Something that you may or may not be aware of is that we actually need to produce acid in our stomach! This has nothing to do with the nouveau health trend of maintaining a more alkaline diet. In that regard, we are referring to the acidity and alkalinity of the blood – not the gut.
Hydrochloric acid is needed for digestion – particularly of proteins – and it also prevents infections since it is one of our first lines of defence against bacteria entering the gut.
Interestingly, although you or someone else you know may reach for the antacids if you suffer from heartburn or similar symptoms, this can actually make things worse. When someone feels this way, it is actually the stomach desperately trying to create some acid because it is so low. This means, that when we take antacids, particularly strong, prescription meds, for a long period of time or do things like drink water with bicarb in it for long periods thinking it will make us more alkaline, it may actually create more problems. The body is always trying to right itself, so it will keep trying to make more acid, possibly stealing what it needs from somewhere else. In the longterm, we could suffer more intense symptoms as well as dangerously lowering immunity.
For one example, you may remember seeing an old episode of “House MD” where a man became very ill and actually ended up on life support with a severe heart problem. It was eventually discovered that his heart issue was related to long term ingestion of prescription antacids. He had been on holiday to France, eaten some soft cheese and contracted listeria. The problem didn’t affect anyone else who was with him because their stomach acid was unaffected and their bodies were able to deal with the toxin. Dr House solved it of course and all was well!
Problems with stomach acid such as heartburn tend to be related to stress. Include dodgy diets in this, because your body would interpret a diet that consistently contains junk food to be stressful. Ditto allergies and intolerances to certain food stuffs. Low stomach acid can also be caused by body changes such as menopause, puberty and pregnancy that affect hormone levels and thus, possibly digestion.
So before turning to medication, have a think about what has been going on in your life, how you tend to cope with things, and what you have been eating generally. Consider how yoga and relaxation could benefit you and then open your pantry. Freshly ground black pepper helps to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid as well as neutralising toxins in the gut. Use it liberally – it doesn’t cost much! You could also try a small glass of natural aloe vera juice prior to eating which will help settle the stomach and aid digestion generally.