Our minds and our guts are so intimately intertwined in their functioning; we cannot address one without affecting the other and vise versa. Thus to boost the body’s functioning, we must first consider the mind and its workings.
Acidity a common sign of insufficient digestion happening in the stomach. It’s totally avoidable and a simple sign that the stomach isn’t making sufficient HCL, hydrochloric acid, which is what makes up the stomach juices. Contrary to conventional wisdom, acidity means the stomach actually needs help making more acid, rather than less. In order for proper digestion to occur, the stomach must be at a certain level of acidity, having a low pH (read: pH of 2.5 or below) before it is ready for food to arrive in its cavity. If there’s not enough stomach acid, our food has the chance of going up instead of down (read: acid reflux). Once food (or water) arrives in the stomach, the juices get diluted, so if you're going to be eating a large meal, you'll need extra HCL. Important to note here is that drinking water with meals will further dilute the stomach acid, bringing the pH up, and is not advised as it essentially creates extra work!
First of all, what are signs that your stomach isn’t making sufficient juices?
In order for anything to be digested, our food has to first be getting broken down in the stomach. Without this all-important process first taking place, when our food then travels to the gut to be absorbed, the nutrients contained in it will not be able to be properly absorbed. Thus, we've essentially created a lot of work for our bodies but not gotten much out of the exercise at all.
Proper assimilation of nutrients into the bloodstream requires proper breakdown in the stomach before the food hits the small intestine. The mouth is the main place where carbs get broken down through chewing and mixing with saliva, and the stomach is where chemical breakdown occurs, protein molecules are broken apart, and it is here that essential nutrients attached to protein molecules such as B12 are cleaved from the protein molecules for further breakdown. Only when the stomach's pH is lower than 2.5 does the pancreas gets triggered to make all of the enzymes needed for digestion which will be used in the small intestine. So if your stomach isn't acidic enough, you will get symptoms of heartburn, reflux, and indigestion, and your food won't have a chance to be absorbed at all. This will further be exasperated if you have a meal heavy in carbs AND protein.
Here's a few practical pointers I've put together to help avoid getting acid reflux, heartburn, and the all-too common bloating which is honestly, NOT normal!
- Before sitting down to eat, the mind must be at ease. Light a calming candle, diffuse some soothing aromas, or apply some calming essential oils to the back of the head and ears, to get in the zone
- Avoid texting, checking emails, thinking about stressful topics.
- Take a few deep breaths, inhaling 4 counts and exhaling 8 counts
- Chew your food thoroughly. I cannot emphasize this enough! Aim to chew each bite a minimum of 30 times. A very important process happens as the body tastes the food on the tastebuds; the stomach starts sensing the chemical components of what is to come, and is able to effectively being getting ready for it.
- Supplement the acidity of your stomach by taking 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or Apple cider vinegar 15-20 minutes before meals to simulate the production of stomach acids. Think of this as training wheels; we need to train the stomach to create HCL which is it’s normal job but which often through chronic stress or improper digestion or, in the worst case, the use of antacids the stomach has all but forgotten to do.
- Digestive bitters such as ginger can also be taken before meals; the bitter taste stimulates the production of digestive juices. Try chewing on a few pieces of ginger, boiling it into a tea, or have a ginger kombucha-- which is packed with fresh ginger!
- Be careful to not drink water with your meals as this dilutes stomach juices, bringing the pH up instead of down. Stop drinking water 30 minutes before meals, and wait until at least 2 hours after meals before you reach for your next sip of H20. Your body will seriously thank you!
- In the case that you’ve had acidity/acid reflux/ been taking antacids for a long time, you will likely need a stronger support. Try the apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice and in case it’s not enough support, supplementation with hydrochloric acid will be recommended, with supporting pepsin in order to ensure proper protein breakdown is happening. Start with taking a supplement containing betaine hydrochloride (HCL), as well one containing digestive enzymes in the middle of meals. Since your body has chronically not been making HCL, it will be essential to supplement with digestive enzymes as well, since the production of these enzymes by the pancreas is dependent on sufficient HCL, and it’s likely you haven’t been digesting anything fully in a long time!
- Avoid heavy food combos. Carbs and protein both take a lot of load on the system, so avoid meals with large amounts of both protein and carbs. Instead, either CARBS or PROTEIN for each meal, and pair it with veggies. So, build you meal from veggies + carbs, or veggies + protein, but not carbs + protein as this requires extra HCL. If you will be having meals high in protein and carbs, then definitely follow the pointers in (5) and (8) to support your stomach to get acidic enough to break down this heavy combo so you won't suffer from that all-too-common bloat!