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Welcome back to another episode of The Vibrant Health Podcast! This week, we talk about all things digestion and hydrochloric acid (also referred to as HCL).

  • Do we need to supplement with HCL?
  • Is HCL safe or is it dangerous?
  • Is being vegan better for digestion?
  • Should we use acid blockers for digestive problems?

Lydia and I tackle these questions (and MUCH more) in this week’s episode. So, let’s not waste and time! Tune in below and don’t forget to check out the links from this week’s episode.

One important note that I want to mention about HCL supplements. Most of them contain pork.

I, myself, do not eat pork and I know a number of my readers don’t either. So, I wanted to make you aware of this. I have done TONS of research and have only found two brands (at the time of writing this) that are pork free. I have linked to the two pork-free brands that I am currently using below.

HCL supplements typically contain pepsin and it’s the pepsin that is derived from pork. Most of the time the source of the pepsin is not listed on the label, so I have spent a lot of time writing to the manufacturers to find out the sources.

Your best bet, if you are avoiding pork, is to avoid any supplement that contains pepsin unless the manufacturer has specified that it’s from a non-porcine source.

Now, let’s get this party started! 🙂

Missed previous episodes? You can find them all here.

Links From This Week’s Episode:

Listen to The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 11

Read The Vibrant Health Podcast Transcript :: Episode 11

Jessica Espinoza: Hi, everyone. Welcome to episode number 11 of the Vibrant Health Podcast. I am Jessica from DeliciousObsessions.com. I’m here with my co-host, Lydia, from DivineHealthFromTheInsideOut.com. And today, we want to talk about HCl, or hydrochloric acid, which is a really important part of helping our food to digest properly. So Lydia is going to tell us all about why it’s important, and I’ll talk a little bit about how I’m taking it as well. So let’s jump on in.

Lydia Shatney: Hey, everyone. This is Lydia. This is actually a very important topic. We’re not just talking about hydrochloric acid, we’re talking about digestion and your stomach being the first place that your body starts to break down your food. And if this isn’t going well or correct, you’re going to have trouble.

The majority of people today do have low stomach acid. And they don’t know it. So it’s a really big problem. We also have a huge boon of people and actually, medications that block stomach acid because everyone’s gone heartburn and all these problems. And it’s actually not a good solution whatsoever.

So we want to talk a little bit about – I want to educate people to know how their body works, so that you can understand that the solution isn’t always just to pop a pill to deal with the symptom. So it’s a big chain of effects when you’re on a medication that blocks your body from making its stomach acid.

Jessica: Yes, I see so many people who are taking acid blockers and the side effects of those types of drugs are pretty staggering. So, I’m glad that we’re covering this today.

Would you mind giving us just a little bit of an overview of what hydrochloric acid is and the little basics of the digestive process and why it’s important for those that are not well-versed in digestion and how well that works.

Lydia: Sure! So the roles of stomach acid are many. Stomach acid is produced in the stomach in the presence of food and proteins. It’s basically going to sterilize your food.

I always tell people that it’s your first line of defense against any pathogens come into the stomach. Every time you eat, you can have pathogens on your food. It’s possible, right?

We’ve heard of E. coli and all these other things making people sick. It’s going to kill the bacteria, microbes, pathogens, yeast that come in and try to colonize in the intestines.

So as soon as these germs get hit by the stomach acid, they get killed. So it’s pretty darn important that we have actual, adequate stomach acid being produced to do this job. You can prevent so many infestations of all these pathogens in your body if you have adequate stomach acid.

It also digests your proteins. That’s pretty important because what will happen is if you can’t break down your proteins on your own in your stomach without stomach acid, they can begin to putrefy and rancidify. And then they have to go through into the next phase of digestion at the improper pH essentially, and then there, you begin problems.

So you can start to have all these problems further along in your digestive tract if you’re not breaking down the protein properly in your stomach.

Jessica: Interesting.

Lydia: Then, stomach acid also helps to pull minerals from your food, pull them out for better absorption. With enough stomach acid, we can actually assimilate the minerals from our food, and without it, we can’t. So you know very well (and maybe you guys remember us talking about minerals and hair analysis), most people have inadequate mineral supply in their body.

