This post was inspired by reading Jonathan V. Wright’s book “Why Stomach Acid is good for you?”.
It is not an easy or a fun read since the book has lots of studies, statistics, and research data. Lucky for you I have read it and summarized the big take away, which is, without stomach acids we cannot experience optimal health.
The author’s main goal is to prove that low stomach acid is a root cause of many health concerns and diseases. Conventional medicine makes us believe that reflex and heartburn is a cause of too much acid. However, it is the opposite, not enough stomach acid is a cause of reflex and heartburn!
What is stomach acid? Gastric acid is a digestive fluid, formed in the stomach. It is composed of hydrochloric acid (HCl), potassium chloride (KCl) and sodium chloride (NaCl). Stomach acid has many very important functions. The main one is to help us digest food properly. The ideal acidity level during food intake is 1.5-3 on the pH scale. If the pH is higher, food will not be broken down correctly. Carbohydrates will ferment, proteins will putrefy, and fats will become rancid. This will also delay the release of food (chyme) into the small intestines which creates a “perfect” environment for bacteria and pathogens to wreak havoc on our GI track. Moreover, our body cannot absorb and utilize nutrients from food without proper pH levels, especially zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin A & D. Zinc has a very important role in proper digestion since it helps signal HCL to be released in the stomach. However, low stomach acid creates zinc deficiency. It is basically a “vicious cycle”. A Zinc deficit is also associated with blindness.
When food moves from duodenum to the small intestines with pH that’s too high, the liver and gallbladder are not signaled to release bile, pancreatic enzymes and sodium bicarbonate which again is a major disruption to a healthy digestion system. More importantly, since sodium bicarbonate is not released to increase the pH level of the chyme, the mucosal lining can be damaged which leads to ulcers. Proteins that are not fully digested will pass through the bloodstream and eventually cause leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut will overwhelm our immune system and can cause disruption to gut flora. Our guard against pathogens, bacteria and parasites is now broken.
Dr. Wright emphasizes and debunks the popular misbelief that acid neutralizers, acid suppressers or proton pump inhibitors will solve GERD and heartburn. What we need to resolve those issues is more stomach acid. ‘Why’, would you ask? Let me explain. When there is not enough HCL in the stomach, the pyloric sphincter does not let food move to the small intestine. Food sits in the stomach for too long, as mentioned earlier, it goes bad and eventually goes back up the esophagus and causes the burning sensation known as heartburn. What we truly need is to add more HCL to aid in proper functioning of the stomach.
So, how do we naturally increase our HCL level? First, we need to be in the rest and digest state (parasympathetic state) before we start a meal. We should not be rushing, standing, or driving in the car while eating. We should be able to sit down, eat slowly and enjoy the meal. Remember to chew your food well, then swallow. It might be helpful to take a shot of apple cider vinegar diluted in water or water with lemon prior to eating, in order to start the digestive juices flowing. Another option is to take a tincture of digestive bitters before a meal. Some people will need to support their digestion with HCL and pepsin tablets at each meal to help with heartburn.
You would be surprised to find out how many health conditions are linked to low HCL levels in the stomach. Who knew that kid’s asthma and depression can be connected to amino acid deficiency or that bacteria overgrowth, due to low stomach acid, can rob us of vital nutrients like vitamin B12? Before I go, this one is for all the women out there; apparently low stomach acid often causes “lousy” fingernails and hair loss. Maybe instead of taking our fancy hair and nails vitamins, we should be taking HCL capsules <3.
Are you curious if your stomach acid is sufficient? Do you experience heartburn quite often? Are your hair and nails in poor shape? I might be able to help you find the answer to these questions. By using FCA and LNT as tools, we can determine if your digestion needs support. Reach out to me if you are curious.
References: Jonathan V. Wright “Why Stomach Acid is good for you?”