Many people suffer from acid reflux, food allergies, skin breakouts, and digestive problems all for the same reason-your stomach acid may be too low. While drugs will only put a bandaid on your problem it’s time to figure out the root cause and get rid of your symptoms once and for all by boosting your stomach acid so you can actually absorb all of the wonderful food nutrients you eat and drink!
The stomach is the primary area for digestion, where hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsin work together in breaking down proteins. With a pH of about 0.8-1.0, it has the same strength of battery acid! As food enters the stomach it rises to about 2.0-4.0, especially when protein is present. HCl has several jobs including: denaturing proteins so they can be broken further down into amino acids; kill-off harmful microorganisms; stimulate the flow of hormones, bile juices, and pancreatic juices in preparation for the small intestines; inhibit the hormone gastrin through a negative feedback look-medications that reduce stomach acid disrupt this loop; separate minerals from the foods consumed; and stimulate the release of secretin that regulates the delicate pH balance and cholecystokinin (CCK) which regulates the flow of bile, pancreatic enzymes, and prepares the small intestine for the chyme.
Without sufficient HCl, food poisoning, dysbiosis, H. pylori, and eventual nutritional deficiencies are very common and create nutritional problems with protein maldigestion, poor mineral ionization, and vitamin deficiency (Elizabeth Lipski). When proteins are not properly broken down, it causes a cascade of inflammation throughout the body, snowballing into other issues from Intestinal Permeability to cancers and cardiovascular disease (Bauman, 2015).
THE BEET JUICE TEST-AT HOME
One of two home tests to check your HCl. Fresh beet juice is preferred, or even rated raw beets can work if juice is not available. Drink the juice with a meal containing at least 15 grams of protein. After the first urine, it should be normal color, whereas if you are not producing enough HCL it will be shades of pink/red.
THE BAKING SODA CHALLENGE-AT HOME
Another home test to perform. Mix ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in 4ounces of water. Set a timer for 5 minutes and drink entire liquid. The optimal time for burping is between 2-3 minutes after drinking the solution. If you burp too quick, you may have too much HCL. If you burp after 4 minutes and definitely after 5 minutes, or never, you have low HCL.
Stress, bacterial infection, antacids, H2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors, nutrient deficiencies, chronic inflammation, gastric autoimmunity, Standard American Diet (high in refined carbohydrates and sugars-think cookies, pancakes, pastries, pizza, bagels, doughnuts, pasta, ice cream, breakfast cereals, fast food, etc.), common medications.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Fullness immediately after meals
Gas and burping
Weak, cracked, longitudinally ridged, or spoon-shaped nails
Fungi and rectal itching
HOW TO ACTIVATE YOUR HCL
Rest and digest mode is necessary for digestion to function properly. Adjust your breathing with deep breaths and relax your thoughts to encourage the parasympathetic mode. Being stressed out in fight or flight mode shuts down the digestive system.
2. CHEW FOODS COMPLETELY & EAT SMALL, FREQUENT MEALS
Chewing your food will help your stomach to digest it easier. Eat only when hungry and do not do anything else while you are eating. Breath deep and be grateful help to relax the mind and focus on being in the moment and enjoying your food.
3. KEY NUTRIENTS TO INCREASE
Zinc: oysters, herring, beef, lamb, pork, liver, egg yolk, oats, pecans, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, mustard, chili powder, peas, carrots, beets, cabbage.
B Complex Vitamins: brown rice, blackstrap molasses, spinach, cauliflower, most nuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, peas, beans, avocado, pork, organ meats, mackerel, trout, eel, nori, shellfish, millet, wild rice, asparagus, collards, broccoli, mushrooms, poultry, dates, figs, sweet potato, cheese, walnuts, bananas, crab, temph.
Probiotics: foods containing live bacteria, like kefir, yogurt, fermented vegetables.
4. EAT BITTER GREENS
- Dandelion greens
- Bitter melon
- Jerusalem Artichokes
5. INCLUDE BITTER HERBS & TINCTURES (COSMATO, 2016)
- Mastic Gum
- Milk Thistle
- Yellow Dock
NATURAL DIGESTIVE AIDS/ HCL PROMOTERS
Angostura Bitters or Better Bitters: spray in mouth 10-15 minutes before meals to stimulate the production of HCL.
Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (ACV): mix 1-2 teaspoons in 4 ounces in water 15 minutes before each meal to stimulate HCl. Even add drops of digestive bitters to the mix, like angostura bitters. Use lemon juice and ACV in dressings can be helpful, too.
HCl tablets with pepsin: until the body can begin secreting HCL on its own, take one with each meal and increase by one tablet each meal until you feel a warming sensation in the upper gastric area. Then, reduce dosage by one tablet. Any burning should be neutralized with a teaspoon of baking soda in water or milk. Once the warming sensation comes back in a few weeks, decrease dosage by one tablet. Repeat this process until you no longer need any tablets. Please note that, according to Chris Kresser on HCl supplementation, a person who is taking any kind of anti-inflammatory medications (prednisone, aspirin, ibuprofen, NSAIDs, etc.), should not add supplemental HCl because the anti-inflammatory drugs may damage the GI lining which the supplementary HCl might aggravate and increase your risk of gastric bleeding or ulcers.
Digestive Enzymes: take as directed with each meal as they help to fully break down the nutrients you consume, especially proteins.
Fermented Foods: provide added acidity plus enzymes and beneficial bacteria
Supplementing: L-glutamine, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, vitamin A, and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) help to rebuild acid-secreting cells.
REMOVE GUT IRRITANTS
Remove refined foods, grain products, sweeteners, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, antibiotics, legumes, dairy, NSAIDs, and food allergens that are difficult to digest, cause dysregulated blood sugar, and may contribute to Intestinal Permeability. Antacids (such as Tums) and proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium) all inhibit the release of stomach acid and intrinsic factor that binds to vitamin B12, protecting it from bacteria until it makes it safely to B12 receptors in the ileum (part of the small intestine)(Bauman, 2015).
Bauman, Ed. (2015). Foundations of Nutrition Textbook. Penngrove, CA.
Cosmato, Donna. (2016). Love to Know. List of Bitter Herbs. Retrieved from http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/List_of_Bitter_Herbs
Kresser, Chris. (2008).
Lipski, Elizabeth. (2000). Digestive Wellness.
The World’s Healthiest Foods. (2016). Retrieved from whfood.org.