If you suffer from bloating, excessive gas, a feeling of fullness or trapped wind, have you considered that your symptoms may be linked to the levels of stomach acid in your digestive system? These symptoms are associated with low levels of stomach acid and could be caused by different factors.
What causes low stomach acid?
There could be various reasons and it will depend on your individual circumstances but some of the reasons could include:
· Nutrient deficiency
· Medications (antacids, PPI medication, other types of prescribed medication)
· A diagnosed medical condition (autoimmune conditions)
· Processed foods
· H. Pylori (associated with stomach ulcers)
Why stomach acid is important
Stomach acid is essential to help digest and break down the food that you eat and extract the nutrients so your body can absorb them. When there is a lack stomach acid the food in your stomach takes longer to digest and may begin to ferment which can lead to a build of gas which can lead to burping and feeling bloated and a sensation of feeling full.
Having low stomach acid may lead to dysbiosis. This is where there is an imbalance of gut bacteria in your digestive tract. There are good and bad bacteria, and they all have a role in maintaining our health but when they are not in balance your gut symptoms can be exacerbated and be prolonged. Other signs of an imbalance of gut bacteria may include sugar cravings, alternating between constipation and diarrhoea or fatigue.
There is also emerging evidence that suggests infections such as thrush or athlete’s foot maybe associated with dysbiosis. Fungal bacteria are a normal part of our microbiota but sometimes when they grow in large numbers and colonize in the digestive system you may experience infections such these.
What can I do to improve my stomach acid?
There are a few things that you could try to optimise your levels of stomach acid.
Include sources of zinc in your diet
Zinc is a mineral that is involved in hundreds of processes in the body. It is necessary for the body to produce gastric acid. Foods that are rich in zinc include shellfish, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, eggs, and quinoa.
Thiamine is a B vitamin and is necessary to trigger the release of stomach acid. Food sources of thiamine include fish, beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, pork, flaxseeds, peas, tofu, brown rice, squash or asparagus.
Chew your food
The digestive process starts when we smell our food, this stimulates the stomach to make and release stomach acid. When we chew our food, this releases saliva which contains enzymes that start to breakdown your food. If your food is not chewed properly, it may hinder this process. Once you have chewed your food and you swallow it can then be further digested by your stomach acid and trigger the next phase of digestion. Eating too quickly may disrupt the digestive synchronisation as the food is not able to be digested properly as it moves through the digestive tract.
These are supplements that contain HCL (stomach acid) and digestive enzymes that help to breakdown your food and support the digestive process. They are normally taken before food. If you are considering taking a digestive enzyme supplement, it is important that you seek the advice of a health professional. This is important if you have a diagnosed health condition or have been prescribed medication.
Reduce processed foods
A diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables may support the production of your stomach acid by providing the nutrients that are necessary in the production of stomach acid. Processed foods generally have a low nutrient status and are often high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Research has shown that processed foods are associated with bloating and other unpleasant gut symptoms.
Stomach acid is necessary for optimal digestion. Low levels may lead to gut symptoms and may compromise nutrient absorption. Eating a varied diet that include protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrate and plant-based foods will support your general health and well-being by providing your body with the crucial nutrients to maintain optimal digestive health.