General Gut Health, Supplements

Start Healing Your Gut with These 4 Changes

When chatting with people and sharing my story, I often hear this question: Where do I start with healing my gut?

Chances are it needs healing because if you are a normal American living a typical American lifestyle– you have damaged it.

You’ve been over-sanitized, over-stressed, over-stuffed with inflammatory foods, and over-prescribed with antibiotics and pharmaceuticals covering up the issue and not resolving the root of the problem.

And you may have the symptoms to prove it: 

  • Depression/anxiety
  • IBS/Crohns
  • Food Allergies
  • AutoImmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Obesity
  • and more…

I truly believe that gut health is foundational for all health. And gut issues are the root of most health issues.

The road to healing our gut can be long, depending on how much and how long the damage has gone for. But no matter the circumstances, the same three or four first steps are essential. The rest will depend…

The first piece of advice I give all my friends and acquaintances who ask me is this….

Stop Eating Wheat and Dairy!

This is the simplest, least complicated change you can make in your diet. Once you have that down, then you can up the ante and go on a Paleo-type diet which is best for healing the gut. You get rid of legumes, sugars and starches as well for a good 30-60 days at least and significantly increase your leafy green intake. Ideally you want to make this an 80/20 lifestyle for yourself if you don’t want to regress.

Inflammation Word CloudUntil then know this-wheat and dairy are the most common inflammatory foods and often times the main staple foods of most Americans. I could write an entire paper on wheat alone. But I’ll share the gyst for wheat and dairy right here.

  1. If you have gut issues, gluten will most likely exasperate it.
  2. The US mandated that wheat products be enriched back in 1998. Enrichments include synthetic vitamins like folic acid in it, which a large population of people cannot breakdown.
  3. Dairy is something most people’s bodies have a hard time breaking down. We were not meant to eat a lot of dairy in the first place.
  4. When we have gut issues, we can become extremely sensitive to the dairy protein A1 and for some even A2, as well as the inflammatory effects on our gut.

Trust me, I know that when you hear this, you might want to cry, but there are tons of great recipes and alternatives to both and while it can be a difficult transition if you love these foods, you will feel better and it will get easier! Eventually you can work them back in small amounts on occasion without consequences. Here is a great book with lots of recipes to make your life easier if coming up with meal ideas without wheat or dairy is a challenge for you.

Increase Your Stomach Acid and Digestive Enzymes

Male Internal Anatomy with Stomach Acid Highlighted

If you have symptoms of gut issues, chances are you have low stomach acid and low digestive enzymes.

Low stomach acid is by far one of the most common triggers for other gut issues that happen further down the line due to it’s effects. Stomach acid sanitizes your food, breaks down your proteins, breaks down your vitamins and minerals so you can absorb them, triggers your gall bladder to kick in and digest your fats, and triggers your gut to get into digestion mode. If your body is not doing those things, you can wreak havoc in your gut and in your health.

You can learn more about how low stomach acid leads to other gut issues here as well as how to test your self to see if you have low stomach acid. Then if you have the symptoms and took the test to discover you are low in the stomach acid, start supplementing with Betaine HCL with pepsin   with your high protein meals, but start at the lowest dosage and work your way up to your optimal level. I go over this process in more detail in that same article above.

Also begin taking a good digestive enzyme. Enzymes that help us digest our food occur naturally in raw veggies we eat. Unfortunately with our modern diet, these get cooked out or are absent, making our stomachs depleted of the digestive enzymes needed to break down the various carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sugars in our food. So if you are not eating raw veggies at the beginning of every meal….take some enzymes. I take a full spectrum one because my gut issues are enough that I need help digesting everything.

With HCL and digestive enzymes, you will notice an improvement in your digestion right away. And may even notice an improvement in your other symptoms long term, like anxiety or depression.


