If we’re too low in stomach acid, we aren’t able to break down food sufficiently. In addition to that, a burden is placed on the rest of the digestive system in order to break down food that hasn’t been processed enough.
Low stomach acid and digestive issues
I see patients who suffer from reflux because they have insufficient stomach acid (and they are most often prescribed antacid medication by doctors as soon as they mention the word reflux or heartburn). To further suppress stomach acid, when stomach acid is already low, is only treating the symptoms of reflux (removing the pain) but not actually treating the cause (stomach acid insufficiency).
I’ve seen low stomach acid also contribute to other digestive issues, such as pain and discomfort after eating, constipation or delayed elimination, and bloating. If the digestive system is working inefficiently, then not only do you start to feel very fatigued, but over time nutritional levels can become depleted because nutrients are not assimilated properly.
Low stomach acid and immune defence
Our stomach acid is our first line of defence against environmental pathogens. We need strong stomach acid in order to kill off nasty bacteria or parasites that enter the body. Without it, we leave ourselves open to outside invaders entering the body and wreaking havoc on our digestive system and immune system.
Causes of low stomach acid
Stress can deplete stomach acid over time. Our body is not made to eat when we are under threat – that is a time to run (fight or flight) so when our body experiences chronic stress, we tend to not produce enough of the enzymes needed to break food down.
Other factors which can contribute to low stomach acid are; zinc deficiency, h.pylori infection, age, eating too quickly, and other nutritional deficiencies (iron, B vitamins).
How to increase stomach acid
- Chew. Most of us don’t chew nearly enough. when we chew, it encourages enzymes to be released in the mouth to start the breakdown of food.
- Take your time. Don’t rush eating, or eat on the run. When we prepare food, smell it, and allow our body to signal that it’s soon time to eat, then we start to produce the enzymes to break the food down.
- Drink an apple cider vinegar shot before the meal. Add a tablespoon into a small amount of water and drink 15 minutes before the meal. Apple cider vinegar is full of enzymes to help break down food, and it also increases stomach acid because of its acidic properties.
- Eat protein last on the plate. This allow time for the digestive system to release more enzymes in order to process the protein component.
- Eat fermented vegetables and pickles. Fermented foods have a natural ability to boost digestive enzymes through beneficial bacteria that help to digest food.
- Take digestive bitters. Digestive bitters can be purchased from most health food stores. They are a combination of liquid herbal medicine traditionally used to boost digestive enzymes.
Yvette is a qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia.
Yvette specialises in the treatment of gut health and digestive complaints, skin issues, mood disorders, hormonal concerns, fatigue, and more.
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