Digestion Issues? Food Sensitivities? You May Have Low Stomach Acid!
If you read my last article, “Is Your Food Affecting Your Mood”, then you realize that I've been struggling with digestion issues, food sensitivities as well as a mood disorder for a very long time. In college I ended up in the hospital after randomly vomiting for an entire night. And no, I didn't go out drinking! This happened because I had developed a stomach condition from eating so poorly, drinking coffee, soda, alcohol, smoking and doing some recreational drugs. I was diagnosed with gastritis. I was placed on pharmaceuticals for a while... prilosec and then protonix. I finally decided to stop taking all the pharmaceuticals and just try to do my best to quit all the bad substances and heal my gut. Years later, even after making several dietary changes, adding superfoods to my diet and quitting caffeine, alcohol, drugs and fast foods, I was still diagnosed with SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). I also had some other issues... candida overgrowth, acid reflux at times, heart burn at times, mood disorder, hormonal imbalance, migraines, joint pain, B12 deficiency and a compromised immune system.
I went to several integrative doctors to fix this all of this. I also saw a naturopath specializing in homeopathy for mental health and 2 nutritionists. In one protocol I took natural antibiotics. In another protocol I did a 2 week elemental diet which is basically just drinking liquids. I took several gastrointestinal supplements, fiber, pre-biotics, probiotics and changed my diet a few times as well! Although offered, I refused to take any conventional antibiotics or pharmaceuticals. I was even told I needed psychotropic drugs by a few doctors. I turned those down as well. But regardless of everything I tried, the stomach problems would simply resurface. Gas, constipation, diarrhea and bloating to name a few... and ofcourse food sensitivities that would affect my mood as well. My immune system was at an all time low... I was getting sick just from exercising too much! It wasn't until I finally went to see my current acupuncturist/ herbalist, Dr. Kim at Kyung Hee Acupuncture and Herbs, that I started to get better. My stomach condition, mood and immune system improved greatly. However, there were still some unresolved issues!
Although my asian herbs were focused on healing my immune system, sibo and candida overgrowth, I was still experiencing candida symptoms and even had terrible nail fungus because of it. However, to my herbalist's astonishment, I finally managed to clear up the nail fungus by drinking food grade hydrogen peroxide everyday until it went away! But I still had reactions to any foods containing sugar and even sweet vegetables like beets that contained sugar. I also still suffered from hormonal imbalance, headaches and joint pain.
I tried doing a turpentine parasite cleanse in hopes of finally fixing these remaining issues. The cleanse was incredible! I was full of parasites...and candida! And having lot's of parasites and candida is not good if you want to heal the gut! So it was very important that I removed these imposters! But after a month of turpentine, I was still experiencing food sensitivities, constipation here and there and constant burping after meals (better than passing putrid smelling gas like I did in the past though)!
I read an article that stated that if the turpentine cleanse doesn't fix the candida issue, then one may have nutritional deficiencies. So I started taking the recommended supplements in the article: undecylenic acid for the candida, Thorne's Extra Nutrients multi vitamin, a Vegan Omega 3,6 & 9 oil... which led to other articles and amazon reviews for more supplements... candida probiotics and molybdenum glycinate to help with the detox reactions from the undecylenic acid. I was also taking pepsin and l-glutamine powder for my stomach! I also tried magnesium oxide, castor oil, Swiss Kriss laxatives and Dr. Sebi's chelation pills to get the bowels to move faster. But even when the bowels did move faster from these supplements it just didn't feel correct. I shouldn't have to force my bowels to move faster with supplements that my body may become dependent on! So even after trying all of this, I was still experiencing food sensitivities, constant burping after meals and slow gut motility/ constipation.
So after doing a ton of research online it finally dawned on me....Could I be suffering from low stomach acid? So I actually decided to take a simple low stomach acid test for 5 days by drinking ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of cold water as soon as I woke up in the morning. If you burp within 2 minutes then you have normal stomach acid. If you burp within 2-5 minutes then you have normal to low stomach acid. And anything after 5 minutes is really no good! Well, I tested positive for low stomach acid. So I started drinking 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in 6 or so ounces of cold water after every meal. This is suppose to create enough acid to digest food. But I wasn't 100% convinced. I was still burping quite a bit after meals and food still seemed to be digesting slow.
