When you think of digestion what you do think of? If you are like most people its probably the stomach. The stomach is an integral part of the digestive process and that means if it isn’t working properly then you are at serious risk of developing multiple nutrient deficiencies and the symptoms associated with them (ex. Lack of energy, weakened immune system, anemia, etc.)
We need sufficient levels of acid in our stomach in order for our digestive process to work correctly. What happens if we don’t have enough stomach acid?
- Proteins aren’t broken down into smaller chains and won’t be absorbed1
- B12 isn’t able to be absorbed (deficiency will develop)2
- Minerals aren’t ionized for absorption (deficiencies will develop)3
- Pathogens (parasites, bacteria, etc.) aren’t sterilized and killed4
- Important digestive processes in the intestines aren’t triggered4
Its clear that having enough stomach acid is extremely important, but how do you know if you have a low stomach acid? Indigestion, heartburn, gas and bloating can all be signs of low stomach acid. That’s right indigestion and heartburn can actually be from too little or too much stomach acid. That means if you have low acid levels, popping those antacids are making things worse.
The majority of people with these digestive issues, have low stomach acid as acid production can decrease with age.1 Only a small percentage have high stomach acid (we will go over a test later if you think this may be you). There are many other factors that can lower your stomach acid production, chronic stress, excessive food intake (especially meat and refined grains), poor food combining, a poor diet, and nutrient deficiencies.2
I thought I was in good health as did those around me until I realized how broken my digestive system really was and how it was affecting many aspects of my day-to-day life. I had multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and injuries caused by my poor digestion. I took the time to really determine what was wrong and took the necessary steps to fix it. The joke among my family and friends before I made these changes was that I was always injured but since then, everything is holding strong and I feel better than ever! It’s remarkable how much our digestion affects.
Here’s a test you can do at home to see if you suffer from indigestion, heart burn, gas & bloating to see if you have low or high stomach acid. Take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before your meal (you may not enjoy the taste). If your symptoms get worse or if it hurts your stomach then you have high levels of acid, if things get better or stay the same then you have low levels of acid and that needs to be addressed. Taking hydrochloric acid (same acid as stomach acid) and enzymes with meals can really help your body repair. You also will need to address nutrient deficiencies through supplementation to get your stores back up.
The bottom line is the issues you are experiencing with your stomach can be resolved with the right changes. This will help your digestion and is one of the essential steps on the road to optimal health.
- Patrick Holford, The Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, 2004
- Elson Haas, Staying Healthy with Nutrition. New York: Random House, Inc., 2006
- David Rowland, Digestion: Inner pathway to health. Parry Sound: Rowland Publications, 2006
- Lipski, Elizabeth. Digestive Wellness: Strengthening the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012.