Stomach Acid – A Balancing Act

Stomach acid is a strange thing and it’s managed to get itself a bad name. What you may not know is that stomach acid is very important, and low stomach acid is a more common problem than high stomach acid. The two are actually commonly confused. What’s important to know is how to balance stomach acid – not too high or too low – to ensure the best digestion right from the very beginning.

In response to food, the body signals the production of stomach acid, also known as gastrin. Gastrin is made up predominantly of hydrochloric acid, or HCI in the stomach. The main role of gastrin is to break down food, especially proteins. It is also important for the absorption of vitamin B12, but that’s a whole other story. The process that makes stomach acid is tightly regulated, and works on a negative feedback mechanism to ensure optimal balance. There are also cells that produce mucous, forming a physical barrier to prevent acid from damaging the cells of the stomach. As the food passes through the digestive tract, it becomes completely neutralised by large amounts of bicarbonate. As with many systems in the body, balance is key – too much or too little stomach acid can lead to disease.

Low mucous is often misdiagnosed as high stomach acid. This is because there is a compromised protection mechanism, resulting in acid burning or damaging your cells. In response, people may take an ante-acid, leading to reduced stomach acid levels and compromised digestion and absorption. Be careful before you pop the pills and rather look at balancing your levels and stimulating the right amount of stomach acid – naturally.

Signs and Symptoms of Low HCI

Vertical ridges on fingernails

Weak, peeling, cracked finger nails

Bloating and flatulence

Undigested food in stool

Nausea after supplements

Indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation

Rectal itching

Multiple food allergies

Post adolescent acne

Iron deficiency

Chronic candida

Chronic parasitic infections

 

Ways to stimulate HCI and balanced gastrin levels

Lemon, honey and ginger all stimulate HCI production

Green leafy vegetables: Spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli (make sure you lightly steam them)

Apple Cider Vinegar: mix 1 Tbsp with warm water and drink on an empty stomach

Folate: Peas, beans, nuts, eggs, green leafy vegetables.

Zinc: Oysters, lean beef, lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, cacao powder, chickpeas, mushrooms.

Histidine: Apples, pomegranates, celery, cucumber, carrots, spinach.

Magnesium: Green leafy veg, nuts, seeds, bananas, avocado, cacao powder.

 

Ways to support mucous production

Essential fatty acids: Flaxseeds, walnuts, oily fish, chia seeds.

Zinc: Oysters, lean beef, lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, cacao powder, chickpeas, mushrooms.

Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes, carrots, green leafy veg, lettuce, bell peppers, tropical fruits.

Vitamin C: Bell peppers, green leafy veg, Kiwi, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, papaya, peas.

Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, pumpkin, red pepper, asparagus.

Protein: Fish, chicken, lean beef, lamb, lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans.

Sulphate: Eggs and protein-rich foods.

 

It’s difficult to remember everything so best is to maintain a clean diet that is varied. By varying your diet, you ensure as many vitamins and minerals are taken in. See my example below of the perfect stomach acid day.

 

The perfect stomach acid day

Wake up: 1 glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon, 1tsp honey and 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Breakfast: 1 baked apple with yogurt and cacao nibs (http://findingfrost.co.za/recipe/baked-apples/)

Snack: 2 mini muffin frittatas (http://findingfrost.co.za/recipe/muffin-frittatas/)

Lunch: Cottage Cheese-stuffed chicken breast with avocado and a side salad (http://findingfrost.co.za/recipe/cottage-cheese-stuffed-chicken-breast/)

Snack: 2 carrots with 2 Tbsp homemade hummus (http://findingfrost.co.za/recipe/traditional-style-hummus/)

Dinner: Green veggie soup (http://findingfrost.co.za/recipe/green-veggie-soup/)

Dessert: 2 blocks 85% dark chocolate or 1 cup warm cacao

Before bed: 1 cup Rooibos tea with 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp grated ginger

 

Having optimal stomach acid levels is important for both digestion of food and absorption of essential nutrients.

Start your day off with warm lemon water to regulate stomach acid production and get you ready for your first meal.
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An apple a day - good source of histidine for stomach acid production. Make your first meal of the day set the standard.
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Feel the power of protein sustain you through the day with this mini muffin frittata.
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Add essential fatty acids to your protein with chicken breasts and good fats avocado.
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Snack on carrots with homemade hummus as a source of energy, protein and vitamins.
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End on a warm note with super alkalising green veggie soup. Give your stomach the rest it needs at the end of a long day.
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