We all know how important it is to eat a healthy diet, but what if I told you that you weren’t actually benefiting from those healthy foods! Being able to digest your meals is equally as important as what you eat. This is why we have to make sure that your digestive tract is functioning optimally in order to be as healthy as possible, life long.
Digestion itself begins before you even eat anything. When you see food, smell food, or hear food being made, your body starts to prepare itself so that it can break your meal down into nutrients that your body can absorb and use. After chewing (which you should be doing much more of!) your stomach acid, hydrochloric acid, does a ton of work to break food into manageable pieces. Fun fact, your stomach acid should have a similar pH to battery acid!
So you get it, right? Digestion and therefore stomach acid levels are critical to proper digestion. But did you know that having low stomach acid is a common problem?
Here are the TOP 5 SIGNS that you have low stomach acid:
- Acid reflux, or GERD
- Bloating or gas after a meal
- Belching after a meal
- Indigestion, or a feeling of food sitting heavy in your stomach.
- Brittle or peeling finger nails
- Hair loss
What’s the solution?
Get into “Rest and Digest”
There are a few things you can do help stimulate the production of stomach acid.
First, you can switch from your sympathetic, or ‘fight or flight’ state, to your parasympathetic, or ‘rest and digest’ state. Most people these days are constantly stressed and in their ‘fight or flight’ state. By working on stress-management practices and taking the time to sit down to eat without distractions, you can shift into the ‘rest and digest’ state and allow your body to properly prepare for digestion.
As part of this, let’s quit eating in front of our computers! I am as guilt as the next for doing this from time to time, but when I catch myself I always step away, take a few deep breaths to help get me into rest and digest, and regroup.
Chew your darn food!
For optimal digestion we need to be chewing each bite at least 30-40 times. Yes, seriously! As an experiment, count how many times you chew your next meal. For some people it is less than 40 for the whole meal, let alone per bite!
Apple Cider Vinegar
If you are one of my patients you may have just rolled your eyes… because I love apple cider vinegar (ACV)! ACV helps to stimulate digestion when taken before meals. All you need is 1-2tsp in a bit of water to really get that system going and rid yourself of summer (or winter) bloat and digestive issues.
In a similar fashion to ACV bitter herbs can be used to stimulate the secretion of stomach acid. Examples of bitter herbs are Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Burdock (Arctium lapa), and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). You can find these herbs in premade tinctures that are convenient to take before a meal.
A warning of HCl supplements
It is common in today’s day and age to head into your local health food store and pick up a supplement or two with HCl in it. Please do not get me wrong, I am pro self-experimentation but in this case you need to be careful!
Your body is pretty smart and sometimes low stomach acid levels happen to protect you from an ulcer or in the case of infection. When this is happening and you take HCl you can cause more harm than good… ask me… I did it to myself years ago. That pain is just not worth it! So be smart, start small with bitter foods and deep breathing. If you want to play with something stronger then reach out to me, or another Naturopathic Doctor for support.
Moral of the story?
With so many simple solutions, there is no reason to let low stomach acid affect your health! Pick one thing above and get digesting today.