Most children and many young adults can usually eat whatever they like without experiencing gastric distress. Unfortunately, the older we get, the less hydrochloric acid our stomachs produce. Most people over age 40 could benefit from some form of digestive support.
Stomach acidity affects every stage of digestion. It activates pepsin, the stomach enzyme required to digest proteins. It stimulates the gall bladder to release bile, which is needed to emulsify fats. It triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes, which break down proteins, starches and fats. Stomach acidity also creates an unfavourable environment for harmful bacteria and parasites.
When the stomach isn’t acidic enough (hypochlorhydria), the entire digestive process slows down. Proteins are not broken down into their constituent amino acids. Insufficient bile is released, causing fats to glob together in the gut, attracting minerals to form insoluble soaps. Pancreatic enzymes are not released in sufficient quantity to break down the food mass into molecules small enough to pass through the intestinal wall, thus hindering absorption. Intestinal immunity suffers because the population of beneficial flora becomes displaced by the putrefactive byproducts of incomplete digestion. Colon function and elimination stagnate. Toxins are released in the gut and absorbed from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream.
Symptoms of too little stomach acid include:
- · indigestion or sourness within 3 hours after eating.
- · abdominal bloating, distension.
- · overly full feeling after eating meat.
- · loss of former taste or craving for meat.
- · excessive gas or belching after meals.
- · heartburn, burning sensation in stomach.
- · overly tired feeling after eating.
- · constipation.
- · poorly formed or greasy stools.
- · undigested food particles in stools.
- · slow growing fingernails, ridges on nails.
Commercials for antacids have it all wrong. The most frequent cause of indigestion is too little stomach acid, not too much. Without enough hydrochloric acid, food stays in the stomach for prolonged periods, fermenting and producing excess gas. Taking an antacid at this point alkalinizes the stomach contents, causing them to be released into the small intestine. There they continue to ferment, still producing gas. Nothing has happened to improve digestion. On the contrary – this drastic measure halts any further digestion and merely relocates the symptom, by exchanging stomach gas for intestinal gas. Under these circumstances, bile and pancreatic enzymes do not flow in adequate amounts, because their presence is triggered by the acidity of the food leaving the stomach – which acidity has just been eliminated by the antacid.
If hydrochloric acid levels are very low, sometimes the emptying time of the stomach is delayed for so long that bile is regurgitated backward from the duodenum into the stomach. Bile is caustic and very irritating to the stomach lining. Because bile is alkaline, it causes a reflex secretion of stomach acid to neutralize it. At this point, the person will likely experience a burning sensation – commonly referred to as “acid indigestion”. Taking an antacid will relieve the burn, of course; but the stomach only became acidic after the bile had been regurgitated back into it. If there had been enough hydrochloric acid when it was needed, no burn would have been experienced later.
Indigestion is a symptom of digestive weakness. It makes more sense to strengthen that weakness than it does to try to stifle its symptoms. Taking supplementary hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes with meals can correct most causes of indigestion by supplying the stomach with enough acid when it is needed.
There are some individuals whose bodies produce very low levels of hydrochloric acid (hypochlorhydria) – and even some whose stomachs produce no hydrochloric acid at all (achlorhydria). The only time it is not wise to take supplementary hydrochloric acid is when an ulcer is actually present. To do so would produce a burning sensation behind the tip of the breastbone, within minutes of taking such a product. If that happens, a little dolomite or baking soda will neutralize the excess acid to provide relief within minutes.
Some food combinations are more difficult to digest than others. The worst are those that mix proteins and/or fats (e.g., meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, butter, milk, beans, soy) with sugars (e.g., fruit, fruit juices, sweet and sour sauces, pastries, pies, cakes, soft drinks, candy, liqueurs). Proteins and fats need to stay in the stomach for hours. Sugars are not digested in the stomach at all; they need to pass through very quickly. When these two classes of foods are combined, the stomach holds onto the whole mess until it can break down as much of the protein/fats as it can. In the meantime, sugars are held there far longer than necessary and react with other stomach contents to ferment and produce putrefactive gases. Taking supplementary hydrochloric can reduce this type of gastric distress; however, it is wiser (and more cost effective) simply to avoid overburdening the stomach in this way.
The traditional sweet dessert after dinner is particularly challenging. Examples of other poor combinations include orange juice with eggs, steak followed by pie, sweet and sour sauces on meats, sugary cereals with milk, fruit salad with cottage cheese, sausages with syrupy pancakes, chicken wings with barbecue sauce, and baked beans sweetened with honey or molasses. Fruit and their juices are most easily digested if taken as an appetizer about 30 minutes before a meal, or as a separate mini-meal by themselves. The same goes for foods made with refined or concentrated sugars. Sugar goes by many names – including white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, Demerara sugar, cane juice, fructose/levulose, glucose/dextrose, lactose, molasses, corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, white grape juice, fruit juice concentrate, dextri-maltose, malto-dextrin, etc. Eat these before a meal, at a different time all together or better yet, not at all.
See also the chapter, “It Begins with Digestion”, in NUTRITIONAL SOLUTIONS FOR 88 CONDITIONS (available from Amazon.com)
Example of digestive enzyme formula: https://vitamost.club/products/ultragest-digestive-aid