“PLOP PLOP, FIZZ FIZZ, OH WHAT A RELIEF IT IS” ™
Sound Familiar? Remember the TV commercial showing people bent over with a bloated belly, hands on their chest and a sour look on their face? They would take Alka Seltzer, and feel better. Their heartburn, acid indigestion or upset stomach was immediately fixed.
But, was it fixed?
Do you know that acid indigestion and heartburn can actually be caused from too little acid in the stomach rather too much? Yes, too little stomach acid can cause heartburn. Another name for this is Hypochlorhydria.
Why is stomach acid so important?
In a perfect world, our stomachs are very acidic, and are supposed to be. Hydrochloric acid (HCL), produced in the stomach has a pH of 0.8. In between meals the acid range is generally between a 1-3 pH. Just to give you an idea, water is usually a pH of 7, and blood is around 7.4 pH.
Our stomachs are protected with a mucosa lining which protects us from this strong acid. This is why HCL does not burn a hole in our gut wall.
The purpose for such a potent stomach acid is it’s required to break down the food we eat into nutrients our body can use. For example, if you ate a steak last night, your stomach acid activates peptidases (enzymes), that begin to break down the protein (steak) into amino acids, along with cleaving off the minerals and vitamins. Tyrosine (one of the amino acids from the steak), can be used to produce thyroid hormones and dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Minerals from the meat, such as zinc and iron require this acidic environment along with B12. Without strong stomach acid none of this happens. Our thyroid can suffer, we may not be able to produce needed brain chemicals and important minerals will not be absorbed. Calcium is among the minerals that need acid to be correctly utilized. One of the first things I look into with older women with osteoporosis or bursitis is do they have adequate digestion and enough stomach acid.
To give you an idea of what can happen without an acidic stomach, picture this;
Take a small portion of the food you eat daily and put into a blender. Add some water, blend and put the blender in a warm spot. As time passes you will notice a funky smell, slime, maybe some bubbling, and basically a putrefied food mess! This is what happens in your gut without strong stomach acid. The protein putrefies, the carbohydrates create gas and bloating, and the undigested fats can give you diarrhea. Meanwhile, this mess is creating inflammation in the stomach wall and wearing down some of the protecting mucosa lining, while pushing up on the esophageal sphincter creating acid reflux. Even acid at a higher pH of 5-7 can burn the esophagus. This also creates a prime environment for leaky gut.
You can eat the most perfect diet, but if you don’t have strong stomach acid your body will still be starving for nutrients.
Other roles of HCL:
- Notifies the gallbladder to release bile to break down fats.
- Signals the pancreas to release digestive enzymes for further breakdown in small intestine.
- Kills off bacteria and pathogens from the food we eat and our environment.
- Closes the Esophageal Sphincter. Stomach acid is an important trigger for the contraction of the esophageal sphincter (just above the stomach) to protect the soft, delicate tissue of the esophagus from the harsh acids in the stomach.
- Opens the Pyloric Sphincter. Stomach acid helps to active the pyloric sphincter which allows food to move from the stomach to the small intestine.
Symptoms of low HCL:
- Anemia; iron, B12 deficiency
- Heartburn / GERD
- Weak fingernails
- Poor mineral absorption
- Indigestion, bloating, burping after meals
- Hair loss
- Constipation / diarrhea
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea while taking supplements
- Intestinal infections
- Undigested food in stool
- A heavy feeling in your stomach after eating, like food is just sitting there
- Chronic bad breath
- Leaky Gut
Causes of low HCL:
- Stress, eating too quickly, eating standing up, or in the car. If your body perceives any stress it will slow down digestion and shuttle energy to your arms and legs to escape danger. At this moment your body is not concerned about digesting food, it wants to keep you safe.
- Low minerals, poor diet, zinc is needed to produce HCL.
- Dehydration. Your body uses water during digestion.
- Using NSAIDS. These wear down the stomach lining preventing the stomach cells to make HCL.
- Aging. Our digestion tends to slow down more as we age, maybe it’s the stress, but as it slows down so does the HCL production.
- Eating a vegetarian / high carbohydrate diet. I found when people eat high carbohydrate diet they produce less HCL. Often, I hear the comment “I just don’t like meat anymore”. I feel this is the body’s way of telling that person they cannot digest meat. The body is not producing enough HCL. As we slowly bring it in – that person starts craving meat again.
- Antibiotic use. This can change the gut bacteria and cause inflammation and infections resulting in low HCL production.
- Use of acid blocking medications. These will bring the stomach acid up to a 7 pH. There is no breaking down minerals or amino acids at this high pH. The use of acid blockers were only meant to be used short term, maybe two weeks, just until inflammation was reduced.
- Personally, from years of muscle testing clients I have found that Blood type A’s tend to need HCL support more than the other blood types.
Ways to test for HCL:
- Go to your doctor and have Heidelberg Stomach Acid Test done. You swallow a small capsule with a radio transmitter to record the stomach pH.
- Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 4-6 ounces of cold water first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. Drink the baking soda solution. Time how long it takes you to belch. Time up to five minutes. If you have not belched within five minutes, stop timing. In theory, if your stomach is producing adequate amounts of stomach acid you’ll likely belch within two to three minutes.
- Betaine HCL challenge test. Buy some Betaine HCL with pepsin, and eat a high protein meal of at least 6 ounces of meat, In the middle of the meal, take 1 Betaine HCL pill, finish your meal as normal and pay attention to your body. You may either feel nothing, which can represent too little stomach acid, or as you go about your day you may feel a burning, hotness, or some distress, which can mean you have sufficient HCL.
- Nutrition Response test or Muscle testing.
Ways to increase your stomach acid production:
- You can take the Betaine HCL with pepsin with meals. I muscle test my clients for the correct amount. If that is not available to you, slowly increase the HCL capsules until you feel a slight burn or hotness in your stomach – then decrease by one pill for your dosage. Take in the middle or end of the meal.
- Add in bitters. Bitters were used years ago in many medical traditions. They help by increasing the flow of digestive juices, including HCL, bile, pepsin, and pancreatic enzymes. Bitters are normally taken in small amounts before a meal. Examples of bitters are;
- Gentain root
- Globe artichoke
- Lemon juice and apple cider vinegar can also stimulate digestive juices.
- Relax when eating. Take your time, put your fork down between bites.
- Chew, chew chew your food! Digestion starts in the mouth.
- Don’t drink liquids during meals. Save your drinks before or after eating. This can dilute gastric juices needed for digestion.
- Include foods with zinc. Meat, pumpkin seeds, and shellfish are good sources of zinc.
- Eat fermented vegetables. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles help to improve stomach acid.
- Eat protein at the beginning of your meal rather than salad. HCL production starts when you eat, you want to keep it strong.
“All Disease Begins in The Gut.” – Hippocrates
For further details and help with your chronic digestive condition, contact me here.
Great energy is my wish for you,