Do you have enough stomach acid?
Hydrochloric acid in your stomach breaks down food so you can absorb its nutrients and helps protect you from infection. Left untreated, low stomach acid levels can damage your gastrointestinal system and prevent your body from properly digesting and absorbing nutrients leading to a cascade of further health problems!
Low stomach acid is most commonly caused by getting older, stress, smoking, certain medications, gastric bypass surgery, untreated H. Pylori infections, or a diet high in processed food or sugar.
How do you know when you have low stomach acid?
The most foolproof way is to have your doctor diagnose it using a stomach secretion test. Your stomach secretions should be strongly acidic (low pH), but those with low stomach acid have a higher pH.
Some symptoms to watch for include heartburn, indigestion, gas, hair loss, food cravings when not hungry, brittle fingernails, nutritional deficiencies, and undigested food in stools.
What can you do about it?
The good news is you can increase your stomach acid level by changing how, when, and what you eat:
1) How: slow down and chew your food! We recommend 20 times for every bite. It may seem like a lot, but this allows your body to to secrete digestive enzymes that break down the food and prepare your body for digestion.
2) When: eat when you're relaxed! Make a ritual out of mealtimes instead of eating in a rush or on the go. When your body is in a relaxed state, your brain signals to your stomach (and the rest of your body) to secrete digestive enzymes and hormones.
3) What: replace processed foods and sugar in your diet with anti-inflammatory foods (whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, and fish for example). Foods rich in zinc are especially important as zinc helps the body produce stomach acid!
Consuming fermented vegetables can be a double whammy of stomach acid support as they not only improve digestion and stomach acid levels, but they also fight bacteria and inflammation (along with numerous other health benefits).
Need some help? Check out these 7 gut-boosting recipes!