And this is another big problem because we already have depleted soil, depleted food, and now, most people have depleted stomach acid. So even the minerals they are getting, they are not really getting. So that’s a big problem.

And then stomach acid also stimulates the pancreas to secrete enzymes and bicarbonate.

And then, when the food is actually the proper pH moving out of the stomach, it’s going to signal the pancreas to secrete its juices, essentially. If this pH isn’t appropriate, like I just said, you’re going to have damage to the wall of the small intestines.

Jessica: Yes, we don’t want that.

Lydia: Nope. And most people do, to some degree. So, this is important. This is important information to understand and consider doing something about it.

Jessica: It’s really interesting because before, I’ve been taking the hydrochloric acid off and on. Again, I’m really focusing on it right now with the mineral balancing that I’m doing with you. But prior to 2012, I had never heard of hydrochloric acid really or supplementing with it or why it was important.

And so, I remember going out to eat, it seems like almost every time that I would eat in a restaurant, I would get some sort of digestive problem whether it was indigestion or some sort of mild food poisoning or just upset stomach and all of that stuff.

So, I really wonder if my hydrochloric acid was so low that I was being affected by some of the pathogens in the restaurant food. I don’t eat out very often anymore just because I’m so restricted right now diet-wise. But when I do eat out, it’s very, very rare that I have any sort of digestive issues with that. And I wonder if that’s because I am boosting my hydrochloric acid back up. And so it’s interesting to look at how I used to be and how I am now as far as that.

Lydia: Yes, for sure.

Jessica: How do we know that we need to supplement with hydrochloric acid? Is this something that every single person should just go out and grab some hydrochloric acid and start taking it? Or is it just select people? How do we know what we should take and how much we should take and if we even need to take it?

Lydia: That’s a big question. It’s more answers than one. There’s a lot of information that I take into consideration when I’m working with someone in regard to hydrochloric acid. So, anybody could try it, but let’s talk about first maybe some symptoms or signs. If you are noticing these, then you’re probably a good candidate for needing it.

Now, just because you need it doesn’t mean you can just go start taking it and everything is going to be peachy cream. There are a lot of potential problems that can arise. And so, I want to just talk about the symptoms first and then I’ll break it down a little further.

So the common symptoms would be belching or gas, especially within about an hour after eating. Heartburn and acid reflux are actually not what we think. People think they have too much acid, and really, what it is, is the acid is getting up into the esophagus, which is not intended to handle the acid. So it’s really, you’re not digesting things properly, the esophagus is flapping open, things aren’t getting broken down, and the little bit acid that might be in there, can splash up and hit the esophagus.

The esophagus doesn’t have a lining to protect it from that major acid. Your stomach acid pH is extremely acidic. It can get down to as low as 0.8. And if you were to drop a drop of it onto a linoleum floor, it would burn a hole in the floor.

Jessica: Wow! I didn’t realize they were so strong.

Lydia: It’s really potent. And like I said, it kills pathogens, so it has to be strong to do that.

Our stomach is actually lined in such a way to handle this acid for the short amount of time that it comes out and does its thing and breaks down everything. But if it’s just sitting in there in the stomach and we’re not digesting our food and somehow, we belched and the esophagus opens up, it splashes in there, that’s the problem.

I’m not explaining this as thoroughly as I could, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg there.

So there are very, very, very few people who have too much acid, but the majority of people are low. So there are going to be some people that may have too much and they need to go and work with a gastroenterologist and get tested and all this stuff. But for the majority of people, they’re not producing enough on their own.

So if you’re having heartburn or acid reflux, please don’t assume that you have too much acid in your stomach. That’s really the wrong way to look at it. You may need to talk to somebody and work with somebody and really get this ironed out.

Please don’t let heartburn, acid reflux linger for very long. And please, do not take acid blockers for very long. Big problem!

Another sign would be bloating. If you bloat after you eat, you’re not able to break down your food well.

People who are on a vegan diet, our body is designed in such a way to actually break down meat. We have plenty of evidence. And so if we’re not putting these proteins into our stomach, our stomach is like, “I don’t need to make hydrochloric acid.”

