The fact is that most people these days have low levels of stomach acid. The reasons for this include a variety of factors; such as antibiotic, antacid and aspirin overuse. Drinking too many fluids with your meal will also dilute your stomach acid levels to the point where they are ineffective. Even excess stress can shut down the body’s ability to produce adequate levels of stomach acid, or hydrochloric acid (HCl). Know any type A’s with constant digestive problems?
You see, HCl is made naturally in the stomach to help digest our food, and when we have low levels we can experience symptoms that often look like excess HCl, such as heartburn. Most people resort to using antacids at this point, which actually makes the problem worse by further lowering HCl levels. What you might not know, is that stomach acid not only helps digest your food, but keep nasty bacteria at bay by killing them with, well, an acidic environment.
As I write this, I am recovering from a mild’ish bout of food poisoning. Having low HCl levels myself, due to a lifetime of antibiotic overuse and high stress levels, I too am among the masses. I am also a twin, so it is likely that being born first, my sister obtained most of the healthy bacteria that a mother passes along to her child during the birthing process1. I have always had a very sensitive stomach and digestive issues, which I now believe is due to having a weaker microbiome from the get-go. My twin, on the other hand, has an iron tummy (her words) and can eat almost anything.
Thankfully, being a Nutritionist, I know how to help with the problem of food poisoning. There are a couple of things that you can do at the onset of symptoms which will help you to recover faster. You also need to re-balance your electrolytes which become depleted when you are dehydrated as a result of extended periods of diarrhea.
At the first signs of food poisoning, take 2 tablets of activated charcoal, which you can find online for in a health food store. I always have some on hand in my briefcase, and take them along when travelling too. Another remedy is to ingest some high quality food grade bentonite clay. This may be hard to find, and there are concerns over aluminum contamination with some brands; however, this is the brand I use.
If eating dirt isn’t really your thing, then try drinking the juice from some fermented vegetables (not pickled!), as the probiotics will also help to knock out the bad bacteria. In fact, taking probiotics daily will help set your microbiome up to better fend off bad bugs to begin with. Clearly, I have been slacking off with my own probiotic intake recently…
If you are new to all things fermented, check out Donna Schwenk’s site for some great information on this, I love her down-to-earth nature and have both of her books, which are fantastic. You can also take local classes if you are lucky enough to live in a place that offers this. If you live in or near Calgary, classes on fermentation are offered through The Light Cellar, and they sell all sorts of superfoods as well (truly one of my favourite places; I volunteer here too)!
Another thing you can do daily if you have low stomach acid, is to take a digestive enzyme before every meal. This will help boost your HCl levels and digest your food properly. Why should you care? Well, you can only absorb nutrients that you fully breakdown into their basic components by digesting them properly. Plus, as I mentioned, it will help ward off the bag bacteria.
Dehydration is no laughing matter, so when you do suffer from extended periods of diarrhea due to food poisoning, you will need to replenish your electrolytes (these help with essential body functions). I like to use Young Coconut Water, which comes frozen and should last in the fridge almost a week. I dilute the thawed coconut water slightly more than half with unchlorinated water, and then add a pinch of high quality sea salt.
Coconut water is yummy and good for you too! Plus, you aren’t getting all those nasties found in sports drinks and other processed beverages containing potentially carcinogenic dyes and tons of sugar (or worse yet, synthetic sugar substitutes)! If you start to notice the coconut water take on a pink-ish hue, then toss it – it is no longer good.
Well, there you have it folks. I hope this help you when you need it most, because you never know when you will be hit with food poisoning, and having these things on hand will help you get well faster, and reduce the severity of your illness.
Thankfully, I had taken a HCl/Betaine tablet before the offending chicken, and some activated charcoal when I first started to feel ill. I later took some bentonite clay and was drinking my coconut water for a few days afterwards, plus eating my homemade sauerkraut. Without having done these things, I know that my experience would have been much worse. So, give these things a try; you’ll thank yourself later.
Note: If your symptoms are severe, and/or you are not seeing improvement, be sure to seek appropriate medical assistance immediately.