For a long time we have been told that people who suffer indigestion, acid reflux have too much stomach acid. Most people afflicted with these conditions actually don’t have enough acid in their stomach to keep pH low enough for digestion of protein and other key nutrients to occur.
Why we need stomach acid
Stomach acid is key to the breakdown of food into small enough particles that can be absorbed by the body as they travel down the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. Minerals, vitamins and protein are poorly absorbed in a stomach with high pH (this indicates low HCL acid production as the stomach should have a low pH).
Digestion is key to making sure we get everything out of the food we eat. Many people are literally “starving in the land of plenty” because they have a compromised digestive system, usually this is occurring without them even knowing it. Brittle hair and weak nails are signs that you might have low stomach acid.
Digestion lays the foundation for our health because no matter how perfect your diet is if you are not digesting it properly, you are not receiving the full benefits.
What is equally as important as quality food is to eat in a relaxed, parasympathetic state. When we are in this “rest and digest” mode, stomach acid and the rest of our digestion can function optimally. Stress, eating while doing something else, and eating too fast can compromise our digestion. This suppresses the release of stomach acid and causes a digestive upset which leads to a poor utilisation of nutrients from our food.
Low stomach acid can lead to malabsorption of key nutrients like calcium, zinc, iron, folate and B12. Considering how many people are low in B12 and how hard it is to get adequate amounts through diet, it is a wake-up call to see that even if people are taking in enough through their food they could be absorbing very little of it.
Acid reflux and indigestion are symptoms
Good digestion is key for optimal health and compromised digestion can lead to a myriad of health issues that are not just digestion or GI related. The emphasis should be on how people can treat digestive issues with natural supplements, herbs and lifestyle changes instead of just suppressing symptoms with prescription and over the counter pharmaceuticals.
Best Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Unless you are missing a gallbladder it’s best to opt for plant-based digestive enzymes to prevent your body from becoming dependant on them. The high quality trusted product I use and recommend is Enzymedica Digest Gold.
These are a great option to stimulate bile production if you’ve deducted from trial and error or your food journal that eating fats causes a digestive upset for you. Take some before meals to get your gallbladder firing.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A gentler option to try before taking HCL tablets is drinking a tablespoon of ACV in a little water before meals to stimulate acid production in the stomach.
Avoid drinking much water or other drinks with food as these can dilute stomach acid and make digestion much harder for your body.
Best Foods for Digestion
The foods I will recommend again and again are whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense and properly prepared. Whole fruits and vegetables. Pastured meats and eggs. Grass-fed dairy if it’s well tolerated. Soaked or sprouted grains. The best foods for a healthy digestive system are ones our body can recognise and digest. Food, pure water and our digestion are the only ways our body can meet its nutrient needs for vibrant, optimal health. How we eat those foods is equally as important, in a peaceful unrushed mindset where we can smell and taste every bite, not inhaled in a car on the way to work.
I hope you took away some important information about stomach acid from this post. My most important message is that digestion is the basis of our health, without the nutritional building blocks it provides how can we heal and thrive? If you're interested in learning more, I highly recommend the book Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You by Jonathan Wright. Maybe you still have a question, please put it in the comments or message me directly through the contact page, I would love to hear from you.