Do a Cleanse on Your Gut

green cleanse drinkPrepping your gut for what is next can be helpful to get it moving in the right direction. A cleanse will get rid of anything your sluggish gut is holding on to, and trigger your liver and kidneys to start releasing toxins. When your body holds on to toxins, its hard to heal. Make sure you are not already sick when you do this as your body needs to be ready to get rid of the toxins. A cleanse will also help your body get ready to shed fat if your gut issues have lead to weight gain that won’t go away.

I like to regularly cleanse to keep my body healthy all year long. I use a great 3-Day Gentle Cleanse you can do every month if you want. Do this after about 10-14 days after you have gone wheat and dairy free.


Rebuild Your Microbiome with ProBiotics

Microbiome Word Cloud

A healthy microbiome is essential for a healthy gut. But sadly, this microbiome for most Americans have been starved and killed by modern American practices. C-section births, antibiotics, over-santization, and low stomach acid from stress and nutrient deficiencies have lead to a plethora of people with a scarcity of good-bacteria in their gut.

You want a variety of different species in your gut and you want a lot of them. That variety and amount helps you store nutrients, use sugar, regulate your appetite, and control your weight as well as reduce inflammation, make serotonin and melatonin, and keep your gut communicating properly with your brain.

If you have a lot of food and seasonal allergies, you will want to start with low-histamine variety which are high in bifidos. This is the one I give my husband. It has a variety. I would take 1-3 of these everyday with food.

If you don’t have an abundance of allergies, you can handle the larger variety and that’s a good thing. They are good for you as long as your body hasn’t build antibodies to histamines like so many have. I alternate between these Seeking Health’s Probiota 12 and Dr. Mercolas’s Complete Probiotics  to make sure I get a good spectrum of probiotc in my gut. I also have them autoship every 90 days so I don’t miss and stay on track.

Probiotic benefits greenAnd by the way, you should stay on probiotics if you have gut issues. Just one bottle of antibiotics takes a year for your gut to recover from with probiotics. So count every bottle of antibiotics you’ve taken over the course of your life, consider all the other issues, and recognize this is essential.

The only people who should not follow this step are those with SIBO. Check out this article for symptoms of SIBO. If you have symptoms, you may want to take this test first to confirm. If you test positive, then kill the over-growth of bacteria in your small intestine before you start adding more bacteria in your body. You need your bacteria in your large intestine, not your small intestine. Until SIBO is killed, the probiotics will only make it worse.

Next Steps…(Not in any particular order)

  • See a naturopath and get some stool, urine, and blood tests to see the details of what is going on with you (This is worth every penny!)
  • Go all the way with Paleo with lots of veggies and prebiotic food
  • Possibly go on a FODMAP or LECTIN Free diet/lifestyle if your gut is still having issues or you have an autoimmune disease (Plant Paradox is a great Resource) .
  • Exercise!
  • De-Stress!
  • Drink lots of filtered water
  • Drink Bone broth daily
  • Take Fish Oils and L-Glutamine
  • Replenish Your minerals
  • Get Your Vitamin B’s in and Folate
  • Read Dirty Genes
  • Read Plant Paradox or if you don’t care about all the science behind it and just want to do it and get results check out his Quick and Easy version here and the cookbook with 100 recipes! 
  • Get Genetic Testing

I’ll write more on these next steps needed to replenish your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive, and eradicating the triggers that complicate and prevent your body from doing its job.

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, there’s even more I will share. But regardless of what you are struggling with–these 4 steps are what I’d tell anyone with gut issues to start with.

Summary of What to Get to Complete Your First 4 Steps:

Against the Grain

Plant Paradox Cookbook

Betaine HCL with Pepsin

3 Day Cleanse 

Seeking Health Probiota 12, or Histaminix

Dr. Mercola’s Complete Probiotics

You can also get a great starter pack for your gut health here.




Supplements, Uncategorized

Could Low Stomach Acid Be The Cause of All Your Issues?

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.

Male Internal Anatomy with Stomach Acid HighlightedOk 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.

cycleIf 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.

cycle 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.

cycle 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!

cycle 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).

cycle 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…

Pencil with eraserHCL 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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