Why Stomach Acid is Good For You.

Why are we talking about this, Madison?

Well, because it’s important. What if I told you that your perfectly clean, organic, pastured-raised diet was all for nothing if you couldn’t digest it?

So, yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. Do I have your attention now?

It is a common misconception that our society is dealing with too much stomach acid, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Things like indigestion, reflux + heart-burn are actually a result of LOW stomach acid levels. In fact, it is found that approximately 90% of Americans don’t produce enough.

If you don’t have enough stomach acid…

  • Food doesn’t get fully broken down and sits in the stomach causing reflux or back flow. Because the food isn’t acidic enough for the small intestine for nutrient absorption, the undigested foods begin to degenerate…i.e. carbs ferment, fats rancidify, and proteins putrefy. #gross
  • Because you can’t properly prepare your nutrition for the small intestine to absorb the minerals it needs from your food, it leads us to have mineral deficiencies.
  • Your first line of defense against bad bacteria (yeast, viruses, parasites, etc.) is gone! When the stomach is not acidic enough, it creates the perfect environment for these bad guys to thrive + wreak havoc in the rest of your digestive system.

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How to tell if you don’t have enough stomach acid…

  • Food feels like it just sits in your stomach after eating.
  • Experience indigestion, heart-burn, and/or acid reflux.
  • Stomach pains or cramps.
  • Have bad breath (halitosis).
  • Burping and/or bloated after meals (within an hour).
  • Loss of taste for meat.
  • Vegan (no dairy, meat, fish or eggs)
  • Fingernails break, chip peel easily and/or have white spots (mineral deficiency).
  • Sweat has a strong odor.
  • Stomach upset by taking vitamins.
  • A sense of extreme fullness after meals.
  • Sleepy after meals.
  • Do you feel like skipping breakfast or feel better if you don’t eat?
  • Anemia (unresponsive to iron).
  • Aren’t making regular visits to the bathroom (at least 1x a day!) and/or constipated.
  • Chronic diarrhea and/or diarrhea shortly after meals.dd-heading-1080x675

So, what contributes to low stomach acid? 

  • Stress
  • Excess refined carbohydrate, sugar, alcohol and/or caffeine consumption
  • Nutrient deficiencies (particularly zinc, which is a key mineral in the production of stomach acid!)
  • Allergies
  • Prescription medication/antibiotics
  • Antacid drug use
  • Chronic overeating and/or constant snacking between meals

But, what about newborn babies with acid reflux? This can often be the result of the mother’s diet and/or her own lack of stomach acid. Putting your child on stomach acid suppressants is just putting a bandaid on the problem instead of properly fixing it at the source, which will eventually lead to digestive issues later on in their life.

THE MORE YOU KNOW: A great resource to better understand stomach acid, and natural ways to restore it (even for children, too!) is the book “Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You.

vitamix-professional-series-750-blenderTRY THIS FUN + DISGUSTING EXPERIMENT!

  • Make an extra portion at dinner. (Meat, potatoes, veggies, salad, dessert)
  • Put it all in a blender, add 1/2 cup water + spit in it.
  • Blend it all up.
  • Find a warm place (close to body temperature ~98.6 degrees) to set it.
  • See how long it takes to get disgusting.

This is what happens to the food in your stomach if you are not producing enough stomach acid!

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So what are some ways to help digestion + improve stomach acid production?

  • Rest + Digest… Slow down at meal time. Think about your food, taste it fully + chew it well. Don’t eat in a rush. Place your fork down between every bite so it forces you to slow down. Eating on-the-go disconnects us from our mind-body experience during meal time.
  • Avoid drinking beverages with meals… This dilutes the stomach acid, making it harder to break down your meal properly, and leaves you feeling excessively full.
  • Eat smaller portions… Spreading out your meals to 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day will help with digestion because your body doesn’t have as much to break down at one time.
  • Minimize or eliminate low stomach acid contributors… See above!
  • Support with Raw Apple Cider Vinegar shots… ACV helps stimulate the gastric juices to prepare the body to digest food. The best time to take ACV is before meals, particularly those high in protein, or when you might be experiencing indigestion after a large meal.
  • Digestive Supplements… HCl (hydrochloric acid) is what our stomach produces! Sometimes we might need a bit more bang for our buck than ACV can offer, so stronger support in HCl supplementation might be an option for you.

Want to read more on the science + understanding of stomach acid? 

Check out this post by Chris Kresser!