The health of your stomach determines the health of your body in many ways. Stomach acid plays an important role. If your stomach and digestive system are working properly your entire body benefits. If not, your entire body suffers.
Digestive health conditions as well as autoimmune disease can be a result if an unhealthy stomach and gut environment do not change. If your stomach acid is low then these digestive and immune-related conditions are more likely to occur.
Your goal should be to always keep your stomach acid levels healthy at all times. Avoiding foods that harm stomach acids and eating foods that help stomach acid production.
How Important is Stomach Health And Stomach Acids?
Stomach acid is what is responsible for breaking food down. If you’re low, the entire digestive system and ability to digest and absorb are declined. Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is the main and most prominent stomach acid. This is the main gastric acid secreted by your stomach. Hydrochloric acid plays a role in digestion as well as balancing the pH in the stomach.
Low hydrochloric acid is known as hypochlorhydria. You can test your levels with a blood test or a hair analysis test.
Contrary to what most think, over 90% of people suffering from heartburn, gas, and indigestion have too little stomach acid, not too much. This is more true in people over 40 years. Stomach acid production declines with age. Though there are quite a large variety of factors that effect the stomach’s production.
The Health Effects Of Low Hydrochloric Acid (And Other Stomach Acids)
If you suffer from low stomach acid then your HCL levels are too. HCL (Hydrochloric acid) is crucial for stomach health and pH balance. What happens when you’re lacking adequate levels?
- Pathogens And Infections Can Grow:
Stomach acid is needed for health and defense. It works to kill bacteria, pathogens, infections and more. When not in place these pathogens can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. This lowers immune function, affects mood, cognitive thinking skills and impairs digestion. This can lead to gaining fat and chronic fatigue syndrome. Low stomach acid may also be a risk factor for developing cancer. It can allow for the growth of bacteria like helicobacter pylori, which is a known cause of stomach cancer.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: The acid in your stomach is needed to properly absorb nutrients. Minerals and vitamins alike. Low acid levels will lead to these nutrients being absorbed at a lower rate, even if they are in your diet. Our bodies will begin to take minerals from bones in order to keep us alive. Minerals are needed to run your heart as more of a priority than healthy bone density. Your body intuitively knows that and will use the minerals for important survival organs first. This means that if your levels of acid deplete in the stomach too much it can lead to lower bone density and osteoporosis.
- Leaky Gut & Difficulty Digesting: Leaky gut is a condition that can and will lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases over time. Leaky gut occurs when the intestinal wall is damaged and gaps occur. These gaps allow food out of the digestive pathway and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream your body has an immune response. This immune response sends an antibody, a messenger to the rescue to see what the issue is. The antibody then attacks the food particle that escaped into your bloodstream. This vicious cycle continues while depleting your immune resources. The weakest genetic link you have in your DNA will eventually break. This is what leads to many brain and memory related conditions. These are autoimmune diseases that stem from a leaky gut that wasn’t healed. Your stomach acid plays an important role in breaking down food and digesting so that it doesn’t damage your intestinal wall. You will also have difficulty in digesting protein as gastric acid plays a key role in breaking down protein properly. If you have a hard time digesting protein your skin, hair and muscle tissue will have a hard time rebuilding and you will appear to age at a faster rate.
5 Signs Of Low Stomach Acid
- Difficulty Digesting Meat/Protein: Remember, when your stomach acids are low your body has a difficult time digesting protein, including meat. If you feel tired or sluggish after eating meat it could be an indicator that you have a tough time digesting it. This is due to low stomach acids being able to break the meat/protein down. Signs of protein not absorbing well include hair loss at a fast rate, and difficulty keeping or building muscle mass.
- Heartburn & Acid Reflux:
The adequate levels of gastric acid produced by your stomach play an important role. They signal the lower esophageal sphincter (LES, for short) to open and close properly. This valve located at the top of your stomach needs to open and close at the right times. If it stays open because there’s not enough gastric acid in your stomach the heartburn and acid from your stomach travels upwards, causing heartburn. In this case the issue isn’t having enough stomach acid. It’s that the acid is misplaced. Adequate levels of potassium and magnesium are also important for the LES to properly open and close also.
- Sensitivities To Food:
There are multiple reasons your body can be sensitive to food. Whether it’s just a food sensitivity or a full-blown food allergy it’s important to keep the stomach and digestive system healthy. Adequate production of HCL and gastric acid are important to breakdown food properly. Ideally with enough stomach acid, good bacteria, and digestive enzymes your body will have less food sensitivities and allergic food reactions.
- Bloating And/Or Gas:
Bloating is inflammation in your stomach and gut in general. Bloating means that your body is having a pro-inflammatory response to that food. Bloating (inflammation) can lead to leaky gut. If you have gas it can also be a sign of low acids in the stomach. Gas occurs because the food just sits in the stomach and bacteria begins to ferment it, which leads to gas. If the acids are there the food will breakdown and digest at a faster rate.
- Deficient in These Nutrients? Stomach acid is quite strong and helps you absorb important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, folate and zinc. If you already know that you’re deficient in one, a few, or all of these then there’s a good chance your stomach acid levels are lower than they need to be. You can eat more foods rich in these nutrients or take supplements but that won’t do much. You need to actively pursue ways to increase acid production in your stomach so that you can begin to absorb what you eat and take in through supplementation.
How To Improve Hydrochloric & Gastric Acid Production (Stomach Acids)
- Apple Cider Vinegar:
Start adding a spoonful (or two) of ACV to your daily drinks. Apple cider vinegar is rich in digestive enzymes and helps your body to produce the beneficial stomach acids for digestion. It’s a cheap and easy solution to increase stomach acid production!
- Eat Acidic Whole Foods!:
When people hear ‘acidic’ they think that these foods are not healthy. There are plenty of acidic foods (in nature) that benefit your body and help to keep the acid/alkaline balance. These foods are acidic but alkalize the body. They also help to increase and encourage acid production in the stomach. Fruits like lime, lemon, grapefruit are great to add to your diet. Eating whole foods such as vegetables and fruits are beneficial also as they contain beneficial digestive enzymes.
- Eat Manuka Honey:
Manuka honey comes from New Zealand. True manuka honey that is. There are many companies around the world that label their product as manuka honey when it is really not. Make sure to get it from a good source. Manuka honey has been found to have beneficial bacteria-fighting properties that even fight H. pylori. Not only that but it helps to improve low stomach acid levels and other digestive disorders. This company produces manuka honey from NZ, found here.
- Add Prebiotic & Probiotic Foods And Drinks:
Prebiotics and probiotics are important for stomach and Colon health. Probiotics are simply the beneficial bacteria that keep the gut flora healthy. Prebiotics are pre-cursors to developing healthy bacteria in whole foods. Bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, artichoke, asparagus and apples are all source of prebiotics. Probiotic foods include saurkraut and kimchi, most commonly. Probiotic drinks such as water kefir and kombucha are great sources of liquid probiotics that also taste great!
At the end of the day do your best. Add in the foods and drinks that create a healthy stomach and gut environment, rich in good bacteria and stomach acids. You’ll feel better and be less likely to gain excess fat or develop any form of autoimmune disease.