But that’s the problem. Like I said, you’re not going to pull your minerals, you’re not going to protect against pathogens. But then, you can’t give someone hydrochloric acid if they don’t have any protein in their diet. That’s a big problem. I mean, you could. You could give them some, but it’s important to have the protein in there.

Bad breath is actually, believe it or not, a sign of upper GI problems – and loss of teeth. For me, and I do have a lot of clients who decide, “I can’t really eat meat.” They don’t really want to be a vegan, but they just can’t process meat. It sits like lead in their gut especially beef or heavier meat. And so they just go, “I can’t really. I don’t really want to eat meat.” You probably really need some digestive support, especially HCl.

I actually have a client who, a year ago, was starting to go vegan. She didn’t want to. We started working together and I got her on the HCL. We had to go really slow. We had to be really careful with her.

After a while, she was doing better and she could eat meat again. And she was thrilled.

She’s like, “I can actually eat meat and I don’t feel sick.” She was just so happy because she didn’t want to be a vegan.

Jessica: That’s great!

Lydia: She couldn’t handle eating the meat either, so we had to help her. We had to give her support.

Another one, and this seems funny, if your sweat has a strong odor. Your body can manifest all these things if your digestion isn’t working properly. And it’s not always the obvious thing like acid reflux or belching. It can come out in your sweat and things like that.

If your stomach is upset by taking vitamins, that’s another one I hear a lot. That can be a sign of a need for upper GI support usually, a need for more stomach acid.

If you feel really full after a meal, just really heavy and really full like there’s a lead bowling ball in your gut or something. People who feel like skipping breakfast, this is so common.

Jessica: It is! We covered that in a separate episode, I can’t remember now. I think maybe number seven or number eight. We covered that pretty much in detail about people who felt like skipping breakfast [inaudible 00:13:30]. I had never considered that low stomach acid could potentially be a reason for that.

Lydia: Yes. And also, you feel better if you don’t eat. There are a lot of people like this. They don’t want to eat because they just don’t feel good when they eat so they avoid it.

Obviously, you can’t avoid eating. So if that’s you, listen up. There are things you can do to help yourself.

Sleepy after meals is another one. So your food can be sitting in there, stagnant and you just can’t process it and it can make you really tired. I’ve had a time or two where I felt like I could just fall right into my plate after I ate in the past.

Another one would be – and these are some signs because of the minerals you’re not getting. Fingernails, your fingernails can chip or peel or break easily, believe it or not. And this is because you’re not getting your minerals. Anemia can be another issue and stomach pains or cramps, maybe even diarrhea. That could be other things too, but any kind of more severe digestive problem, undigested food in your stool. I actually have people write to me and tell me this all the time. They’re like, “Why do I have food? What’s wrong with me?” Well, you just need more digestive support. Take some time.

So there are more things that could be possible issues, but those are some of the key ones. So if you’ve heard any of those and that sounds like you, then you want to pay attention here because we’re going to get into this little bit more.

Jessica: Yes, I hear a lot of those pretty regularly through comments on my site or through e-mails that I get. As I’ve mentioned, supplements or something, there’s always a person that maybe mentions that they can’t take any vitamins or supplements because that hurts their stomach. And so this is a good refresher for me too to be able to direct them.

You have a great post on your site that covers all of this in detail. So I’m going to make sure I refer people to that in the future, so that they can learn a little bit more about that. So now, I’ve got some fresh insight in my head so that I can help more people understand what might be going on whenever they have those kinds of complaints.

Lydia: Yes, it’s one of my most popular posts. And I’ve been doing this for over three years now and I’ve worked with enough people that I’ve seen almost every possible scenario under the sun come up. Everyone is going to be a little different in how they need to approach this issue.

But let’s talk a little bit about heartburn for a second because it’s really common. People are popping acid blockers like candy. Doctors are even starting to recommend them to babies. Babies are taking, what is it, Zantac or Tagamet. I can’t remember. There are so many different ones, I can’t even keep track of all the names of these things.

Jessica: That kills me.

Lydia: Babies are having reflux. Babies have bad problems already too. So, this is not a small issue that we are dealing with. I’m really passionate about this topic and I really want people to understand how their bodies work so they can heal. If you cannot get minerals from the food that you do eat, what good is that? That’s really a big issue right there.

