Stomach acid is another lengthy topic. Holistic Nutrition Schools talk about stomach acid quite a lot as they are preparing practitioners for the large number of clients who are on GERD medication used to reduce stomach acid. I have met several clients on stomach acid lowering meds. One of the challenges is that typical high stomach acid symptoms like burning/heartburn sensations can also mean low stomach acid. Once you have medically ruled out the presence of H. Pylori bacteria responsible for ulcers and/or structural issues, you have many options available.
As time goes by, and years of processed food eating have passed, stomach acid can become very sluggish especially if there has been a lack of whole food in the diet rich in plant enzymes. Other challenging and typical North American habits include drinking with your meals rather than away from meals. This very popular practice dilutes the strength of your stomach acid. Drinking caffeine on an empty stomach is another popular pass time as it is used to speed up bowel movements but this can cause premature dumping of stomach contents into the small intestine thereby interrupting the intricate digestive cascade and eventually causing discomfort. Sometimes burning sensations are actually “high fermentation acids” caused by poor digestion; or there can be stomach lining lesions of the mucosa. Some people who do present with actual high stomach acid are often eating too much, drinking alcohol and caffeine, eating spicy food, consuming too much sugar and smoking. Also worth mentioning is that stress levels can affect stomach acid production; either producing too much or too little. Getting to the root of the stress is important and so is doing some deep breathing before each meal. 10 good long inhales and exhales will go a long way in helping you to slow down and relax and thereby helping with digestion.
Obviously getting on a healthy whole food diet will help tremendously with stomach discomfort. Eating smaller size meals also helps. Starting digestive enzymes with hydrochloric acid taken with food or digestive herbal bitters taken 1/2 hour before each meal stimulate the stomach acid in a good way. Again, drinking enough water to prevent dehydration and AWAY from meals rather than with meals is extremely important. Drinking a large (room temperature as cold water slows digestion) glass of water 20 to 30 minutes before each meal also helps to stimulate stomach acid which will help in digesting food more efficiently.
Along with digestive aids, DGL tablets (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) help as these tablets repair stomach lining mucosa which help eliminate pain. Follow the directions on the bottle; dosage is usually 2 tablets chewed 20 minutes before each meal. Licorice is categorized as a demulcent in herbal terms which means it has healing and soothing properties helpful to internal tissues. There are also quite a few electrolyte mineral supplements on the market which are used to assist in the pH balancing of the body (like Biomed Basictab) which help to alkalinize an acidic body. These types of products support the body in its ability to compensate for acid overload.
Inefficient stomach acid can eventually lead to more serious conditions which is why you want to promote it NOT remove it. Without proper amounts of stomach acid poor absorption of all minerals including calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, zinc (zinc is directly needed to help produce HCl) and many more will occur. Once this starts happening your tissues and organs will not receive all the nutrients they need to function properly. Another important function for stomach acid is to start digesting protein and the resulting products known as amino acids are major components of all hormones and biochemical enzymes. Eventually the immune system is also affected and anything from allergies or other immune challenged conditions can emerge.
Stomach acid cells not only release HCl to start the digestive process; HCl also sterilizes food which helps lower the risk of potential parasitic infiltration and stomach cells also release something called intrinsic factor (IF) which helps to absorb B12 later in the digestive cascade in the small intestine. Speaking of the digestive cascade, proper levels of stomach acid trigger the release of many other functions within this cascade. One is the production of bile by the liver which is then stored in the gallbladder for release to emulsify fats; therefore, anyone wanting to lose a few pounds definitely wants to have the proper amount of stomach acid.
I will stop here as there are many more actions that depend on proper pH values of stomach acid. I am sure you are getting the picture. Take good care of your stomach acid.