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May 13, 2021, Information

Is low stomach acid causing your digestive problems?

There’s one place in the body that requires a high acid environment – the stomach. Without the correct gastric pH we are susceptible to a variety of digestive disorders and intestinal infections. Research shows that after 20 years of age most people lose about 10 percent of their digestive acids and enzymes per decade(1). This means that as we get older we become less able to breakdown certain foods and our primary defences to ingested pathogens is reduced. Obvious signs of low stomach acid include indigestion, nausea and a feeling of fullness after eating. When insufficiently digested food sits in the stomach for too long it can cause fermentation and discomfort. Gas, bloating, and even heartburn can all stem from this one factor.

Stomach acid has a few important functions in the digestive process.

  1. Begins the breakdown of proteins.
  2. Kills pathogens – bacteria, viruses and microbes that are ingested.
  3. Helps to absorb minerals and B12.

The liver is responsible for producing hydrochloric acid – the main digestive acid in gastric juice. For this to happen the liver needs approximately 2 cups of water per meal. This makes sense because our food literally needs to be drenched in about 3500ml of HCl to be properly digested. Dehydration is a major factor in reduced digestive function throughout the entire GI tract, and both the pancreas and liver need adequate amounts of water to perform their essential functions. This is why I recommend drinking 1 litre of filtered water per 30kg of body weight every day. The trick is to stop drinking fluids half an hour before meals and resume an hour after. Why? Because we don’t want to dilute our precious stomach acid with too much fluid.

Tips to boost your digestive power.

  1. Did you know that digestion actually begins in the mouth? Chewing not only breaks down large pieces of food for easier digestion in the stomach but it also stimulates salivary amylase which begins the process of cleaving starches. Chewing also signals the release of HCl and other digestive enzymes appropriate for the type of food being eaten.
  2. Don’t eat when your stressed, angry or upset. These emotions engage your ‘fight or flight’ mode which indicates that the sympathetic nervous system has kicked in and is producing stress hormones. These stress hormones help us spring into action but are no good for ‘rest and digest’. Blood will be diverted away from the gut towards the muscles, switching off appetite and digestion.
  3. Don’t overeat. As Harvey and Marylyn Diamond say in their best selling book, Fit For Life, “even the finest, most nutritious food available will spoil in your system if it is overeaten”. The stomach has a limited amount of acids and enzymes it uses for digestion. Large meals stay in the stomach longer, triggering fermentation, gas and bloating.
  4. Apple cider vinegar or lemon with honey(optional) in water 30 minutes before meals increases HCl activity. Other digestive herbs known as ‘Swedish Bitters’ have a long history in the treatment of stomach and liver problems. They’re easily found at good health food shops.
  5. Get enough vitamin C. This vital nutrient plays a role in the production of HCl and helps with the absorption of iron.
  6. Take digestive enzymes with betaine hydrochloride for a serious boost to your digestive power. They quickly reduce bloating, gas, indigestion and stomach pain- but shouldn’t be taken for long periods.

Want more info? Check out this video by Brant Larsen.

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