Ok, it’s not what you think. I’m not talking about “that” type of acid; today I’m talking about stomach acid. Now, you may be even more confused because you’ve never heard a commercial telling you to do anything but block your stomach acid. So, I want to share some thoughts.
Stomach acid is critical for proper digestion. You need it to break down food into the molecules that are, or help you to form, nutrients. Insufficient stomach acid can lead to malnutrition (not to be confused with starvation) because certain nutrients cannot be extracted from the food you have eaten. Constipation and other problems may be the result. Many people who think they have excess stomach acid, perhaps they have even been diagnosed by a physician, actually have a stomach acid deficiency. This is very common.
The symptoms of stomach acid deficiency and stomach acid surplus are virtually the same. When you have a deficiency in stomach acid, the food in your stomach just sits there – putrefying. The rancid/fermenting food generates gas and heat which can lead to belching, bloating, and “acid” reflux.Medical professionals are quick to prescribe acid blockers for anything associated with the upper G.I. tract.
I recently did a consult for a person who had what sounded like food poisoning or the flu and her doctor prescribed her acid blockers (which makes no sense). I also have a client who has had stomach pain for the past 3 years (before she started seeing me) and her physicians have prescribed her the entire spectrum of acid blockers and none of them help. Do you think anyone would have extrapolated that if the acid blockers aren’t helping then perhaps excess stomach acid isn’t the problem? Another client told me that she just can’t eat eggs because they just seem to “sit there” afterwards. With the trick I’m offering below, she is now enjoying Sunday brunch with eggs with her family.
Here’s a self test you can perform to see if creating a more acidic stomach might be your solution. Half an hour before a meal, drink a cup of water with a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar (Seriously, you want the “raw” kind. The pasteurized kind will work but it is disgusting to drink). My preference is to make a “tea” which is simply a cup of hot water, a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar, and a dollop of honey. Yum! It’s almost like mulled apple cider… almost. If you notice that your digestion improves, then it’s possible that your digestive issues may be due to insufficient stomach acid.
Some signs of low stomach acid:
- _____Burping after meals
- _____Feeling unwell/ fatigued right after meals
- _____Food or water “sits in stomach”
- _____Undigested food in stool
- _____Reflux &/or heartburn
- _____Poor appetite or feel overly full easily
- _____Multiple food sensitivities/food allergies
- _____Trouble digesting red meat
- _____Low iron levels
- _____Low B-12 levels with or without brain fog and numbness/tingling in extremeties
- _____Frequent nausea
- _____Prescribed antacids or acid-blockers
- _____High fat foods cause nausea/stomach upset
- _____Stomach aching/pain/discomfort or bloating after meals
- _____Nausea/reflux after supplements (e.g. fish oil)
- _____Low thyroid function
Getting off acid blockers: If you want to stop taking acid blockers, first – talk to you doctor (disclaimer). When you stop taking acid blockers, you need to do so gradually because your stomach is pretty smart. When the stomach detects that there is not enough acid, it sends chemical messages to your brain and your brain responds by telling the acid-producing part of your stomach to get to work. Acid blockers “block” this communication. Your stomach responds by shouting louder “We need more acid down here!” If you suddenly stop taking acid blockers that message finally gets through – loud and clear – and your stomach will produce too much acid. Tapering the dose over a period of weeks can help to bring the communication between your stomach and your brain back into balance.
A deficiency in the production of hydrochloric acid is quite common, especially as we get older. The presence of hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) is an extremely important finding as stomach acid is responsible for two key functions. The sterilization of food against potentially harmful micro-organisms reduces our risk of overgrowth of the trillions of germs that live in and on us. We now know that we have more germ DNA in us than human. Stomach acid plays a critical role in the digestion of protein molecules called amino acids and the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Stomach acid also signals the release of digestive enzymes and bicarbonate from the pancreas required for digestion. Insufficient stomach acid also causes absorption of partially digested food molecules, leading to food sensitivities. Food components that should be digested and absorbed in the upper intestines, when not processed properly, pass through into the lower intestines providing fuel for harmful micro-organisms, therefore increasing the numbers of germs such as Candida yeast. Low stomach acid allows gastrointestinal overgrowth of germs that ferment your food causing excess gas, heartburn, and more serious conditions such as” irritable bowel syndrome”. Malabsorption of minerals, vitamins and amino acids, can cause many other medical problems. Poor mineral absorption (zinc, iron, calcium, etc.) can lead to poor growth of bones, hair, skin and nails. Poor absorption of vitamin B12 can lead to dementia. Low stomach acid levels can be genetic or acquired. A number of different medical conditions are associated with stomach acid deficiency.
If you believe that you have insufficient stomach acid, you may want to support your stomach in properly digesting food by either using the apple cider vinegar trick above, or taking a betaine hydrochloride, AKA hydrochloric acid (HCl), supplement.
One last interesting tidbit… insufficient stomach acid is most common in people with blue eyes, and people over the age of 27 or born to women who were over 27 at delivery – but it can happen to anyone.
The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prescribe for any disease or condition. Consult your healthcare provider.