So, stomach acid may not be the coolest thing to talk about when we discuss skin and beauty, but after reading about its function and just how many people may have imbalances with it, I think it's time to bring it to light. Many people struggle with adult acne, rosacea, etc. and sometimes all it takes is that one thing we least expect to heal us. Skin health is so unique to each person and so multi-faceted that we need to cover all the bases, even the not-so-sexy ones, like stomach acid.
We all basically know from our high school anatomy class that we have stomach acid. Let's first start in the beginning with the function of it, and what goes wrong if we don't supply the right amount of it.
Parietel cells in our stomach produce both hydrochloric acid (HCL) and intrinsic factor. HCL is responsible for the extreme acidity of the stomach acid (pH 1.5-3), which is beneficial for breaking down our food, especially our proteins into amino acids and liberating our much needed minerals. It also helps to rid the body of any unfriendly bacteria or parasites that may have entered through our food. Intrinsic factor is necessary for the absorption of Vitamin B12 in the small intestine. Nutrient deficiencies and undigested food can cause havoc on the body over time. This acid is strong enough to break down metals but our bodies were created beautifully to withstand its acidity with a buffering layer of mucous on the stomach lining to protect itself. Having enough of this acid also helps to prevent against H.Pylori, which is present in cases of ulcers.
Symptoms such as bloating, burping, feeling of "fullness" after eating, diarrhea, heartburn, food allergies, getting nauseous after supplements, itchy "bum", weak nails, dry skin, acne, rosacea, psoriasis (or other autoimmune disorder), or even chronic fatigue can all be linked to one thing-LOW stomach acid. But wait, I thought all too many people were producing TOO MUCH stomach acid, not the opposite? Well, that's maybe what the drug manufacturers would like you to think. As Dr. Mercola states, "This is a serious medical mistake that is affecting millions of people."
The making of HCL reduces as we get older, which is why we see more adults with heartburn-like symptoms. Things that can affect the production of it over time can include being overly stressed, over-eating, alcohol, smoking, dairy, and over-consumption of protein which all affect the parietal cells. Turns out that it's this LOW level of stomach acid that can cause the big symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion. Good news though! You can restore the functioning of these cells!
When we don't produce enough acid to properly break down our food, that food will basically "sit there" too long and start to ferment. This causes gas to be released and eventually the "burping" begins. A lovely little valve called the esophageal sphincter sits between the esophagus and the stomach and protects food or anything from going back up. Stomach acid actually triggers the contraction of this to protect the esophagus from acids. It's when this flap becomes too relaxed that now a little bit of acid can cause serious discomfort in the chest area. The other flap on the bottom side of the stomach into the small intestine opens when the environment is acidic enough and everything has been properly broken down. When there is the perfect amount of acid, food is moved along the digestive tract in a timely manner without getting stuck.
When it comes to skin health, we know minerals and nutrients play a huge role in the vitality of our skin cells. If we don't digest well, we increase our chance of food allergies which can contribute to a chronic inflammatory state which does nothing beneficial for issues such as acne, rosacea, etc. It's worth taking a look at to see if low stomach acid may be causing your less-than-radiant complexion.
So, let's get right into some ways to determine if your levels are low. Of course, you can go to your doctor and do certain testing such as the Heidelberg Stomach Acid Test, but following is an easy at-home test to try. (Of course it may not be definitive, but it may give you a good indication). Another one to try at home would be the Betaine HCL Challenge Test which you may want to search online.
Mix ¼ tsp of baking soda in 4-6 oz of cold water, first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything.
Drink the baking soda solution
Time how long it takes for a burp or belch to come about. Go up to 5 minutes. If you have not burped or belched within 5 minutes than it would be a sign of insufficient stomach acid production.
Let's go now right into the solutions or remedies! This is always my favorite part as it always includes food! Things to help increase HCL in the body and/or help with better digestion..
1. Don't rush while eating. This puts your body in a fight-or-flight mode and digestion decreases. Get rid of the iphones and focus on your eating. Lastly, CHEW your food! It's harder on your digestion when you swallow that hamburger whole.
2. Of course, get off processed foods as much as possible, BUT bring into your diet a good source of sea salt like Himalayan Sea Salt. This is loaded with minerals and chloride to help manufacture HCL.
3. Become friends with foods that are "bitter". These would be dandelion greens, arugula, kale, endive, and ginger! You ever wonder why they put ginger on a plate with sushi? It's to get that stomach acid flowing since you never know what can linger in raw fish!
4. Don't drink a load of liquids at meals.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar taken maybe 30 minutes before a meal may help stimulate digestion.
6. Start bringing back the art of fermentation into your diet with sauerkraut, home-made yogurts and kefirs
7. Make sure your Vitamin D level is optimal.
8. Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without a prescription. You’ll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. Digestive enzymes may be another great option before meals.
While most of the medical community is trying to put out the "too much" acid fire with prescriptions, please note that these are dangerous drugs! Ones like Nexium decrease stomach acid by 99%! Your body will not work if you are not absorbing nutrients and breaking down the food you eat. Proton Pump Inhibitors prescribed can become addictive to the body and over time our bodies develop a dependence on them where people cannot go off "cold turkey" or they go into severe rebound! Even the pamphlet states these "little purple pills" should never be used for more than 6 months.
Learn to work with your body naturally and everything, including your skin, will reap the benefits! Don't rely on dangerous drugs that never will resolve the issue but only complicate the body more. The body knows what it's doing, we just need to stop interfering.