The Hormone Diet: Bloated? You Might Need to Go On Acid

lemons acid

Have you been dealing with bloating, gas, indigestion or heartburn? Many people association gastric distress with an excess of stomach acid, but low stomach acid is more likely to be the surprising cause behind your digestive issues. Low stomach acid—technically known as hydrochloric acid—is associated with a variety of conditions, including asthma, constipation, celiac disease, eczema, chronic hives and acne rosacea. We need stomach acid to produce the enzymes that break down our food, so low levels of acid can affect vitamin and mineral absorption and could lead to overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites in the stomach and small intestine. Believe it or not, improper stomach acid levels will also stop any weight loss program in its tracks.

The following foods can reduce stomach acid production:

  • Heavily-cooked foods, which lack live enzymes
  • Difficult-to-digest foods like red meat or fried foods
  • Chemicalized foods like those with artificial preservatives and additives
  • Soft drinks, which have high amounts of phosphorus, white sugar and immune-stressing chemicals
  • Barbequed foods, which are tough on the digestive system and contain carcinogens in the blackened areas

Losing acid as we age

Several studies have shown that as we get older, the parietal cells in the stomach lining make less stomach acid. In one study, American researchers found that over 30 percent of men and women older than 60 suffer from atrophic gastritis, a condition marked by little or no acid secretion. A second study found that up to 40% of postmenopausal women have no basal gastric acid secretions. In 1984, researchers in Japan found that 60% of Japanese men and women older than 50 suffered from achlorhydria, a condition of low stomach acid.

Regardless of age, a long-term deficiency of stomach acid compromises digestion and nutrient stores, leaving us at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The most common vitamins and minerals that require sufficient stomach acid to be properly absorbed are biotin, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid.

13 common symptoms of low stomach acid:

  • Bloating, belching and flatulence immediately after meals
  • Indigestion, diarrhea or constipation
  • Soreness, burning or dryness of the mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Multiple food allergies
  • Feel nauseated after taking supplements
  • Weak, peeling and cracked fingernails
  • Redness or dilated blood vessels in the cheeks or nose
  • Adult acne
  • Hair loss in women
  • Iron deficiency
  • Undigested food in your stools
  • Chronic yeast infections

What can you do?

Luckily, there is a simple test that you can conduct to determine if you have low stomach acid, and it’s one of the first steps towards regaining your health and improving your digestion. In fact, I had one patient lose five inches off her belly button just by doing this test and deflating her belly bloat.

To do the HCL Challenge, you will need to purchase 100-percent Betaine HCL pills from your local health food store. Take one capsule with your largest meal. If you don’t feel any burning, the next day take two capsules, the next day three capsules, and so forth. You should feel a burning or warming sensation in your stomach or upper abdomen, which indicates that you have enough HCL and can stop taking the pills. If you feel the warming or burning sensation, take one less pill the next day and keep repeating this pattern daily until the warming sensation returns and you are down to only one pill. For full instructions you can also visit The Hormone Diet website.

Not only does this simple test help determine your stomach acid levels, it also helps to replenish them and is one of the most important home tests that I have all my patients conduct. From there you can add a digestive enzyme to your major meals. Before you know it, your tummy troubles will be a thing of the past.

DR. NATASHA TURNER is North America’s leading naturopathic doctor and founder of the Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto, Canada. She is also the author of the #1 bestselling book, The Hormone Diet, which is based on her successful clinical approach for creating hormonal balance to gain strength, lose fat and live younger longer. Her second book, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, became a #1 national bestseller on its first day of release in Canada.

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    • Brett

      Dr. Turner – this is a fascinating article. I have been diagnosed with cholinergic urticaria (heat induced hives), and have been taking Zantac and Zyrtec daily to control that condition for between 6-7 years. This article has caused me some concern, because for the last 6 months I have been dealing with serious dry mouth issues, dermatitis, and an overgrowth of facial and scalp yeast. My dermatologist gave me both oral and cream-based ketoconazole, which helps, but the problem comes right back once I stop taking the keto. Based on your article, it seems like the problem may be related to the fact that I’ve taken Zantac for so many years. The problem, obviously, is that if I stop taking Zantac, the heat-induced hives come right back. Any thoughts/comments would be appreciated.

      • Dr. Natasha Turner ND

        @John – fresh lemon in water is fantastic for alkalinity and digestion!

        @ Brett – We recommend doing the detox diet outlined in The Hormone Diet to settle the immune system over reactivity. As well, you should add in a good probiotic and a yeast cleanse twice daily, B12 lozenges, and a high potency fish oil (ie. 4 capsules twice daily). After that we recommend working with a naturopathic doctor for natural alternatives to zantac and the hives (or any remaining symptoms). Hope that helps!

    • John Mak

      Great informative article! I would like to ask if it’s good to drink one lemon juice per day.. or you should add more fruits in?

    • Mary

      Dr. Turner,
      Thank you for this article. I have had several of these symptoms for low stomach acid, so I went out and bought a bottle of HCL. I have been following your recommendations for the past 4 days. However, it is unclear how long one should be taking HCL until feeling the warming sensation in the stomach. What is the maximum amount of HCL one should take at one time? So far I have not felt a warming sensation and today I plan on taking 5 with my largest meal. At one point should I decrease the number of HCL I’m taking?

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