Are you feeling bloated all the time after you eat?
Or maybe your stomach is giving you cramps, gas, or distends itself to a point of severe discomfort?
Are there times you struggle with indigestion or heartburn?
Then maybe this is a way your body telling you it's struggling in producing stomach acidity!
What is stomach acidity?
Stomach acidity is a secretion made in your stomach that holds a pH ranging from 1-3 primarily made to break down food and help digest proteins. Without this acid being formed, we risk of not being able to digest our food, activate our digestion's motor complex, as well as protect ourselves from pathogens that enter through the mouth.
Can you take a pill for this? Sure, but let's get into how you can produce your own stomach acidity naturally first.
It all starts in the mouth. We've all heard of chewing, right? When we start smelling food, eyeing something we like, it activates neural pathways that stimulate our stomach to start secreting hydrogen ions. Hydrogen is the basis of what our stomach acid is made up of. By the time we pick up the food with our fork, salivating, chewing it until it's a consistency of applesauce and then swallowing it, the body should have produced adequate stomach acid to fully break down the food. (This is why we harp on eating slowly and not distracted, so the body can focus on one task at hand).
Once the food enters our stomachs, mixed with the stomach acid, we call this mixture "chyme", as its next steps is to pass through the pyloric valve and into the small intestine. However, if our chyme isn't acidic enough, the valve won't open, hence bloating occurs, make sense?
When we don't have enough stomach acidity, we risk of...
- Not being able to properly digest our proteins. We need be able o synthesize our amino acids for they are the building blocks to our cells. This can affect our hair strength, skin, muscle mass, and even bone density.
- We struggle to produce an enzyme called pepsin which helps with the break down of protein as well.
- Vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed properly because it's primarily found in proteins.
- There's a risk of bacterial overgrowths like SIBO, H.Pylori and other things from festering for the lack of stomach acidity leaves food fermenting in the stomach and small intestine and can't kill off bacteria that isn't supposed to be there in the first place.
So what does this have to do with minerals? Glad you asked.
1. Sodium is one of the key minerals in helping produce stomach acidity. Also coined as hydrochloric acid (HCL). Chloride is typically found in salt, and along with sodium, they both help to neutralize things in the stomach, almost like a cleaning agent if you think about it. Traditionally speaking, salt has been recognized to be a potent antifungal, anti bacterial and anti histamine, hence the dependency of it to form HCL. When looking on a hair test, having low levels of sodium can indicate low levels of stomach acidity and extreme stress on the body. Having high levels of stress or chronic stress eventually signals to the body to reduce gastric enzymes and acid as a means to put more pertinent things.
2. Zinc is another mineral the body requires to produce adequate stomach acidity. Zinc doesn't necessarily take part in the formation of HCL per say, but it helps with the enzymatic reaction in producing HCL in the first place. Zinc has over 300 enzymatic reactions it is responsible for in the body, one being this one. As mentioned above, just like with sodium, if zinc is low, one can acknowledge that HCL is low too in the body and resistant to digesting food properly. Conversely, zinc is predominantly found in animal products, and it has been shown low protein diets, or rather diets low in animal products, can lead to low stomach acidity.
3.This isn't necessarily a mineral we focus on often like the typical calcium, magnesium, potassium stuff. In fact, cobalt isn't exactly a mineral found on its own, but usually in foods containing B12 since it is required for the absorption and making of cyanocobalamin or methyl cobalamin. You can see the word "cobal" in the middle of the two. Even though it doesn't play a role necessarily in formulating HCL, when looking at a hair test, it could be a sign of low stomach acidity for B12 is synthesized by stomach acid itself. Whether one has high or low levels on an HTMA, it could be a sign of just that, hence further investigation must be pursued.
4. Magnesium is also a mineral that has been shown to activate enzymes that break down and absorb our our fats, carbohydrates and protein. It takes part in sending a signal to the pancreas to secrete pancreatic enzymes and stomach to formulate hydrochloric acid. Interestingly enough, distention of the belly can also be a result of tight muscles, and magnesium has been shown to help relieve tension, thus bloating in the long run.
So if you have been struggling with consistent bloating or an inability to break down food properly, it might be worth running a HTMA test to see what are your potential deficiencies or irregularities. Once noted, maybe increasing one's sodium intake, supplementing our Upgraded Zinc, or focusing on cobalt levels can then help fix the issue.
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach