Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a heavy feeling in your gut?
Do you ever feel like you have a rock/small baby hippopotamus in your belly hours after eating a meal?
If yes, you may not be digesting your food properly.
These uncomfortable feelings were so well-known to me that I used to just let them slide as “normal”. But there is no such thing as “normal” pain or discomfort: it is an indication from our body that something is amiss.
Proper digestion is key to a healthy body.
The digestive tract — from your tongue to your tooshey — plays a vital role in all aspects of our health. It is the mechanism through which we receive the nutrients necessary to sustain life, and is a vital component of the immune system.
But think about it: if we are eating the most nutrient-dense foods possible yet not breaking them down adequately enough to actually get to the nutrients they contain… what’s the point?
Proper stomach acid levels are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
As soon as we see, smell, or think about food, our stomach cells begin secreting hydrochloric acid (HCl). HCl plays a vital role in protein digestion by converting pepsinogen into the enzyme pepsin, which breaks proteins down into amino acids. It also promotes the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins A and E by stimulating the release of pancreatic enzymes and bile into the small intestine.
So without adequate stomach acid, food is incompletely digested and nutrients are not properly assimilated. This is a BIG. DEAL.
Factors such as stress, excess carbohydrate consumption, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, and excess alcohol can decrease HCl production. And according to Jonathon Wright, MD — author of Why Stomach Acid is Good for You — approximately 90% of Americans produce too little stomach acid.
(Now if you’re thinking “Oh, well I have acid reflux/GERD so I make too much stomach acid”, think again. Contrary to popular belief, acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are actually caused by low stomach acid. While antacids do help to alleviate the symptoms, they do not remedy the underlying cause. To learn all of the details, check our Chris Kresser’s 6-part series on the topic.)
Apple cider vinegar helps improve digestion by increasing stomach acid.
Drinking a glass of water mixed with a 1-3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar* 15-20 minutes before a meal can improve digestion and nutrient assimilation by increasing HCl production. Start with 1 teaspoon to see how you fare, and go from there.
I personally drink 3 teaspoons of ACV diluted with an equal amount of water before meals because I know I am very deficient in stomach acid and prefer this option over popping a HCl supplement. I then “swish” about 4 more ounces of water and swallow it to prevent the acid from affecting my tooth enamel and irritating my esophagus.
*Be sure to use raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother.
Have you used ACV to improve your digestion?
Please share your experience with us!