I just so happened to have left over Betaine HCL (Hydrochloric acid) pills in my kitchen cabinet. I used to take these a long while back to increase my stomach acid....although back when I took them I wasn't even sure if I had low stomach acid. I was just randomly experimenting with different supplements at the time and not really doing things correctly. I thought... perhaps it's time to give these a try again? I read that in order to figure out what dose one needs to take you would increase the dose by one pill each meal. If you feel your stomach heat up, then you know that you've taken too much. So your dose would be one pill less then what you took that made your stomach feel warm or hot. I also read that changes in bowel habits can signify what dose is needed as well. So I started with one pill after my meal.... then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 pills! 6 HCL pills per meal sure seems like a lot. Then I read online that most people need 5-7 HCL pills per meal at 650 mg per pill. My pills just happen to be 550 mg! So maybe taking this many pills is really ok?
Well, lo and behold... on the day that I took 5 pills with one meal and 6 pills with my 2nd meal (I only eat 2 meals a day) I went to the bathroom 3 times and had 3 perfect bowel movements! My 2nd meal was later than I wanted to eat and it was a pretty large meal. Usually I wouldn't go to the bathroom until the next day. I went to the bathroom an hour later! Amazing! And no crazy burping. The next day I took 7 HCL pills with breakfast and had a perfect bowel movement 15 minutes later! Astonishing! Sometimes nothing would come out for hours! However I also felt a heat sensation in my throat this time. Perhaps because I added sauerkraut to my meal? Sauerkraut helps the stomach produce more acid. So at my next meal I took 6 HCL pills but still felt the heat in my throat and I had a little coughing going on too. At my next meal I took 5 HCL pills and everything was perfect again. No heat in the throat and no coughing! It's very interesting how specific the dosages need to be depending on what you eat! I actually had to start writing a list of how many HCL pills to take with certain foods.
I also started eating chia seed pudding with my meals, taking small amounts of Vitex chasteberry for hormonal balance and taking a digestive enzyme pill with each meal... In regards to the Vitex chasteberry though, I noticed that it started to cause acid reflux (in conjunction with the HCL even though both were taken separately) so I had to reduce the amount of drops I was taking daily. It's a very delicate balance when you are taking so many supplements. Not everything always mixes so well. But the vitex chasteberry appears to be preventing hormonal migraines so I don't want to stop taking that! I haven't started testing out new foods again...because, to be honest, I am too nervous to do that right now. Foods are so tricky for me. One bad food can destroy a whole day for me. I already destroyed quite a few days last month. So I am going to hold off on that for now. But it appears that the HCL pills are the serious magic bullet that I've been searching for! And in due time, I've read that I should be able to ween off of them. The body eventually starts producing more HCL on it's own which is awesome to hear.
So if you've been experiencing stomach problems, perhaps the underlying issue is low stomach acid? Low stomach acid also seems to be a side effect of most stomach conditions. If you do not produce enough stomach acid, you cannot properly digest your food... get all the nutrients you need, etc. This can cause a whole bunch of other health conditions! Digesting your food properly is absolutely necessary to stay healthy! It's important to note that HCL doesn't mix well certain medications. Also, HCL should be taken in combination with pepsin for best results. You can experiment with the HCL pills yourself or discuss supplementation with your doctor. Ofcourse, legally I must say check with your doctor first. But you should especially check with your doctor if you are on any prescribed medications. Which leads to my legal disclaimer... I am not a licensed doctor and this article is not to be construed as medical advice. I accept no liabilities for the use or misuse of the information stated in this article. Be well!
UPDATE: Unfortunately the HCL pills did not work out so well for me.
I made a mistake and didn't even follow my own advice. I was taking a pill called pepzin which I had mistaken for pepsin. Pepsin is typically derived from porcine (pig) and I am currently on a vegan diet, plus I just don't eat pig anyway. There are very few vegan pepsin supplements available but I never got that far. The HCL pills stared causing me acid reflux. I tried going back to apple cider vinegar again but found it was causing me acid reflux as well. I then tried apple cider vinegar pills but at this point things were getting pretty terrible. I was developing bad gas, weird stomach pains and reflux. Then a whole bunch of old health symptoms returned. I was doing too much and mixing too many supplements that didn't combine well. So long story short, I had to quit taking a whole bunch of supplements and just go back to doing acupuncture and taking my asian herbs. I also decided to go on a strictly pureed soup/ liquid diet for a month to fix what I had done to my stomach. As I write this update, I am on Day 8 and I feel terrific! I am also drinking fresh aloe twice a day that I prepare myself from the aloe leaf. So long story short folks... Please do your research and be careful! Experimenting can be quite harmful to your health! However still quite fascinating!
Jennie H is a Reiki Master Energy Healer, Co-Founder of Self Saviorz Society California Non-Profit 501(c)(3), Poet, Author and Entertainer with goals to help raise the vibration and consciousness of humanity!