I’m Finally a Believer
Have you ever waited to do something and then once you did, you thought–why didn’t I do this sooner? That is what happened to me this last week.
I have had a few others who also have gut issues tell me to take HCL (hydrochloric acid). But all I knew was that they claimed my belly wouldn’t hurt when I ate food if I took it. But I had already managed to figure out ways around the belly ache thing for much of the time. Stay away from dairy and wheat (for me are huge triggers), super fatty foods unless I take ox bile, take digestive enzymes when I eat the occasional slice of bread or cheese (usually I stay away), and load up on the veggies. And it has helped so much. But I have not gotten rid everyone of my symptoms from my IBS even when I’m super strict.
If anyone has IBS or knows about it, not only does one have unexplainable and sensitive gut that gets “irritated” easily, it also causes either constipation or diarrhea or switching between the two. I use to suffer from severe constipation. That is actually what started my health journey after my first son was born (by C-Section)…my usual digestive issues became exasperated and I was finally diagnosed with IBS and a rectocele. After making all the positive health changes, that issue has dissipated but has changed to more the other side…not extreme, but definitely in that category.
Well when another well-informed friend of mine who is further along in her gut health journey shared with me that it low stomach may be what is triggering all my other issues, I finally decided to try this HCL and I cannot believe how immediate I noticed the effects. Not only did my belly not hurt after eating a protein meal that day, but the next morning, I actually for the first time in years, had a healthy looking bowel movement. I know this is now just the beginning. And can’t wait to see what else improves overtime.
Ok so what is so darn special about HCL, how does it connect to stomach acid, and why might you have it?
First– You need stomach acid!!! Human stomach acid is made of HCL. We need to have a P.H of less than 3.0 in our stomach for healthy breakdown and sanitation of our food. Remember learning about acids and bases in grade school? If our stomach acid is more base or alkaline it will be a higher P.H. If it is more acidic, the number will be lower P.H. When we have stomach acid with a P.H higher than 3, we create a domino effect that wreaks havoc on the rest of our system.
If you stomach doesn’t break down your food the way it should, it puts more work on your intestines and organs making them tired and worn out.
If your stomach acid doesn’t kick in, it doesn’t signal your other organs like your gall bladder that you have food in your system and so they don’t work at creating bile to break down your fats.
If your stomach acid is low or absent, your body cannot absorb key vitamins and minerals like boron, b12, b6, zinc, calcium, magnesium and more. Without these vitamins at sufficient levels your body cannot perform the way it was designed, struggling to have energy, detoxify properly, and more– including, ironically–creating stomach acid!
If your stomach acid is not high enough, it can’t kill the bad bacteria that highjacked your food, leading to an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your gut (more on that later).
If you have undigested protein and fat in your bowels and vitamin deficiency essential for your body to function exasperated by the imbalance of good bacteria in your gut to further breakdown the food–you get inflammation.
Inflammation in the body often is accompanied by inflammation in the gut. When you are constantly inflamed in your gut, it cannot do its job, which not only includes digesting your food to bring your body the right nutrients it needs to thrive, but it can not make serotonin for your brain and body so you can feel calm and happy.
Neither can it wrap and dispose of hormone byproducts and waste so you don’t become hormonally imbalanced. The chronic inflammation also leads to the intestinal lining and cilia to separate or open up, leading toxins and such in your bowels to enter your blood stream, and spread inflammation to other areas.
Chronic inflammation is the root of almost all disease including autoimmune symptoms and diseases like food allergies, IBS, Crohns, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, diabetes and more.
If you suffer from any of the following, you may have low stomach acid:
- Food allergies
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Hormonal imbalance
- Autoimmune illnesses
- Chronic yeast infections
- Acid reflux (yes! It is not often caused by too much stomach acid)
- and more!
Believe it or not, low stomach acid and its many effects are VERY COMMON, especially with the American S.A.D diet and our stressful lifestyles and medications we take. Honestly, it seems like everyone I talk to seems to have something autoimmune happening in their body. It is an epidemic.
These symptoms only exasperate your stress and your body’s energy levels which then make it more difficult for to make stomach acid–so the crazy cycle continues and we treat individual symptoms instead of starting at the cause–which in all likelihood could very well be low stomach acid.
