Do you have acid reflux? Does it feel like food is sitting in your stomach a long time? Do your blood tests show you have low iron and/or low B12? Then your stomach acid might not be acidic enough. I want to help you understand why that’s not a good thing and why it’s important that your stomach is really acidic. Yes, even when you have acid reflux! This blog is the first part of a small series and the question I want to look at today is: Stomach acid, why is it important?
Your stomach should be really, really acidic. The chemical name for stomach acid is hydrochloric acid or HCl and if you were to put your finger in it, it would burn…that’s how acidic it is! Here are some reasons why that is important.
Breaks down your proteins
You need that stomach acid to break down proteins. Proteins are long chains of amino acids. You can compare them to a beaded necklace. Stomach acid helps to break the bonds between those beads. And that’s important, because we can only absorb the individual beads (amino acids), not parts of the necklace. So that necklace needs to be broken down to the single beads and the first step to that happens in the stomach.
Stimulates pancreas and gallbladder
In your stomach the acid gets thoroughly mixed with the food you’ve eaten. Your stomach works like a strong blender. The food mixed with the acid is now called ‘chyme’ and is released in small portions into the small intestine. Immediately your gallbladder and pancreas add bile and pancreatic enzymes. The more acidic the chyme is, the stronger it stimulates the pancreas and the gallbladder to add that bile and those enzymes. You may guess what happens when the stomach is not very acidic – there will be less bile and digestive enzymes…
Helps over-all gut health
Now you’ve seen that stomach acid doesn’t just break down proteins, via pancreas and gallbladder it also helps breaking down carbohydrates and fats. If this process doesn’t work well, food stays in the small intestine because it can’t be absorbed. It starts to ferment and can cause bloating, gas, inflammation, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation – all kinds of gut isues. It will also change your microbiome and you’re less able to absorb your nutrients!
Another bonus of good stomach acid is that it is a great barrier. It kills most bacteria on your food and also the bacteria that live in your mouth that you ingest. Have you ever noticed that a group of people can eat the same food and some get food poisoning and some don’t? Good stomach acid is why!
It’s necessary for iron and B12
Very acidic stomach acid is also important for absorption of iron, B12, calcium and magnesium. I often see clients who are anemic and deficient in B12 because of low stomach acid. Or have issues with their bone density. This is one of the dangers if you use stomach acid lowering medication. They can help in the short term but are not a good idea long term.
How’s your digestion?
Are you using stomach acid lowering medication? Do you have gut problems? If so, one of the first things to check is whether your stomach acid is acidic enough. If not, it affects your whole digestion and general health.
Every disease starts in the gut. And if the gut is not functioning well, it affects your whole body. It’s really important to address it now and to find somebody who can support you to find out what’s happening for you.
If you’d like to talk it through, don’t hesitate to send me a message or book a free 30-minute call here.