The next most important key to digestion is stomach acid. According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, author of "Why Stomach Acid is Good for You" (which I HIGHLY recommend) 90% of Americans don't have enough. That's right - the problem is usually too little stomach acid, not too much.
Low stomach acid is caused primarily by:
- Acid blockers / acid suppressors
Low stomach acid actually causes heartburn, and a whole lot of other problems, from acne to autoimmune conditions. Here's a brief rundown of all the health problems related to low acid:
It's one of life's little ironies: low stomach acid can actually cause heartburn. Put simply, you have two doors to your stomach, one at the top and one at the bottom. After you eat, the contents of your stomach are supposed to flow through the bottom door into your small intestine. But this bottom door only opens when the contents of your stomach get very acidic. This is why we need stomach acid - to mix with your food and make it acidic enough to trigger that bottom door to open. If your stomach contents aren't acidic enough the door won't open. The contents then have no where else to go but back up into your esophagus. This causes the burning sensation.
The reason why acid blocking medications work is that they neutralize the contents of your stomach so when they get pushed back up into your esophagus (yuk) they don't burn you. Instead of fixing the problem they just make it so you don't realize it's happening. But that's the least of your problems. By neutralizing your stomach contents, your bottom door stays shut and the contents of your stomach are left to rot, creating a ground for bacteria...
Most bacteria cannot survive in a highly acidic environment. So if your acid is high, your stomach will be sterile and protect you from any bacteria you might eat. If you don't have enough acid, bacteria is given the chance to grow and potentially cause symptoms like diarrhea, constipaiton, food poisoning and even acne to develop. This is why any time I travel to a foreign country like Mexico, I make sure to take a low dose of HCL (150mg) with me (HCL is stomach acid you can buy in supplement form) and I take it at every meal.
Think about it - doctors prescribe powerful antibiotics for people with severe acne. Where do those antibiotics go? They're swallowed into the stomach to kill the bacteria. According to Wright, HCL supplementation coupled with probiotics (to help the good bacteria) can greatly help or eliminate skin issues.
The stomach needs acid to break down protein into amino acids. The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are needed to make dopamine and adrenaline, while tryptophan is needed to make serotonin. It's lack of serotonin and dopamine that has been linked to depression. So if you're not breaking down your protein, you could potentially develop a deficit in these neurotransmitters and start to feel down in the dumps.
When your food isn't broken down properly it can't be absorbed through the small intestine and essentially passes straight through your system. So even if you're eating all the vitamin-rich foods in the world, you might just be pooping them out. B12 is one of the most important vitamins lost due to low stomach acid, as its found in protein. Lack of B12 can leave you feeling fatigued and depressed. Wump wump.
ALLERGIES & AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS
Undigested food can wear away at the lining of the small intestine, eventually making holes. This is known as "leaky gut" syndrome. Food proteins can then pass through the lining into your bloodstream. Your body sees these particles as "foreign invaders" and creates antibodies to fight them = an allergic, or inflammatory reaction. This kind of reaction can manifest itself skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, or more serious autoimmune conditions. Once the body has created antibodies to these food particles it can confuse food particles for other parts of your body and start attacking them. So, for example, if your body has created antibodies to gluten proteins, it can get confused and start attacking your thyroid (Hashimoto's Thyroiditis), or joint tissue (Rheumatiod Arthritis), or skin tissue, or whatever it believes is gluten. This is the beginning of autoimmune conditions including Lupus, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis and more.
Finally, undigested food sits in the stomach and makes you fart and burp. In fact gas is one of the first signs that something's amuck with your digestion.
Other conditions associated with low HCl: asthma, anemia, stomach cancer, gall bladder disease, Grave's disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic hepatitis, osteoporosis, Type 1 diabetes, and accelerated aging (eek!)
If you want more information please read "Why Stomach Acid is Good for You" and if you think you have low stomach acid you can try these easy home tests (click here).
Signs of low stomach acid:
- You don't feel good when you eat meat
- You have acid reflux or heartburn after eating
Several burps shortly after finishing or burps later that taste and smell bad
Experience gas 1-2 hours after eating
You get bloated after eating that lasts for a few hours
A heavy feeling in your stomach – like your food just sits there fermenting
Brittle hair and finger nails that break easily
A diagnosed B12 deficiency
Do you know any one that suffers with the plagues of LSA? Share this post with them!
What's been your experience with SA? Always thought you had too much? Ever taken the HCL challenge? How did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below!