Digestive problems seem to be one of the most common ailments people complain about; and one of the most medicated. Then again, it’s easier to take a pill and make the pain go away than to figure out the root cause of the pain right?
There is an issue that is rarely talked about linked to poor dietary choices, and it is regarding how our stomach properly functions and helps to break down the food we eat into the tiny nutrients we actually need to live. See? This is important stuff if you’re the kind of being that needs nutrients to survive…
What Is An Underactive Stomach?
An underactive stomach (or Hypochlorhydria) does not produce enough hydrochloric acid, and thus does not produce enough digestive enzymes to properly digest food.
Symptoms of an Underactive Stomach
An underactive stomach will mess with how your colon functions, leading to constipation. It also throws off your body’s absorption of all vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, chromium, iodine, iron, manganese, potassium, selenium, and zinc. An underactive stomach can also hinder the absorption of protein, leading to a protein deficiency. It can also lead to a deficiency of essential fatty acids.
If you suffer from allergies, an underactive stomach may also be to blame for that. A sufficient amount of HCl is necessary to keep bacteria that live in your colon from moving up the small intestine, and an inadequate amount of HCl can lead harmful bacteria strains to multiply in areas of the intestine they’re not supposed to be, which will continue to hinder digestion and absorption, and potentially irritate and inflame the intestines, leading to hyperpermeability and causing allergic reactions to food.
Many of these symptoms are often confused with that of an overactive stomach (which I will discuss in another post); and cause people to believe the only effective treatment is taking antacids, which, sadly only aggravates the condition by interfering with the stomach’s natural acid. This, unfortunately, only worsens the problem with a continued lack of sufficient nutrient absorption and digestion.
Here’s a quick list of all the problems associated with too little stomach acid:
- Celiac disease
- Chronic Autoimmune disorders
- Food allergies and intolerance
- Gall bladder disease
- Chronic hives
- Undigested food in stool
- Chronic Candida infections (ex: yeast infections)
How Does A Stomach Become Underactive?
While typically linked to a diet high in animal protein (like red meat), dairy products, and refined/processed foods, it can also occur from bad eating habits such as drinking too much liquid with food, poor food combining, or not chewing your food long enough for it to be properly broken down. Stress also contributes to an underactive stomach (now you probably see why this condition is so common).
How To Help An Underactive Stomach
There are a few things you do to improve how your stomach functions:
- Eat small meals more often
- Limit or avoid concentrated proteins like red meat and dairy products
- Avoid refined and processed foods and alcohol
- Never eat when rushed or upset; state of mind affects digestion
- Take a digestive enzyme or enzyme containing HCl (hydrochloric acid)
- If you also have liver or gallbladder problems you may need a digestive enzyme that contains bile; and if you have pancreas problems you require pancreatic enzymes and pepsin. (For liver/gallbladder/pancreas issues, speak to your doctor or naturopath before taking anything)
Note: If, after taking a digestive enzyme containing HCl there is a burning sensation, you may have an overactive stomach; which I will talk about in another post. To test it properly, take the HCl enzyme on an empty stomach. If there is no burning sensation you likely have an underactive stomach (assuming you have other symptoms as listed above).
While an underactive stomach is, obviously, not life threatening, it can lead to chronic conditions down the road caused by nutrient deficiencies. Thus, if you think this might be the case for you head to a doctor or naturopath for a diagnosis; or at the very least, try out the simple acts of chewing longer, not drinking with meals, and eating smaller meals more often, because that’s a good place to start.
Elson Haas, Buck Levin. Staying Healthy with Nutrition.
New York: TenSpeed Press, 2006. Print.
Carolee Bateson-Koch. Allergies: Disease in Disguise.
Tennessee: Books Alive, 1994. Print.
The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and should not be considered any type of medical advice. The information provided in this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health condition or disease, and should not be substituted for professional care. If you suspect or have a medical condition, consult an appropriate health care provider.