Digestive problems are commonplace. Proper levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach are necessary for the optimal health of all metabolic types and for absorption of vitamins and minerals. The pancreas alkalinizes the stomach contents as they leave the stomach and enter the intestines. As we age, most of us do not have enough stomach acid, which is evidenced by excessive burping after meals, uncomfortable fullness or pressure after meals ("like a rock"), or having a small, "bird-like" appetite, able to eat only very small portions. Many times, doctors prescribe drugs to further block the stomach's production of hydrochloric acid and patients pop Tums like they're going out of style, thinking that the indigestion and discomfort that they are experiencing a short time after meals is "heartburn". My doctors had me taking Cimetidine (Tagamet), Ranitidine, and other prescriptions, along with tons of antacids before I realized that I had too little acid rather than too much. Now I take one Betaine HCL in the middle of my breakfast and I have no discomfort or need for antacids all day long -- and it took me over 15 years and seeing 5 different doctors, some gastroenterologists, to figure this out!
Taking Betaine Hydrochloride or 2 tsp of organic, unpasteurized apple cider in some water with a meal helps acidify the stomach but not necessarily the blood; it can increase absorption of vitamins and minerals and help you alkalinize. If you take too much Betaine HCL, it can acidify your blood. I use this to advantage, since I'm a protein type (Parasympathetic) and need to take certain additional foods and supplements because of my trouble with cancer, etc. and I don't want them to throw me out of balance even though I'm mostly following the protein type diet. Although the body struggles to maintain the blood pH at a constant 7.46, the urine pH is not constant and should not be; it normally cycles between about 7 (4am - maximum alkalinity) and 5 (4pm - maximum acidity) each day. I've found, by measuring my saliva and urine pH at 8am and 4pm, that by taking 1 Betaine HCL with breakfast, 1 with lunch and none with supper that my urine pH averages 6.0 (as it should) and my saliva pH averages 6.5. It's best to wait at least two hours after eating before measuring pH.
Urine pH is measured mid-stream, and not from the toilet bowl (you don't want to test the pH of your public water supply). I use pH test paper with a range of 4.5 to 7.5, but there are test papers with wider range, such as 0-13, and pH test meters available, which are helpful if you are out of range of the 4.5-7.5.
It is best to use foods and appropriate amounts (and forms -- see "carriers" on my first Metabolic Typing page) of supplements to balance your metabolism, but if there are certain additional foods that are therapeutically necessary (such as extra lutein, ellagic acid, enzymes, cruciferous vegetables needed to fight cancer but not necessarily acidic or alkaline), you might take Betaine Hydrochloride with some or all meals, and/or Buffered Ammonium Chloride with and between meals to increase your acidity, or bicarbonates, such as Potassium Bicarbonate and Magnesium Bicarbonate, to increase alkalinity. A little goes a long way. Be sure to wait for the normal lag time: it may take as little as 20-30 minutes before you begin to see a change. Monitor your urine pH closely, checking at first every half hour to get a sense of the dose you can tolerate. Start with the more subtle alkaline pancreatic enzymes, alkaline minerals, etc. (e.g., potassium citrate, magnesium citrate or carbonate) before resorting to the stronger bicarbonates.
Note that you don't want to take Betaine HCL on an empty stomach, but rather in the middle of a good size meal. Also, you can break the tablets in half and take 1/2, 1-1/2, etc., rather than just whole tablet amounts (1, 2, etc.) Take them with enough water or food to push them down into your stomach -- you don't want them to stay stuck in your esophagus for a long time. If you experience a "warmness" or burning a while after a meal, neutralize the acid with Tums or etc., and reduce the amount of Betaine next time (or consider using raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar instead).
Betaine HCL can be used in cases of extreme, resistant alkalinity as a powerful balancer to offset alkalinity. It can also be used as a digestive aid in moderate amounts with a urine pH within the normal acidic range (5-7, averaging 6). If needed, Betaine HCL can be balanced with additional minerals (such as Calcium for Protein Types, or Magnesium/Potassium for Carb Types) or pancreatic enzymes after meals -- such as the case where someone lacks enough stomach acid for digestion but the urine is too acidic already.
Determining the best digestive support may require some time. Follow an organized process of trial and error as you incorporate your understanding of pH and your digestive needs. Your stomach, fortunately participates by responding with clear signs of positive or negative feedback. Inappropriate supplements will aggravate problems and the correct supplements will ease your discomfort. As with all supplements, combine digestive support with pH control, balanced meals, adequate fluid intake and most of all, start with low, divided doses.
Always contact your doctor if you experience sudden, severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Low Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) Signs:
Excessive burping after meals Uncomfortable fullness or pressure after meals ("like a rock") Having a small, "bird-like" appetite, able to eat only very small portions
Never use a hydrochloric acid supplement like Betaine HCL or Ammonium HCL when experiencing stomach pain.
Start by taking low doses of HCL with food. Slowly increase this dose while monitoring urine pH to avoid exceeding your comfort range. If you use HCL when urine pH is too acidic you must be careful to balance it (see above). Always stop taking HCL at the first sign of discomfort.
Insufficient Pancreatic Enzymes Signs:
Delayed indigestion or fullness after meals Loose, frequent stools Lower abdominal discomfort after meals Difficulty digesting fats
Pancreatic enzymes are alkaline and can be taken without having to balance them (with HCL) when urine pH is acid. Note that taking some enzymes with meals help to alleviate the above symptoms. Since these enzymes are used up digesting food, more enzymes can be taken in between meals if one was taking them with cancer.
Hyperacidity, Excess Stomach Acid Signs:
Stomach pain, burning or aching, cramping, spasms Gas and bloating
Hyperacidity refers to an overly acid stomach pH that is accompanied by pain and inflammation. Under no circumstances should HCL or protease enzymes be used until the integrity of the stomach lining is fully restored (i.e., if it's ulcerated). Rebuilding nutrient reserves, balanced antioxidant coverage and comprehensive mineral support selected for pH balance will help speed the recovery of an irritated stomach lining.
Colon Imbalance Signs:
Lower abdominal pain Difficulty digesting raw fruits and vegetables
Also referred to as the large intestine, the colon holds the majority of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. This most distant section is also pH sensitive with the critical balance of good and bad bacteria dependent on the proper pH balance throughout the digestive tract.
The good bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, perform numerous functions essential for a healthy immune system and for efficient digestion. This constant battle between good and bad bacteria is influenced by internal environmental conditions that can limit or encourage bacterial growth cycles.
The normal acidity of the stomach is fundamental in encouraging the survival of good bacteria and the demise of bad bacteria. Adding various strains of beneficial bacteria using probiotic formulas increases the colonies of good bacteria. These bacteria may already be present yet fail to thrive because they lack essential nutrients. Providing carbohydrate-rich "growth factors" called prebiotics (FOS, etc.) is often enough to tip the balance in the favor of the good bacteria. (Prebiotics can cause yeast overgrowth, or encourage the growth of certain bad bacteria, also).
Antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, and probiotics help re-populate the intestinal tract with good bacteria. Overuse of antibiotics has been shown in studies to greatly increase cancer risk by killing off beneficial bacteria (the majority of the immune system is located in the intestines).
(A substantial portion of the above was courtesy of Jan Johnson, author of "The Metabolic Balancing Workbook: The Rhythms of Life")