Gut Back to Good Health: Optimizing Digestion
You are what you eat, right? Actually, you are what you ABSORB. Digestive woes plague the majority, and while many factors can impede optimal digestion, stomach acid is not one to be overlooked. But sadly, it is! GERD or acid reflux has presumably given stomach acid a bad rep, but hypochlorhydria (inadequate stomach acid) is far more common and highly overlooked! Stomach acid is arguably the most crucial part of digestion! Adequate stomach acid is needed to ensure our food is properly digested; it aids in nutrient assimilation, helps maintain a healthy microbiome, and protects us from harmful pathogens! To illustrate the importance of the acid in your stomach, consider this: Without adequate stomach acid, food particles can be left undigested and literally putrefy inside of you! This can incite a feeding frenzy for unfriendly bacteria, yeasts, microbes, and parasites whom won't think twice about crowding out your friendly gut bacteria. In turn, this causes a host of uncomfortable symptoms while a prolonged version of this mounts as chronic inflammation which eventually compromises the structural integrity of the gut yielding direct access to the bloodstream. This is informally known as "leaky gut," and allows foreign particles and microbes that should NEVER EVER enter your bloodstream a free-ride in. The body is smart however, and knowing these food particles or microbes should NOT be in the bloodstream, the body mounts an attack on the perceived foreign's creating even more symptoms. Meanwhile, the body's cells are starving and operating at a sub-par level because food is unable to be broken down, meaning its nutritional content is unable to be extracted and used for fuel. Can you see how symptoms begin to mount in this scenario? The cascade of issues that can arise from inadequate stomach acid truly are exhaustive! Here's some tips to optimize stomach acid naturally:
Do not eat when stressed. During stress, the body is operating in sympathetic mode (anxiety, stressed state), however the parasympathetic mode (relaxing, calm state) is needed for optimal digestion. Taking a couple deep breaths before eating will help relax the body and prepare for digestion.
Aim to drink water either 30 minutes before or after a meal, as excess water can dilute gastric juices and hamper digestion.
Chew your food adequately and completely. Aim for 30 chews per bite. Not only are you helping to ease digestion by breaking down the food, but the act of chewing actually sends a signal to the stomach to start producing stomach acid! Don't skimp on this step. 🤗
Consider your diet. Many with inadequate stomach acid are suffering from gut dybiosis to some degree. Eating a diet high in refined sugars, processed, or nutrient-devoid foods can exacerbate symptoms and be the fuel to the pathogen feeding frenzy. Paleo and other whole-food based anti-inflammatory diets have helped many ease symptoms and starve off unwanted, unfriendly bacteria.
Needless to say, digestion is crucial! If concerned, work with a knowledgeable practitioner to restore balance. An acupuncture appointment is also an ideal way to help bring blood flow to your digestive organs to help your body be happy and healthy, inside and out. 💖