Burping? Belching? Bloating? Fatigue after eating? Acid reflux?
Contrary to popular belief, excess stomach acid is usually not the problem. It’s more likely to be INSUFFICIENT stomach acid that is the cause. Yup, your stomach acid is actually low not high.
Hear me out on this one before judging…even if your doctor told you the opposite.
Why Is Stomach Acid Important?
Low or insufficient stomach acid (also called hypochlorhydria) shows itself as acid reflux, post-meal bloating in the upper GI tract and post-meal belching. Or it can show as heartburn or gas after eating, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, muscle spasm, fatigue or even as acne, dry skin, cracked nails, restless leg or undigested food in stools.
Stomach acid is responsible for sterilizing food in your gut and breaking down protein. Your stomach actually produces a few different digestive juices, hydrochloric acid (HCL) being a primary one that breaks down proteins and is also key for killing pathogens before they can set up shop in your intestines.
The way we eat affects our stomach acid as much as what we eat. If the stomach doesn’t break down food appropriately it ends up passing large, undigested pieces down for the small intestines to deal with (instead of focusing on pulling out nutrients like they are supposed to do) and becomes a breading ground for bacteria and has the potential to end in a leaky gut.
Acid reflux itself is more about acid being in the wrong place. Outside of our stomach this acid would burn us, so it makes sense that if the digestive juices are in the wrong place- it’s going to hurt! Your stomach is lined with a mucus to protect it but the esophagus isn’t as well coated so if the acid bubbles it’s going to burn.
Popping a TUMS or a Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) drug to suppress stomach acid might get you short term relief but you’re actually hurting yourself in the long run. Plus these REDUCE stomach acid (something we desperately need you are low in already) which can impair absorption of critical protein and minerals and lead to microbial overgrowth. Imagine doing this day after day, week after week, year after year … it’s going to take a toll on your body.
What to Do?
I know this is going to sound completely mundane and too simple, but Eating Hygiene is the fastest and easiest way to relief:
- Slow Down: we need to signal to the stomach to start the acid process. Look at your food, smell your food, get your mouth watering before diving in.
- Chew: chew your food 20 times before swallowing. The more you chew your food the less work the stomach has to do to break it down.
- Set your fork down between bites: setting your fork down will keep you from gulping your food or shoving more in before you were done chewing the last bite.
- Don’t gulp water with your meal: we often use water to gulp down bites of food we didn’t fully chew. Plus drinking water with your meal actually dilutes stomach acid even more!
- Eat less: we are flat out eating too much at once. Think of your stomach as a blender. Overfill a blender and the top will pop off when you turn it on. This is what is happening in your stomach. Stop at 80% full.
- Grazing: the stomach needs to empty. If you eat a little bit here and there all day long the stomach never gets to rest and will constantly choose the easiest thing to digest, which often means setting aside older food aside to ferment. Can you say gas??
- Magnesium: low magnesium can actually can cause your muscles to be too tight or to spasm erratically
- Stop nighttime eating: stop eating 2-3 hours before bed to avoid night time acid reflux and will actually help improve your sleep too!
- Chronic stress: stress impairs the digestive systems ability to produce HCL and restricts activity in the digestive tract.
- Food sensitivities: pay attention to the foods you eat and and how you feel after eating them. Keep a food journal for a couple of days to help connect the dots.
Need further help? Let’s connect get you feeling better sooner!