So What to Do Next to Stop the Crazy Cycle?
If any of this resonates with you, I highly recommend you try some HCL.
As a note–see a doctor for guidance or do not take HCL if you are high-risk: According to Dr. Wright, author of the powerful book, Stomach Acid is Good for You, these include:
People that are “high risk” shouldn’t take Betaine HCL without supervision. You’re high risk if you’re consuming any anti-inflammatory medicines. Examples of those are: corticosteroids, aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or other NSAIDs. These drugs can damage the GI lining and supplementing with HCL could aggravate it, increasing the risks of bleeding or ulcer.
If you don’t fit the above at-risk type, then try it out!
How Do you Know if You Have Low Stomach Acid For Sure?
If your stomach doesn’t burn when you take Betain HCL with a protein-based meal two times in a row, then you’ve got it and should consider supplementing.
There are other methods you can use to figure out if you have low stomach acid, but one is expensive and the other is not always accurate. This is a sure fire thing. No different than–to see if your belly ache is due to hunger, eat a meal and see if the pain goes away. You know?
There’s a lot of research on this, but the easiest way to figure it out is to spend the 10 bucks and buy a bottle of HCL. I bought 200mg capsule bottle of Betain HCL with bitters in it and a larger dose one as well (650mg) which included bitters to stimulate our own acid.
Don’t be concerned that you are doing something wrong if you keep going up to high amounts. According to Dr. Wright, the average dose of HCL needed for those who suffer from low stomach acid is 3,250-4,550 mg per meal!
But if you want to be conservative, take for 3 days just one 200 mg capsule with each meal where you are eating protein. If your belly doesn’t burn after the first two meals with the HCL, then you have low stomach acid. After 3 days, go up a capsule. Take 400mg with each protein-based meal. Keep following that order until your dosage causes your belly to burn. If you get that, take a teaspoon of baking soda and it will alkalize the acid right away so your belly won’t hurt. Otherwise it goes away after about 15-30 min.
Then you know you need one dosage less. Right now I’m at the 600 stage and my belly is still doing fine. So I’m going to switch to the 650 capsules next and then go up by 650 mg capsules from here until I find the optimal range. Or I might need to use both the high and low to get the number right.
But here is the coolest part…
HCL Supplementation Does Not Have To Be Forever
Once your body is doing what it is supposed to because you stopped the crazy cycle, eventually your stomach will produce more of its own stomach acid and you can down on your dosages.
My good friend who struggles with all sort of autoimmune issues started out with the average range and after getting her diet straight and nutrient intake, within a few months she has gone down to just one 650mg capsule! She is so excited! You should also see an improvement in your autoimmune issues, digestive issues, emotional issues, and more.
Just remember–age, stress, poor diet, vitamin deficiencies in essentials like zinc and vitamin b, infections from pylori bacteria, and bypass surgery can all lead to low stomach acid.
So if you fit any of the above, you may find that you will continually need to take some range of HCL as a supplement. Listen to your body and see what works.
You can help your body start the healing process to produce its own stomach acid by taking HCL with bitters in it. The bitters will stimulate your own stomach to create acid and in a sense “wake it up” from its slumber to start remembering to work. This could take longer for some if their stomach hasn’t been doing its job for a long time.
Thankfully HCL is super cheap and therefore, a supplement that is not too much of a hassle other than just remembering to take it. And remembering to keep a bottle in your purse or a few capsules in a baggy in your wallet for when you eat out.
Now to clarify– while low stomach acid may be the cause of your ailments, it is not a one-fix answer to all your answers either. Just like family dysfunction–having the culprit stop its abuse can help. But the victims need to heal as well so that all can function well from there on out. Taking HCL may very well stop the crazy cycle. But don’t let this stop you from healing your gut and the rest of your body from its damage with the proper diet, vitamin and mineral intake, lifestyle changes, and flora intake. When you take care of the rest as well, you allow your body to function optimally, making its own HCL so you can reduce or stop supplementation.
Let me know in the comments if you tried this and found benefits.
Sources and Works Cited
Wright, Jonathan V., and Lane Lenard. Why Stomach Acid Is Good for You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux, and GERD. M. Evans, 2001.
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