So heartburn, I talked about it just a minute ago a little bit. Heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach irritates the tissue that lines the esophagus. And we’re not even talking about that you have too much. The acid doesn’t belong in the esophagus lining. It’s just not meant to handle it. It will burn and you’ll feel horrible.

The stomach is lined to deal with that environment. Your stomach is equipped to handle that acid. It’s actually an acid-producing machine. So I want to change that thought like, “Oh, too much acid.” No, no. Your stomach is supposed to be extremely acidic when you’re digesting your food. Remember that 0.8, it drops on the floor and burns a hole in it. Imagine what that’s doing in the esophagus.

Acid reflux can actually be caused by a lot of things. Somebody who is overweight can have trouble or a smoker, alcohol, too much alcohol, too much coffee, too many carbonated beverages, eating fried foods. So, those are the bad habits and things. But we can also have other problems too.

But these foods or conditions end up causing the acid reflux by increasing pressure in the abdomen and then it causes the contents to be forced up into the esophagus. Like I said, it will irritate the esophagus and if it’s repeated over time, you’ve got problems.

So this is not something to mess around with and sit there and just say, “I’m destined to a life of taking acid blockers.” Please don’t do that. Please seek help. By all means, it’s really important.

There are also hiatal hernias that people can get and that can be a little bit more of a structural problem that can play into chronic heartburn. That takes a little bit extra help. I’m not going to go into that right now.

But basically, most people are in slow oxidation. What does that mean? We’ll have to talk about that in another podcast, but the majority of people are slowed down. They have tired adrenals. Their body isn’t burning or processing their fuel fast enough to make energy and we get this slowdown function in the digestive system and it causes all these problems.

We also eat in a rush. We don’t chew our food. We eat too much food at one sitting.

I did this the other night. I ate a big, old meal and I did not have my hydrochloric acid with me and I was full. Man! Phew! It wasn’t fun. I know better. I know better than that.

Jessica: It happens to the best of us.

Lydia: But at least I knew the why and I knew what to do after the fact. But it’s not something I do all the time.

But I’m just saying, you could eat a huge meal – and part of the problem is people are eating too fast and they’re eating too much before their body signals that they’re full. And so, they’ve gone ahead and shoveled all the food down. And they’re like, “Oh, my gosh!” partly because they probably have low blood sugar, right?

Jessica: It’s a vicious cycle.

Lydia: It is! It’s a vicious cycle. So this is so common. Seriously, it’s like everybody I work with has this issue going on.

So we have a lot of reason to really stop and focus on this issue. People are eating excessively high carbohydrate diets or eating a lot of sugar. They’re eating the typical standard American diet. This can also contribute to the problem. So we’re in a very vicious cycle, a big conundrum here as a culture with this specific issue of low stomach acid.

Often problems with heartburn are due to a lack of stomach acid. Not too much, like I said, which is what mainstream medicine claims. There are a very few people that are actually hyper acidic. Those are typically my faster oxidizers in a majorly stressed out stage. This is rare.

This can actually be ruled out. So if you’re worried about this being your problem, you can go to your gastroenterologist and they can do this Heidelberg Capsule test. But again, like I said, the majority of Americans are producing too little stomach acid.

And I see this. And one way I see this is through the hair analysis when people have low tissue sodium. We need adequate tissue sodium to help build adequate hydrochloric acid.

Jessica: So that’s a vicious cycle in and of itself, but you may not be absorbing the minerals that you need in order to produce the hydrochloric acid.

Lydia: It’s a huge, ridiculously vicious cycle. And it has to stop. The answer is not a medication. It’s simply not.

In fact, when they created acid blockers, the goal was to put someone on it for a couple of weeks. There are times when this is warranted. I do agree that there are times when someone does need an acid blocker, but it is very short-term. The goal was to put someone on this to help reduce the acid, the problem for a couple of weeks while the root was being worked on.

