If you had to choose one thing that would be the most important part of your health, what would it be?
Brain health? Heart health? Liver health?
While those are all important, your brain, heart, liver and everything else, can’t function at its best without first having an optimally functioning digestive system. Good health starts in your gut!
Now don't start yawning on me yet! As boring at it might seem, your gut is the key to better energy, focus & concentration (it really is your second brain!), hormones, sleep, stress, cravings, weight management, seasonal and immune allergies (auto-immune issues) and that's just to name a few!
Your stomach is your first line of defense for your immune system. The acid in your stomach kills bad bacteria like E. Coli, that could come from contaminated foods and it kills pathogens that could give you a cold. Stomach acid is also necessary for the absorption of two nutrients; iron and B-12, that both play a vital role in your energy levels. Its most important role is the breakdown of food. You can eat all the vegetables you want but without having a properly acidic stomach you won’t be able to absorb all the nutrients from them.
Just some of the symptoms of a poorly functioning stomach are: frequent illness, fatigue, indigestion, constipation, gas, bloating, ulcers, acid reflux or heartburn (which I’ll address more in a sec) and a lack of an appetite, especially in the morning when you should be hungry. Thankfully there’s a lot you can do to keep your stomach healthy.
Here are 3 ways to improve the most important part of your health:
The 1st thing to do is cut out the crap.
Sugar, refined carbohydrates, excess caffeine and alcohol decrease your stomach acid’s power. Those foods are not just lacking nutrients, they actually weaken the stomach by making it more alkaline, which takes away the functioning power of your stomach. The whole purpose of your stomach is to be acidic, and eating crappy foods make it less acidic.
This brings me to my next point:
The 2nd thing to do is improve your stomach acid.
Your stomach is very acidic and it should be! It produces hydrochloric acid after-all, you know the stuff that corrodes metal.
The acidity of stomach acid is measured on the pH scale which ranges from 0 to 14. Zero is most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline or basic and 7 is neutral. Stomach acid should have a pH of about 1.6. Yes that’s very low! Having a sufficiently low pH in your stomach is important to good health because in order for the rest of your body to be healthy your stomach must be healthy. Good health starts in your stomach remember.
Many people don't have enough acidity in their stomachs. Meaning the pH level is too high. This can be caused by stress, smoking, excess caffeine, medication, and alcohol and like I mentioned before- eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
You can improve your stomach’s acidity by drinking more acid (good acid). Drinking diluted raw apple cider vinegar or lemon water every morning will introduce more beneficial acid to your stomach as well as stimulate your digestion and gets things moving in the right direction -yes I’m talking about poop.
Start with about a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar (it must be raw, I use the Braggs brand, you can usually find it next to the regular vinegars in the grocery aisle) or for a more gentle approach use a squeeze of from a lemon wedge. Dilute it in about 10-16 oz of room temp or warm water (not cold water because cold is constricting). Drink it first thing in the morning, before your coffee or breakfast. Eat as you would normally afterwards. Get the pretty version here.
Here’s a tip: Do not drink it undiluted like you may have seen a popular TV doctor do. That will only burn and damage your esophagus. It shouldn’t burn when you drink it so add more water and use less vinegar if needed til you get used to it.
As your stomach acid improves over time, you can increase the amount of vinegar or lemon you use up to 1 tablespoon. I use 1 tablespoon of raw vinegar (sometimes a tad more because I just free pour) and I dilute it in 16 oz of water every morning. I actually look forward to it! And no, I’m not just saying that.
Now like I mentioned before, people with heartburn or acid reflux especially need to help improve their stomach acid. Having chronically low stomach acid is what causes heartburn but most people think that it is caused by too much acid, but that is rarely the case. What happens with heartburn & reflux is the valve between your esophagus and stomach is weakened from insufficient stomach acid. That valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter and it allows food to enter your stomach from your esophagus and then it is supposed to close back up afterwards, letting your stomach acid go to work . But if you have a weak valve that doesn’t close properly, it will allow stomach acid to travel back up the esophagus, giving you a burning feeling as if you have too much stomach acid.
Suppressing acid by using acid blockers such as prilosec or acid quenchers such as tums are only treating the symptoms, not the cause and while it may provide temporary relief it is doing long term damage with continual use. Read the warning labels of those products, they are meant for short term use because they block the absorption of nutrients and inhibit proper breakdown of food. Obviously if you are on any prescriptions for any reason, including acid reflux or GERD, check with your doctor before changing or going off your medication.
Those with ulcers will also benefit from improving their stomach acidity but only after they have healed the ulcer, which can be done with supplements and lifestyle changes. An over-growth of H. Pylori bacteria can also be a factor which can be kept in check with the right balance of gut bugs and a properly acidic stomach so as not to allow this overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the first place.
An interesting thing to note is that you want an acidic stomach but alkaline blood. Both lemon and raw apple cider vinegar help do just that! While sugar on the other hand weakens your stomach acid and contributes to more acidic blood.
The 3rd thing to do is to chew your food better.
How many many times do you eat on the run or eat your meal in less than 10 minutes? I’m guilty of this! Digestion is the most stressful thing your body does all day, but you can help it out simply by chewing your food better.
An easy way to help slow yourself down is to simply become more aware of what you’re eating. Look at your food, smell it, be thankful to who ever made it (especially if it was someone else). Think about what the food tastes like and feels like. This will naturally slow you down without having to think about slowing down.
Support your health by supporting the most important part of it first, your stomach acid. You can do this by limiting the sugars and refined carbohydrates in your diet, by drinking diluted, raw apple cider vinegar to directly increase stomach acid and slow down while eating & chew your food well.
By supporting your stomach’s health you will support the rest of your body’s health. The saying goes, you are what you eat - well there’s more to it than that as my mentor Andrea Nakayama likes to say...
You're not what you eat, you are what your body can do with what you eat!