It was lunchtime, and Crew Leader Carl had taken us to Burger King. We were sitting in the parking lot in the maintenance truck, chowing down our grub.
“Anyone want my fries?” Carl asked, offering his untouched, extra-large carton.
I shrugged. “If you don’t want them, we can all share.”
“Go ahead.” He reached behind the seat to hand over the carton. Everyone descended on it like sharks at a feeding frenzy.
Carl brought his hamburger to his mouth, then scowled and put it down.
“You OK, Boss?” I asked. “You’re not eating much.”
“I’m not that hungry,” Carl said. “My stomach’s been jacked up for days. I can barely go to the bathroom, and I’ve been waking up with searing heartburn every night.”
“It sounds like you need a digestive enzyme,” I said. “Either that or a spoonful of apple cider vinegar. Those are symptoms of low stomach acid.”
“Low stomach acid?” Carl scowled. “Why would I get heartburn if I have low stomach acid?”
“That’s the thing,” I said. “The symptoms of low stomach acid mimic those of high stomach acid. You can have constipation, heartburn, and sensations of food just sitting on your stomach.”
Carl nodded. “Yeah, I have all that. And nothing helps. I’ve been popping antacids by the dozen, and the symptoms just get worse. My colon’s starting to feel like a swollen watermelon.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” I said. “If you have low stomach acid, antacids are the last thing you need. As we age, our ability to produce stomach acid diminishes. So then when you eat food, it sits in your stomach undigested, which creates heartburn. And as it passes through your system, you’re not absorbing nutrients as effectively. The worst part is you’re not able to eliminate efficiently, either. The fecal matter just sits. That might explain why a lot of people get heavier as they age.”
“So what are you saying?” Carl asked, flying around in his seat. “That I’m full of crap?”
I nodded. “In so many ways, yes.”