Have you ever experienced heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, or gas after meals?
Maybe you think that’s just what happens sometimes when you eat certain foods? Perhaps, however, it’s not necessarily the case.
But if you do experience any of those digestive symptoms, it could be a sign you have hypochlorhydria, a fancy term for low stomach acid.
Hypochlorhydria is a condition where your stomach doesn't produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCL). Hydrochloric acid, or HCL, is known colloquially as stomach acid.
Why is hydrochloric acid (HCL) a big deal for digestion?
HCL is needed to kill harmful bacteria and parasites in your food, and it eliminates viruses in the stomach which protects your body from infection.
When you don’t have enough stomach acid, the food you eat exits the body without being utilized.
You know the saying, "you are what you eat"? Actually, it should be, "you are what you digest and absorb"!
Your stomach needs to be highly acidic with HCL for breaking down and digesting proteins and minerals in order to be absorbed into your body.
In other words, if there’s insufficient acid in your stomach, this has a damaging trickle down effect on your digestive function.
Wait?! I thought heartburn and acid reflux was caused by too much acidity?!
The truth is: low stomach acid causes more digestive problems than too much stomach acid.
That might be hard to believe, especially with all the ballyhoo of antacids, acid-blockers, and PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for heartburn, acid reflux, GERD relief available. Every time you take these, you are contributing more to this problem (which may be one reason you develop heartburn in the first place). If people who have persistent digestive symptoms actually had their stomach acid levels tested, it would be extremely rare for the results to show too much stomach acid.
Okay, so now what you’re telling me is that I thought I had too much stomach acid with digestive symptoms but I actually have too little, low stomach acid?
Yes. You’re picking up what I’m putting down.
Signs and symptoms of hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) may include:
Heartburn and indigestion
Trouble digesting meat, and/or a loss of taste for meat
Gas, burping and bloating after eating
Food allergies and intolerances
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including iron deficiency
Skin problems such as acne
Undigested food in stools
Brittle nails and hair
Feel like skipping breakfast
Because of it’s severe impact on digestion, and because 70-80% of our immune system is housed in our gut, hypochlorhydria has been associated with chronic health issues including:
Skin issues such as acne, psoriasis, eczema
What causes hypochlorhydria?
Some of the most common causes for low stomach acid include:
High stress levels
High sugar diet
Vitamin deficiency specifically zinc and B vitamins. These deficiencies may be caused by poor diet or nutrient loss from stress, smoking, or alcohol
Medications such as overuse of antacids and other medications for digestive issues
H. Pylori, which is a type of bacteria that causes infection in the stomach
Stomach surgery such as gastric bypass
Aging, especially those over 65
So what to do about it?
Fortunately, there are several simple yet effective things you can do to naturally help your body produce enough HCL to aid digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Here are just a few of the lifestyle tips to improve stomach acid levels:
Sit at the table (not on your couch!) when you’re eating
Eat mindfully without any distractions (no devices at the table)
Chew your food thoroughly (put your fork down between bites)
Drink water in between meals, not during meals
PRO-TIP: Drink 1 cup of water with 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar (ACV) about 20 minutes before each meal. Look for organic, raw, and unfiltered ACV (I use Bragg brand). This helps alert the brain that food is coming, sends a message to the stomach to start producing HCL, and stimulates digestion.
This pre-meal preparation helps create a shift to mindfulness around eating and supports your parasympathetic “rest and digest” response.
Keep in mind, stress and eating while you’re stressed or distracted is a huge factor contributing to low stomach acid and all the symptoms listed above.
As one of my teachers always says: WHEN STRESS IS ON, DIGESTION IS OFF.
Need more information and guidance about digestion, nutrition, and mindful eating?
Join my small group course, Nourish Till You Flourish, where we take digestion, nutrition, and mindful eating to a deeper, more personalized level.
The next group begins Monday, December 7.
Please note enrollment ends this Friday, December 4.
‘Tis the season for prioritizing your health and healing.
Finish 2020 strong.
Love, Your Wellness Coach,
P.S. Watch the replays of “A Taste of Nourish Till You Flourish” my series of 4 Hot Topic Wellness Workshops:
How to Boost Immunity through Nutrition
Setting & Keeping Goals During Uncertainty
Do You Have Leaky Gut? Gut Health 101