But the problem is they made them over-the-counter and the doctors aren’t trained in all of this stuff. And so, they’re not educating their patients on what to do to resolve the root problem. And quite frankly, most people would rather pop a pill than take all the effort and energy to figure this out. I’ll be honest. But let’s stop that. Let’s cut it out. And let’s really look at this as a big deal and get to the root of it. There is an answer. It does take a little more effort. But it’s definitely worth working on.

Jessica: I totally agree. And yes, it does take a little bit more effort, but it’s like everything else that we do for our health or anything really in life. Initially, it may seem a little overwhelming and a little intimidating, but you just fight off one thing at a time and then before you know it, it’s just second nature to you. So really, it’s just getting your mind in a better place and understanding what the issue and finding that root cause.

We’re not trained as a culture to look at root causes. We’re trained to take supplements or to take pharmaceutical drugs to mask symptoms. We’re not trained to get to the root of issues.

I think that’s probably our biggest goal for our work, to help people understand that they can get to the root cause of things and that they don’t have to just mask symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Lydia: So let me just really quickly talk about acid neutralizers, acid blockers and proton pump inhibitors. There are so many of these things.

Way back when, we had Tums and Rolaids, Maalox, Mylanta. Those are the common ones back when I was probably a kid. I knew what those were. I’d heard of them. I saw maybe a commercial on TV. Those partially reduce acid. They’re just a relief.

But then, we came in with these stronger, bigger guns, products. We’ve got acid blockers, Tagamet, Pepcid, Axid, Zantac. These partially block the acid.

Then we get all the way up to proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium.

These actually block the acid completely.

This is not good news, folks. They’re a huge moneymaker. They are the third highest of all drugs sold worldwide. And like I said, they were designed for only very short-term use.

This is literally what they were created for. They were not meant to be taken long-term.

And unfortunately, that’s the case.

I’ve had clients who have taken them for a decade or more. That scares the crap out of me. I’ll be really honest. I worry very much about the long-term health of that person.

If you’ve been on acid blockers for a long amount of time, what can happen is they can erode the esophagus. It can lead to even things like cancer, leaky stomach, decreased levels of certain minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, also vitamin B12 deficiency, increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

What do we need for strong bones? Minerals! What do we need to keep our moods stable? Minerals! So people can experience even depression.

IBS. Remember what I said in the beginning. What happens when your food isn’t digested properly in the stomach and it goes through the GI tract? It damages the lining. So then we have people who get IBS and things like that.

You can also increase your risk of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines. This is becoming more of a common problem as well.

So it’s a really huge issue. Women over 50 have an increased risk of hip fracture with the use of proton pump inhibitors especially long-term use. Really, I’m talking about long-term use, not if you’ve taken them the proper way that they were intended, which is only a couple of weeks. That’s not the issue. The issue is when people are on these things for a long time.

So I hope I’m scaring people, I’ll be honest, because it’s no small thing and it’s not something to just turn a blind eye to. It really will affect your long-term health in major way. You might not feel it right away. But in the long run, you’ll start to have problems. And it’s a big deal.

Jessica: You’re covering some information that I wasn’t aware of. So even I’m a little scared. I know what I need to be doing, but it still is scary to think about all of the things that can happen.

Thankfully, I’ve never taken acid blockers, but I know so many people who are. I know some people who are even taking the PPIs, the proton inhibitors. And knowing now what I know, boy, I’m going to make sure that I start sending them some information to maybe help them gravitate away from those. That is scary stuff.

Lydia: Right! And it is a quick fix to some degree, to make the switch, but to repair the damage that’s been done and the deeper issues, that’s not. So people can make a transition and it’s not difficult.

For example, my boyfriend (and he won’t mind me sharing this), when I met him, he had been on acid blockers for 12 years. And of course, in my mind, I’m like, “Holy you-know-what.” I didn’t say that to him at first. So I was like, “Okay, how do I help him? What do I do?

We had many conversations and he didn’t want to believe me at first. We had a little bit of a – well, I don’t want to say opposition, but it took me a little while to convince him. And I said, “Listen. Why don’t you just try what I’m suggesting for a month? And if it doesn’t work at all, like not even a little bit, then you could tell me I’m wrong and go on your merry way.”

