In my last newsletter I shared how important your digestion is to your overall health, and helped you uncover whether or not you have issues in this department.
Today, I’m sharing one of the key foundations for your digestion to work properly: stomach acid.
Stomach acid isn’t your enemy 🙂
With acid-blocking medication ranked as the 3rd most commonly prescribed medication in the US, you’d think the Western culture had a major problem with too much stomach acid.
Unfortunately, many people put on these medications actually don’t have ENOUGH of it, and end up losing more of this precious part of healthy digestion.
Yes, surprisingly heartburn can be a sign of LOW stomach acid.
Other issues connected to not having enough of it include hair loss, rosacea, all types digestive issues like bloating or IBS, ridges on your nails, osteoporosis and anemia (low iron), among others.
Stomach Acid Helps You by:
- Protecting you from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms in your food. Stomach acid kills them off, sparing the rest of your digestion (and body) from infection. Without it, you can end up with some unwanted friends living in your gut after eating that slightly too-old leftover Thanksgiving turkey or other contaminated food.
- Helping you absorb iron and all minerals, like calcium. Minerals and iron rely on stomach acid to convert them into a form that is readily absorbable. Without stomach acid you have an increased risk of mineral deficiency and related issues like osteoporosis, hair loss, fatigue, fragile nails and poor skin quality. BTW… this isexactly why stomach acid blocking medications increase your risk of osteoporosis if they’re taken for a long time….they actually prevent you from absorbing your calcium and other minerals!
- Breaking down proteins. If proteins aren’t broken down properly, they can cause damage to your gut lining and create inflammation. Undigested protein also makes a great meal for unwanted bacteria in the large intestine, and this is a population you don’t necessarily want to feed 😉
- Kicking off the rest of your digestive process. When you salivate it sends the message to get your stomach acid levels up. Then, when your acid levels rise, it sends the message for your body to start making and secreting all of the enzymes needed to break down your meal. Without this signal you can end up with low enzymes on top of the stomach acid issue. This creates digestive issues like loose stools, cramping and bloating.
Things that LOWER Your Stomach Acid Levels Include:
- Stress – the relaxed state of your nervous system is responsible for digestion. If your body is in a stressed-out state, the relaxed state is turned off and your digestive juices are shut down.
- H. Pylori – This is a common bacteria who’s figured out how to thrive and survive in an acidic environment (like your stomach!). Unfortunately, once it moves in, it destroys your ability to make stomach acid. H.Pylori infections are linked with ulcers and all kinds of other digestive issues.
- Your gut flora is out of balance – in this case you either don’t have enough of the good bacteria, you have too much of the bad guys (bacteria, yeast, parasite, etc.) or you have both of these issues.
- Certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies – like zinc & B vitamins
- Taking antacids – this one makes sense…
How to Build Healthy Stomach Acid Levels
Here are two of my top tips for supporting your stomach acid levels:
Apple cider vinegar – Add 1-2 tsp to a cup of water and drink it 5-10 minutes before your meal. The apple cider vinegar increases stomach acidity, which sends signals to your body to kick-off the digestive process.
Sit down to eat – Your body has two modes: 1) “fight or flight” and 2) “rest, digest, heal and grow”. It can’t do both at the same time, so take a break from the action, find a quiet place to relax, and help your body make the switch. Aim for at least 20 mins.
When I work with my clients we’ll also consider doing a specific challenge test to measure their stomach acid levels, as well as move through a process to help their body rebalance it’s ability to make enough stomach acid.
Overall, once your levels are up to normal you’ll be less bloated, have more energy thanks to optimal iron levels, and healthier hair, skin and nails curtesy of better mineral absorption.