The Stomach Acid Issue

 (This is part 4 in a 5 part digestion series. Part 1-The Digestion Matrix, Part 2-Your gut’s BFFs, Part 3-Enemies of the GI Tract.)

Everything you know about stomach acid is probably wrong. 

That’s a bold statement. But if there is one thing that is more misunderstood with digestion, it’s the role of stomach acid and how much you need or have.

Have heartburn? GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)? Excessive flatulence and/or bloating? Think you have too much stomach acid?

Wrong.

Most of the time, issues arise from having too little stomach acid, not too much. How can that be?

Let’s look at how stomach acid works

Stomach acid, or HCl, exists in your body to help break down your food and it is vital to helping you absorb nutrients.  It also helps kill harmful bacteria, keeping your microbiome in check.

So if you don’t have enough stomach acid, you won’t break down protein correctly, which can cause putrefaction, and lead to heartburn and gas.

Low stomach acid also causes bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and other parts of the intestine. Bacterial overgrowth causes maldigestion of carbohydrates, which in turn produces gas. This gas increases the pressure in the stomach, causing the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to malfunction. The malfunction of the LES allows acid from the stomach to enter the esophagus, thus producing the symptoms of heartburn and GERD.

What about antacids?

While antacids may soothe heartburn, they won’t fix the cause of the problem and in the long run, they are most likely making it worse. Since the root cause is usually too little stomach acid, not too much, they are doing more harm than good.

What else does this affect?

Remember how I said earlier that digestion is everything? Well, what happens when you don’t have enough HCl to break down your food?

Without enough HCl and pepsin, proteins that escape digestion may end up in the bloodstream. Since this is not supposed to happen, the body reacts to these proteins as if they were foreign invaders, causing allergic and autoimmune responses.

So your allergies could be a result of compromised digestion and/or low HCl levels.

It. all. starts. in. the. gut.

Unfortunately, stomach acid levels decline with age, usually due to lifestyle factors and unhealthy diets, infections, or other digestive problems.

How do I know if I have enough stomach acid?

There’s an easy test you can do on yourself at home. You can buy HCl capsules (they will come as HCl + Pepsin) and start by taking one with any meal that includes protein. If you feel a little burn in your stomach, you know that you have enough stomach acid. If you don’t, try taking two next time. If you still don’t feel anything, try three…and so on.

I took 8 and still didn’t feel a burn. My stomach acid was LOOOOOOOW.

That would explain why I felt sick after eating animal protein. My body wasn’t making enough HCl so I wasn’t digesting it correctly. The more you have to take before you feel a burn, the lower your levels are.

What can I do if my stomach acid is low?

Initially, you can take HCl capsules, which will help your digestion immediately. But the goal is to get your body to be able to digest food on its own without relying on supplementation.

It starts with a healthy diet that includes your guts best friends, and eliminates the enemies of the GI tract.

You can also take apple cider vinegar before meals (you can mix it with as much water and stevia if needed), which will help you break down your food.

Another way to help is to drink a teaspoon of “Sole” every morning with some warm water which will help provide your body with the chloride it needs to create HCl.

To make Sole, fill a jar with filtered water and large chunks of sea salt and let it sit overnight. As long as you can see chunks of sea salt in bottom, you’ll know the water is fully saturated (which is what you want). If they all dissolve, add more until there are at least a few left. Do not use a metal lid or a metal spoon as salt + metal = no bueno. I usually add this to my warm water with lemon every morning (there are numerous other health benefits too).

If you’d like to get to the root cause of your personal digestive issues and how to get that flat tummy once and for all, contact me for a free 15 minute consultation and let’s chat about a customized plan of action.

Up next…Digestive Herbal Remedies…

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