Maximize Your Progress with Hydrochloric Acid
Are your muscles getting all the protein contained in that 12-ounce steak? Does your immune system enjoy all the antioxidant protection from the vitamins and minerals in organic fruits and vegetables? Do your supplements work as well as the manufacturer promises? There’s a 50/50 chance that the answer is “No.” The reason is that it’s not so much what you eat or what supplements you take, but how much you assimilate.
This statement might seem peculiar, but it is true. I’ve worked with countless athletes who seem to do everything right with their diet and training but make little or no progress in the gym. Their problem can often be traced to low levels of stomach acids, a condition known as Hypochlorhydria.
Stomach acid breaks down food, chemically altering it so that the body can extract the required nutrients for proper structure and function, including muscle maintenance and growth. The acid begins the digestion of protein in the stomach and then triggers the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes and the gallbladder to release bile into the small intestine. The acid is also responsible for killing pathogenic bacteria that enters the body via food.
The Acid Test
In our land of abundance, it is hard to imagine that our body’s cells could be starving, especially when we consume high-quality food in sufficient quantities. Yet many of our affluent habits prohibit us from properly digesting our food, leaving our cells weak from undernourishment.
If there is insufficient hydrochloric acid (HCl), proteins will pass into the intestine and putrefy instead of being digested. In addition, carbohydrates will also be left to ferment without adequate digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Fat digestion is also dependent on the acid’s influence on the pancreas to secrete lipase and the gall bladder to secrete bile. Poor digestion of these macronutrients means poor absorption of our basic energy sources.
Low stomach acid prevents adequate absorption of essential minerals such as zinc, manganese and calcium because they cannot be ionized for proper absorption. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their estrogen-detoxification properties through the production of Diindolylmethane from Indole 3C, but this extraction cannot occur without an adequate amount of stomach acid.
Low stomach acid also puts you at an increased risk of food poisoning since you are missing your primary defense against bacterial organisms. It has been shown that the drugs that inhibit stomach acid, such as Prilosec and Tagamet, can cause an increase in stomach bacteria and inflammation.
Undiagnosed low stomach acid is linked to various neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s because those ailments are linked to folic acid and B12 status (i.e. no stomach acid, no folic acid and B12 absorption.) In effect, you could go senile just from low stomach acid. Here are a few of the symptoms of low stomach acid:
- Belching or gas within one hour of a meal
- Bloating and fullness shortly after eating
- Bad breath
- Loss of taste for meat
- Nausea after taking supplements
- Brittle fingernails
- Undigested food in stool
- Foul-smelling stools
- Stomach pain
- Desire to skip meals
- Estrogen buildup
- Acne rosacea
The Growing Epidemic of Low HCl
After taking numerous functional medicine seminars from digestion experts such as Dr. Nigel Plummer, PhD, from Wales; and Dr. Jeff Baker, NMD, from North Carolina, I realized how important it is to monitor stomach acid. In Wales alone, it is estimated that over 40 percent of the adult population is deficient in hydrochloric acid. In the USA, many experts estimate the deficiency also to be in the range of 40 to 50 percent. Some gastroenterologists are now advancing that it is today’s most under-diagnosed ailment.
Over the last four years at my training centers, we have been doing stomach acid challenge tests routinely. In this time I have yet to see a single successful male over the age of 40 with normal stomach acid levels. Actually some of them are actually achloridic, which means that they make almost no stomach acid.
There are many reasons for low stomach acid, such as B vitamin deficiency, excess carbohydrate consumption, hypothyroidism, food sensitivities, H. Pylori infection, soda consumption and aging. But the most common cause of low stomach acid is actually stress. Stress experts estimate that we now have 100 times more stress than our grandfathers did.