Digestion IS the top healing priority of the body. When the gastrointestinal system can’t
property digest and absorb nutrients, it affects the vitality of the entire body.
Digestion is the gateway to all aspects of our health. The gastrointestinal tract is connected to every major system in the human body. Health begins with proper digestion and that’s why I consider it the highest and most important healing priority for everyone.
Why is that so many people today have digestive issues? Is it our food supply?
People are fueling themselves with processed and fast food, we are exposed to chemicals and pesticides, our soil is depleted and of poor mineral content, and we now have GMOs in our food.
Or is it more the stress in our lives?
We are sympathetically driven, most of us don’t take the time to sit, relax, and allow our food to digest properly.
Without the integrity of the digestive system, the body cannot support the other
foundations of health. It is said that the gut is the “mother” of the body because of how it feeds everything from our brain to our skin, in the same way a mother feeds a child.
STOMACH ACID 101
Stomach acid is officially known as hydrochloric acid (HcL) because its chemical composition is one part hydrogen to one part chloride. This compound is critical for the digestive process. When your stomach acid level isn't where it should be, your digestive system will struggle to absorb essential minerals and proteins in your food, which can lead to deficiencies.
The stomach is all about acid. It is designed for a normal pH of 1.5 – 3.0
Stomach acid = .8 Blood = 7.3
When HcL is secreted into the stomach from the parietal cells in the stomach lining, the pH of 0.8. That’s almost pure acid. Why does stomach acid need to be so strong?
HcL has two critical functions:
Disinfects the stomach and kill any pathogens such as bacteria, fungus, worms, parasites etc.
If your stomach acid IS NOT between 1.5 - 3.0 on the pH scale, (as in weaker which means it's higher than 3.0), the potential for you to become infected by one of these harmful pathogens increases. They may not be killed in your stomach (because you acid isn't weak) and thus travel further down the digestive tract into the small and large intestine to set up shop and wreak some digestive havoc which can lead to numerous health problems.
2. Digest your food - specifically your proteins.
HCL’s primary job is to break down proteins into amino acids. There is no true absorption that takes places in the stomach. It is really a place of ‘ churn and burn’. The burning is accomplished by the acid secretion and the churning is a result of
peristalsis. If there is not enough acid in the stomach, foods do not get broken down (carbs ferment, fats rancidify, and your proteins putrefy).
Sounds disgusting, right? It is! Your food is actually rotting.
HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE LOW STOMACH ACID (hypochlorhydria?)
Without adequate acid levels, you will leave your stomach vulnerable to disease and painful side effects.
Here are some symptoms of low stomach acid:
Heartburn or GERD
Bloating and cramping
Indigestion, belching or burping after meals
Gas within 1 hour of eating
undigested food in stool
weak or cracked nails
Protein and mineral deficiencies
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF LOW STOMACH ACID?
Low stomach acid has numerous contributing factors, so it’s difficult to determine the exact cause of your symptoms. Two common triggers for the condition are high stress levels and eating an unhealthy diet of highly processed foods. Other factors include eating your meals too quickly, ingesting too much sugar, undiagnosed food sensitivities or allergies, chronic illness, interactions from prescription drugs, stress, old age, excessive alcohol consumption, and being a vegetarian. Yes, it sounds crazy, but if you aren't consuming as much protein, your stomach will respond in kind and reduce the amount of HcL it secretes.
By addressing these issues, you can normalize your stomach acid levels and consequently improve your overall digestive health. But first, you will need to determine whether your stomach acid levels are low in the first place.
Baking Soda Acid Test
Have you ever cleaned your garbage disposal with vinegar and baking soda? If so, you are familiar with the chemical reaction. You mix these two products together and it looks like a volcano eruption. When you introduce baking soda to stomach acid, you should have a similar, but not as dramatic effect. Instead of a volcano, you should get a burp.
This test is cheap, safe, and a smart option for regularly checking on your stomach acid levels. However, it has a lot of variables that can trigger false positives or negatives, so you should perform it 3 days in a row for the most accurate results.
Instructions - to be completed on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
Mix ¼ - 1/2 tsp of baking soda in four ounces of cold water, and drink it.
Time how long it takes for you to burp.
The test works by triggering a chemical reaction in your stomach from mixing the alkaline, (baking soda) with stomach acid. The natural response if you have enough stomach acid is carbon dioxide gas, which triggers burping.
If it takes more than five minutes or you don’t burp at all, you have hypochlorhydria aka "low stomach acid." This means that your stomach acid is likely higher than 3.0 on the pH scale making it more alkaline. We don't want alkaline, we want acid!
Ok, so what if your stomach acid is indeed low?
What can you do on your own with seeking help from a professional?
Prime the pump!
Stimulate the stomach to produce stomach acid by introducing acid first thing in the morning.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar - mix 1 - 2 TBSP in a glass of water and drink before breakfast. Do not drink without diluting in water, and if it bothers your teeth, use a straw.
2. If you can't tolerate ACV, 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon in a glass of water will be effective as well.
These two options are fine, but won't do the job as well as a completing the "HcL Challenge"
UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF A PROFESSIONAL
1. Complete the HcL challenge.
In a nutshell:
You introduce HcL during your meals and gradually increase the dosage to retrain your stomach to produce the correct amount for you. Once your stomach has let you know that it has reached the limit, you gradually reduce the dosage (like removing the training wheels from a bike), and after that, it's smooth sailing. Just check your HcL level from time to time by using the baking soda test described earlier.
Because digestion is a north to south process, it makes sense to start in the stomach.
Future posts will explain more about digestive dysfunction as well as food sensitivities.
Got questions? Comments? Liked what you read? Let me know!