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The truth about Stomach Acid
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Dr Jon Morley

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Can you stomach Acid, part 2

I recently discussed the interesting paradox that is often referred to and treated, as ‘too much acid’, yet commonly means too little acid.

Remember I am talking about stomach acid, hydrochloric acid, not to be mistaken with ‘an alkaline body, body pH’ etc.

In summary: our stomachs are designed to be highly acid, so acid in fact, that if some of the acid leaked onto our shoes, it would corrode them. This is normal, so why don’t we all have to use acid reducing medicine? When we have low acid in the stomach, our food either digests very slowly, or not at all. The consequence is heartburn, indigestion, bloating, cramps, undigested food in the stool, variable stool, IBS, itching anus, fatigue, and a whole range of varied and seemingly unrelated symptoms. So, very often, when we see our docs, we are prescribed drugs to inhibit acid, which does make the pain diminish, but has potential problems downstream, in terms of optimal digestion.

So how do we know we have low stomach acid? Firstly, do you have any of the above symptoms? Do you feel your nails are weak and break easily, is your hair thin and breakable, are you gassy, does your breath smell, is your appetite weaker than before? Positive answers to these are already hinting at a low level of stomach acid. A simple test you can do at home: mix half a teaspoon of bicarb into a half glass of warm water. Drink this mixture first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. Time how long it takes you to burp. With good levels of acid, you can expect to burp within 4-5 minutes. Much longer than that may well indicate a deficiency. You should speak to a healthcarer familiar with treating this deficiency.
Why would we become deficient or low in stomach acid? Imagine a lifetime of rich eating, many braai’s, many beers, much coffee, much stress and what do we get? Heartburn! What do we do? Eat Antacids, and here is where the problem starts. Some of the older antihistamines, too much alcohol, too much stress, some anti-inflammatories, normal ageing, iodine deficiency (easily caused by fluoridation of water, excess use of bromides in keeping white flour fluffy and light) have all been linked to low stomach acid levels. Of course there are very rarely, some genetic predispositions, like pernicious anemia, that may also involve low stomach acid.

What can you do? If you have identified, or suspect that you acid is low in the stomach: stop all sugary foods, avoid eating raw vegetables for now, steam or lightly and slowly cook your veg, avoid overcooked meats, eat fermented foods such as miso (soy), sauerkraut, fermented coconut milk (or other kefirs), avoid table salt, and rather eat mineral salts such as Himalayan rock salt, or ‘Herbamare’, drink plenty of clean water (reverse osmosis is best), chew thoroughly and mindfully, avoid mindless snacking between meals to allow time to fully digest what is already there.

Yes, one can also use a supplement of Betaine Hydrochloride with each meal. Sometimes this should be complemented by the additional use of a pancreatic enzyme complex, such as ‘Digestizyme’. The use of these should be done with the guidance of a healthcarer, as appropriate dose adjustments should be made along the way.

What is mindful eating? Do you eat on the run? While standing up? In front of the TV? In a hurry? In a bad mood? Then rather skip that meal, it’ll be better for your health! Eating is not merely refuelling. It is a time to stop, to breath, to be grateful and ideally to engage in less distractions. Very simply, before your next meal: STOP what you are doing. Take 2 or 3 breaths while focussing on the breath. Express gratitude, and experience the plate of food in front of you with all of your 5 senses. Slowly. As you eat, experience each mouthful with all 5 senses.

Try that for a week, notice how much less you ‘need’ to eat, how much more alive your body feels, how many of your symptoms may subside in the stomach. And know that your food is getting to where it needs to be.

Bon Appetit!




Dr Jon Morley
Holistic Medical Doctor

 
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