A growing problem is impaired HCl production. It’s estimated that about 40-50% of the US population suffers from low stomach acid levels. Without enough HCl, pepsinogen can not be converted into pepsin, which means that you can not break down the protein in your food. Don’t be fooled into thinking it will be broken down later in the intestinal tract either. The intestines are more involved in the final stages of digestion and more importantly absorption. If you don’t break down the large compounds of food like protein and fiber in the stomach, you will not be getting the valuable nutrients from your diet. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their estrogen-detoxification properties through the production of Diindolylmethane from Indole-3-Carbinol, but this extraction cannot occur without an adequate amount of HCl.
Not producing enough HCl also makes you more prone to bacterial and fungal overgrowth and parasites. These can further hamper your digestion and have numerous other negative health impacts on your body. Low HCl also puts you at greater risk for food poisoning and infections. Low HCl production is also associated with increased risk in gastric cancer and many diseases related to nutrient deficiencies. For instance, low B12 is associated with Alzheimer’s but many of these cases are because they don’t produce enough stomach acid to absorb the B12.
Signs you are not producing enough HCl
- Belching or gas within one hour of a meal
- Bloating and fullness shortly after eating
- Loss of taste for meat
- Nausea after taking supplements
- Brittle fingernails
- Undigested food in stool
- Foul-smelling stools
- Stomach pain
- Bad breath
- Loss of appetite
- Estrogen buildup
- Acne rosacea
Stomach acid is also important for signaling later processes in digestion to digest fats and carbohydrates. If you need to increase the levels of HCL to properly digest your food, tablets can be consumed with meals. Betaine HCL is a commonly available form which can be found in most health food stores or online retailers. Start on the low range of dosing at about 250-500mg. If the symptoms are not reduced or eliminated you may increase the dose with your next meal by about 250mg. Once you feel a slight warming sensation in your stomach, you have reached your effective dose.