the counter.

These work by suppressing the production of stomach acid, which is vital for many functions, including digestion of protein, killing harmful bacteria in food and absorbing Vitamin B12. Side effects include doubling the risk of B12 deficiency. A lack of B12 is a major driver of dementia! Used long term they also double the risk of hip fractures.


Many medical professionals do not address the underlying causes of indigestion or heartburn, which is often NOT an excess of stomach acid but rather a LACK of it!

Stomach acid declines by 20% per decade after the age of 30, causing fermentation in the gut, then you bloat and belch with heartburn and acid reflux. For many, the answer is to supplement stomach acid, i.e. Betaine Hydrochloride (HCL). Zinc also helps make stomach acid and probiotics are very helpful in restoring gut health. Only take Betaine HCL 600mg with protein meals, never with NSAID painkillers. (Note – if you have a stomach ulcer it will make things worse). Keep doubling the dose from 600mg up to 3000mg until you get relief.


High carbs and sugar, or over-eating will make it worse also, as does too much caffeine or alcohol – both are digestive irritants.

High protein requires more stomach acid so try smaller proteins.

Gut infections cause pain also, Helicobacter Pylori being a main cause of stomach ulcers. There are also infections from yeast, parasites and bacteria.


It is never good to artificially suppress symptoms with drugs and this is a classic example of just that scenario.

  • Smaller meals – 20% protein, 30% fat, 50% low GL carbs
  • Get checked for food intolerances
  • Minimise coffee and alcohol
  • Take digestive support – i.e. probiotics, digestive enzymes and glutamine, with main meals
  • Control your weight
  • Don’t lie down after eating
  • Get checked for stomach ulcers
  • If free of ulcers, try Betaine HCL