And I knew that it would help. So he was like, “Okay.” I was like, “Listen. I really care about you and I know what this means. Would you be willing to try something?” So he was like, “Okay. All right.” And I was like, “Thank god.”

Well, now he tells everyone, “Guess what? I got off acid blockers. My girlfriend helped me. And now, I’m so much better.” Of course, he still has things that need help. But now, he knows that he’s not messing around with that one thing. And it really did work.

So the proof is in the pudding because the anatomy works in a certain way. And when we give our body what it needs, sometimes we have to help it because it’s not doing the job on its own. We have to help it for a while. And most people do need to take actual supplements of hydrochloric acid as their body heals.

Jessica: That’s great that you were able to help him. It’s a good thing he found you. He could save his health.

Lydia: Oh, man! Yeah.

And now, we’re starting to see there’s actual research. They’re starting to gather research.

In fact, I’ll link to this one article from researchers at Stanford University. They are actually starting to collect information about the downside of these medications. And the real problem is the way they’re being used.

If we use medications to rescue us in a sense rather than to prop us up for long periods of time, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the original intention of some of these things. But if we’re not fixing the problem, then we’re in trouble.

Jessica: That’s a great way to summarize it. We’re not using things to rescue us in catastrophe. We’re using them to prop us up long term. I love that analogy.

Lydia: Yes. So, I want people to read this article and take a look at it. It’s one of my most popular posts. And every one situation is going to be a little bit different. Some people can go ahead and start supplementing with hydrochloric acid. They could take one at a meal and do just fine and not have any negative side effects. But some people will have some discomfort at first. Some people will have trouble.

It’s something that can be done on your own, but a lot of people might need a little bit of extra support getting through the process. So, it’s something I’ve walked through numerous people. I’ve helped them walk through this process. And so I do have the post. Please read it. Please comment, ask questions. But also know that I do have a health assessment for people available. And it’s just a simple way to get some support if you need it.

Jessica: Awesome!

Lydia: We will make sure you guys have that information. Not everyone is ready to do a hair analysis and you get all this information either. But that’s one way to start really helping all the systems of the body come in a better balance if you’re ready for that step.

But if you want to just start taking the step to get better digestive support, pretty much most people can use hydrochloric acid. So make sure you check out that information and ask questions and share this with other people. Share this with your family and your friends, who you know are struggling or maybe taking acid blockers. And hopefully, more people will start to learn about this very serious issue. I feel it’s very serious.

Jessica: Yes, I agree. This is definitely a big issue. So yes, we’ll make sure that we have the link to the post that we’re referring to. Definitely read those. I have actually been re-reading them too this morning prior to our call. I was skimming back through things.

There’s a lot of good info in there and I plan on sharing this with my friends and family who I know are maybe taking the acid blockers or maybe following mainstream medicine recommendations for heartburn or stuff like that.

So this is really important. You really re-energized me about the importance of this. We forget that our digestion is so important. This is the fundamental place to start with some of our digestive issues. This is definitely good information.

So with that, I think we’re just going to wrap up. We have another podcast coming next week on Tuesday, and we’re going to be talking about metabolism and what it tells us about our overall health.

We can really get a lot of insight into what is going on in our entire body just by what our metabolism is doing. So definitely make sure you come back next week and tune in to that.

Check out all of the links that we’re going to link to as well on the blog post.

We really appreciate you guys listening. If you’re looking to take your health to the next step, next level, but you’re not quite sure where to start, make sure you check out Lydia’s health assessment. That’s a great place to start to start getting your toes wet if you’re new to all of this. So definitely check that out as well.

Lydia: Yes. Thanks so much for listening. And I just wanted to quickly mention. I also have a newsletter. It’s called Heal Your Gut. It’s specific to digestive health and overall health related to the gut health. So make sure you sign up for that because I’m always educating people in that newsletter on a regular basis and you’ll want to check that out as well.

Jessica: Yes, I am a part of that newsletter. I highly recommend it. So make sure you go sign up. We’ll provide you the links. She’s got great information that she shares in that newsletter that she does not share anywhere else. So you really get some good stuff in there. Make sure you sign up. So we will wrap it up. We’ll talk to you guys again soon.

Lydia: Thanks so much for listening. Bye.

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