- Indigeston and or heartburn?
- Abdominal discomfort?
- Burping after eating?
- Bad breath?
- Upper abdominal pain or discomfort after eating?
- Constipation or diarrhoea?
- Undigested food or supplements in stools?
All of the above symptoms may well be connected to one thing; too little stomach acid. You might think, of course, that indigestion and heartburn are due to too much stomach acid but, in a surprisingly large number of cases it isn’t; it’s due to too little; especially if you’re over 50 and at least some of the above mentioned symptoms are present as well.
Antacids and acid inhibitor medicines; the Enemies of Good Digestion (and health).
The right level of stomach acid is essential for proper digestion. If your stomach doesn’t produce enough acid to digest your food and you get the feelings of heartburn, then taking an antacid will only make matters worse because the antacid will further reduce the level of stomach acid causing undigested food to enter the bowel where it’ll putrefy. Unfriendly bacteria and fungus will thrive on the food producing toxins and gas that may make you burp, bloat and feel nauseous and uncomfortable.
Another unfortunate result of mistaking too little acid for too much is that even though an antacid relieves the symptoms of indigestion and heartburn very efficiently at the time, it helps make sure that the same problem repeats again and again. Also, normal levels of stomach acid kill harmful bacteria that are in the food we eat and, without sufficient acid, those bacteria get into our bodies more easily to create an infection.
In fact, over-use of antacid medication is thought to be responsible for the current epidemic of pneumonia in the elderly. Also some of the B vitamins and many minerals require good levels of stomach acid to aid their absorption. Lack of Vitamin B12 in this way may lead to pernicious anaemia and the risk of osteoporosis is increased to poor absorption of calcium.
Restoring Good Digestion
In the first place it is important to avoid eating when stressed, to remember to chew food well and eat slowly. Some people benefit from eating more frequent but smaller meals. Avoid excessive amounts of fluid at mealtimes because this will dilute stomach acid. If the symptoms of indigestion and low stomach acid persist then a stomach acid levels can be restored at meal times in the form of ‘Betaine Hydrochloride’, see below.
Avoiding excessive amounts of protein foods and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola drinks will give your system an easier time.
If you get indigestion, an alternative to antacids are the so called “friendly bacteria” or Acidophilus. Usually these bacteria are taken to assist the digestive processes in the lower bowel but they will also help eliminate indigestion too!
Split and Swallow (for indigestion).
Take one acidophilus capsule, carefully pull it apart and empty the contents into your mouth. Allow your saliva to carry the acidophilus down your throat. Don’t eat or drink anything at the time otherwise it won’t work, simply swallow the powder so it can neutralise the acid feeling, relief is usually quick and it’s safe to repeat this as often as you like.
This should enable you to eat and feel comfortable after a meal without having to use an antacid. Over time the muscle that controls the movement of food to and from your gullet (oesophagus) and stomach will strengthen and keep the acidic contents of your stomach where it should be and not let it up into your throat!
Giving Your Stomach a Helping Hand
Your stomach will digest your meals better if it has the right amount of acid to do the job and now that the acidophilus will help it keep the acid inside it makes sense to give it the juice it needs.
Betaine Hydrochloride (Betaine HCl) provides the hydrochloric acid used for digestion. It’s sold in tablet form and how to take it and to find out the number of tablets that’s right for you needs some explanation:
Please note: Do NOT use betaine hydrochloride if you suffer with stomach or duodenal ulcers, except on the advice of a physician. If you experience irritation after taking, reduce amount at next meal to a level where this does not occur. Intake may need to be altered based on the amount and type of food consumed (proteins require stronger acid for digestion than starchy foods).
For Your Main Meal of the day:
Take 1 Betaine HCl tablet with your first main meal.
Take 2 Betaine HCl tablets with your second main meal.
Take 3 Betaine HCl tablets with your third main meal.and so on until either:
i) your stomach feels noticeably warmer than normal, or
ii) you’ve reached 7 tablets – this is the suggested maximum dose.
When you get that warm sensation in your stomach it means you’ve taken one tablet too many! So, if you’ve taken 4 tablets and you get that warm feeling then 3 tablets is your number and this will give your stomach the right amount of digestive juice.
Keep taking that number with each main meal until your stomach begins to feel warm even with those 3 tablets. This signals that your stomach is beginning to produce more of its own digestive juice again. Eventually you will be able to stop taking the Betaine altogether.
Suggested further reading:
- Improve digestion
- 3 tips for better digestion