ALL of your energy, focus, willpower, every ounce of your vital energy that you pour into your passions, career, your family….
...all of it is extracted from the food that you eat.
Exercise or caffeine or yoga or other tools may augment and optimize your energy levels, but deep down at the root level, all the fuel for your thoughts and actions is derived from food.
And that depends on your stomach.
Your stomach, in turn, depends on an acidic environment. Typically in the 1.5 - 3.5 pH range.
In fact, stomach pH has a remarkably wide-ranging and fascinating impact on our health.
Here are 8 ways a more acidic stomach can benefit your life.
First Round Defense The intense acidity of the stomach is inhospitable to most life forms, creating a first round of defense against pathogens and parasites. When the stomach pH gets too high (less acidic), the bad guys end up surviving and entering the small intestine where they can cause big problems for your gut.
Break Down Food This, of course, is what the stomach is best known for. The acidic environment helps break down all the big macromolecules of food. Things like protein, fiber, and fats into smaller and smaller building blocks that your body can actually absorb and use.
Activate Digestive Enzymes The stomach lining and pancreas make a whole menu of enzymes that help to break down your food even faster. However, as a safety precaution for your cells, they are made in an inactive state and then sent into the stomach cavity. When the pH is low enough, they “switch on” to their active state and begin the important work of digestion. But onlyif the pH is low enough. If your stomach is too alkaline, many important enzymes will remain inactive and your digestion will be impaired, causing many other problems later on.
Prevent Heartburn and Chest Pain This may surprise you, but the real cause of heartburn and chest pain is not an overabundance of stomach acid. The sensations come from stomach acid getting into the wrong place, namely your esophagus. There is a special valve that separates the stomach and esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. And this valve is pH-activated, much like the digestive enzymes. You see, as you eat food, your stomach begins secreting more and more stomach acid. The pH gets lower and lower and once it reaches a certain threshold, the LES closes off (but is opened by the swallow reflex). This keeps the stomach contents in the stomach. But if the stomach pH isn’t low enough, the valve never closes and stomach juices can accidentally get pushed up into the esophagus by the churning action of the stomach.
Timing of Digestion Most of your body’s processes are woven into an intricate and precise network of signals and timing mechanisms to make sure everything happens at just the right time. Your stomach pH is a part of this. It has its own fluctuations in pH that are tied to your daily eating routines, psychological expectations, and even smells. After eating, your stomach will slowly become less acidic as the acid is used to break down food. At a certain pH, the digested food matter (called chyme) is a signal to release the food into the small intestine. But if your stomach pH is too alkaline to begin with, this signaling mechanism is impaired, opening too early and allowing partially digested food into the small intestine.
Nutrient Absorption Many nutrients in food are bound up in hard-to-digest structures like fiber or phytates. This is especially the case for nuts, grains, and fibrous vegetables. Minerals like calcium or essential vitamins like B-12 need a highly acidic environment to pull them out of their complexes so they can actually be absorbed by our body. Without enough acid, you cannot get the full nutritional value of your food.
Manage Gastrointestinal Issues like Gas and Bloating Earlier we discussed how low acidity can allow the wrong microorganisms into our gut along with partially digested food matter in the chyme. The consequences of this are gas, painful bloating, and an imbalanced microbe. The partially digested food acts as the wrong kind of fuel for your gut bacteria. They ferment it, turning it into gas the same way brewers yeast carbonates beer or bakers yeast makes bread rise. The effects are in a different stage of the digestive tract, but the source of the problem lies in a stomach without enough acidity.
Mitigates Food Allergies and Leaky Gut These undigested food particles and bad bacteria then have a second, more subtle effect. The stress they place on your gut can cause microperforations in the gut lining, commonly referred to as “Leaky Gut.” When this happens, food and bacteria can enter your bloodstream, putting your immune system on high alert.
Your immune system looks for the culprit and finds these strange food particles in your blood. So it does its job and develops an immunological reaction to them to “protect” you – aka food allergy. (it is important to consider there are many different, and this is only one potential source)
Strong digestion is the cornerstone of health and vitality– and a healthy stomach pH is an often overlooked key to getting everything back in balance. When impaired by low acidity, you might be suffering more than you realize.
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My own wanderlust was recently satisfied when I decided to hit the road from Colorado Springs to Palm Springs in our 2006 Honda Element. My wife Shelley was already scheduled to join her mom for a conference in North Carolina which gave me an opportunity to make the 1,150-mile trek en route to the 34th edition of the Tram Road Challenge.