Digestion and Stomach Acid
A healthy stomach plays a pivotal role in our digestive system. Not only does our stomach churn and mix our food it also produces gastric acid that assists protein digestion, renders the stomach sterile against orally-ingested pathogenic microbes, prevents fungal and bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, encourages bile and pancreatic enzyme release and facilitates the absorption of a variety of nutrients. Nutrients such as zinc, calcium, B12, magnesium, some forms of iron, folic acid, and vitamin C that are vital for optimal health and vitality.
The primary gastric acid secreted by the stomach is Hydrochloric acid (HCl). Numerous studies have shown that acid secretion declines both with advancing age and during prolonged stress. Under lowered production of HCl we see nutrient deficiencies leading, over time, to many imbalances throughout the body (see Fig 1.). Also, our stomach beneficial microbiome can become compromised with deleterious organisms such as Helicobacter pylori capitalising and leading to ulcers, gastritis and even stomach cancer.
There are several tell-tale symptoms associated with low gastric acidity. Some of these include bloating after eating, constipation or diarrhea, flatulence after food, hair loss in women, heartburn, indigestion, food allergies, skin conditions and nausea. These symptoms may be signs that equilibrium has been disturbed resulting in abnormal intestinal flora, chronic intestinal parasites, chronic candidiasis, iron deficiency, post-adolescent acne, undigested food in the stool and weak fingernails.
Diagram sourced from Gregory S Kelly N.D.
According to numerous review articles, conditions associated with low gastric acidity are wide-ranging from Addison’s Disease through to Alopecia, Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Rosacea and Vitiligo, just to name a few.
One of the tests I do during initial naturopathic consultation is the beetroot test. This is where 150ml of pure beetroot juice is consumed and urine colour is noted throughout the day. It is a relatively simple indicator for how well your gastric acid is functioning. If you would like to receive the protocol for this test, feel free to email me and I will send you a copy. From there we can determine if supplementation would benefit.
Supplementation with Betaine HCl can really change your health for the better and give you back that energy you never thought you’d see again. It is not a remedy that works overnight because it takes time to rebuild depleted nutrient stores but be patient and stay true to the path and you will reap the rewards.