“...I am convinced that in a large percentage of cases, depression is the result of a neurotransmitter deficiency which is most often due to low stomach acid. In over 50 percent of cases, depression is treatable by supplying (relatively) large quantities of the essential amino acids.”
In this post I will share my gut healing road and a book that taught me about the way digestion works and how to take care of my gut specifically. After reading more about gut health I could see the real ways that others had healed various conditions with food and lifestyle. The book: Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. addresses stomach acid and why we need it, how digestions helps us to absorb and use the nutrients in our food, the truth about antacids and NSAIDs (such as aleve for example), the immune system’s connection to gut health, and the connection between mental/emotional balance and gut health.
I recently sustained an injury that has not allowed me to do a lot of cardio, yoga, or chopping of food that I love to do. I had to learn to ask for help - man was that embarrassing to realize how hard that is for me! I felt the judge rise up inside me and say, what’s wrong with you? The reality: nothing. A real woman knows how to ask for help ;-) I figured out what I COULD do in the kitchen and with exercise and I chose to move forward. I walk 4-7 miles and am now up to 30-45 minutes of yoga a day so don’t loose hope if you are in a similar boat! I am paying attention to portions of fat and yet I have lost weight eating mainly veggies, protein, and quality fat.
When I first was injured my doctor explained I could take aleve as it is a muscle relaxer and I sustained a muscle injury and more. I followed because I was in a lot of pain. And secretly, I thought I was above the negative affects of NSAIDs because I have been very active and healthy in my life. And I'm just soo coo as an alternative lady, raised by hippies on the sea, lived in Colorado and Northern CA ~ I'm untouchable right? ;-) You know that kind of new age high? I thought: they won’t be that bad. I was cocky. I was WRONG. Two aleve twice a day for three months destroyed the inner lining of my stomach and that was over a year ago. Still healing! I am getting a lot better and yet my alternative route has not been simple or easy. And I have made peace with that. Ultimately I can’t deny that I am starting to feel stronger and like I have a capacity for more emotionally despite the rough patches I go through. And I know the physical strength will come. I do feel the return of more movement and strength every day. I still have the fire in my belly and the curiosity of heart! That basic goodness and inherent capability is always there even when the clouds devour temporarily.
I experienced a lot of bloating, gassiness, and pain after eating. Sometimes I would look pregnant! Not that I don’t love pregnant bellies and yet it was scary. My doctor told me you’re young, you’ll heal. And I just wasn’t. So I decided to do a Whole30 program (which I have extended to 60 days) with my best friend for support. I stopped eating grains, sugar, legumes, dairy, and processed foods with trans fats/hydrogenated oils in them. I have also not been drinking alcohol. It’s extreme and yet I am feeling better slowly :)
Feeling knocked down by an injury and not being able to digest well as a nutritionist feels bad to say the least ;-) I felt I should be better, I should know better, and I was harsh. I have found meditation to also be a great friend to these experiences of self-deprication and hopelessness. Pema Chodron is my favorite teacher.
So by mixing together softening and letting go of many of the things in life I want to change, making time to take care of myself and be creative, seeing a physical therapist, a masseuse, and an acupuncturist, meditating and doing yoga as strengthening, eating specifically to manage inflammation and create the easiest environment for healing in my body, I am starting to notice that these all go together well for me :) Once I started cleaning up one area of my life (food and eating) the other areas that need attention seem to arise right when I am up to my next challenge. I don’t particularly believe in a g~d and yet I am down with the idea of life force. I think we are built to thrive and not to just survive. I figure we wouldn’t be here if our particular make up of gifts weren’t needed or on-point. Regardless of belief, I like the idea that what we need shed/let go of next comes up when we have the capacity to address it. If we are brave, we can heal. This whole processed has truly shown me the importance of slowing down, listening to my body, and sticking with myself as opposed to giving up. It’s been a teacher I’ve wanted to throw out the window and yet I am starting to see the good. Pain sucks I get it and yet it really is the juicy stuff.
To read more about my journey making friends with my gut and learning to take care of her check out: Into Injury ~ Softness Where I Expected Strength
The book: Why Stomach Acid is Good for You by Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. helped me to understand how digestion is supposed to work. Most of us are NOT taught about the importance of stomach acid and its job. I feel it is a basic human right to be trained to take care of ourselves! When our world falls short of imparting this knowledge, I read books like this. This book and the study digestion have changed the way I approach healing. Everything is interconnected. I thought I knew and practiced this. I see now that I used to target one part of my body or health that was out of whack on its own first. For example, if I drank a little too much wine on any given trip to Napa Valley I’d say, gotta give the liver some love. I’d do a little more yoga/running/hiking that week, drink water, and possibly do a liver cleanse from Whole Foods.
One of my concerns is that we are taught to compartmentalize health when really everything needs to work together for us to feel good. Also, the order in which we heal our body matters.
Where does healing start? It begins with healthy digestion
In Jonathan V. Wright’s book, Why Stomach Acid is Good for You, he explains that given beneficial digestive conditions and the time to heal, most people can attain healthy digestion. This includes people who start off with chronic heartburn (and more specifically Wright refers to LES: lower esophageal sphincter valve imbalances). Wright challenges the agendas of big pharmaceutical companies and FDA's (Federal Drug Administration) rules. Companies with power put up roads blocks that make it difficult for smaller healthcare professionals or organizations to get alternative methods of healing approved that don't have big money behind them.
Wright questions the morals of these big companies that produce acid-suppressing drugs (especially those that are sold over the counter) such as Tums, Pepcid, and many others. Unfortunately, when these drugs are sold over the counter people can be taking them more often and for longer periods of time than is helpful. These drugs were originally created for temporary use. Many Americans are advised to take acid-suppressing drugs regularly by marketing/advertising (which is not concerned with their health) or their doctors who may not know about the detriments these drugs can have over a long period of time. Unfortunately, they are now used not only for too long but additionally with NSAIDs (Advil/ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol for some examples) which all have the potential to destroy the inner lining of the stomach, making it very hard to digest. It is a tricky situation because the symptoms of heartburn created from this overuse make acid-suppressing drugs look very attractive to the unknowing eye. Who would want to believe the drug that is supposed to help is ACTUALLY aggravating the condition? That sounds so consciously harmful.
I beg the question why is acid coming back up our throats (esophagus) at all? What’s the root cause?
The truth is antacids suppress the acid in the stomach. This is harmful because most of the time digestive dysfunction comes from not having enough acid! If this surprises you, you are not alone. The companies in power of these drugs need people to be ignorant of this so that profits do not decline. The American people (and now people all over the world) keep buying acid-suppressing products thinking it will help indigestion when in it is provoking the destruction of the stomach lining.
Low stomach acid causes many problems. If the body does not have the proper acid function it will not create healthy fluid bile (as opposed to stagnant gooey bile). Bile is important as it supports the creation of good chyme. Chyme is the mixture of food and stomach acid which travels through the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestines) to further breakdown and properly assimilate nutrients in the small intestines. If bile is vicious and sticky, our food is in big chunks and is not broken down properly. This means the cells do not get their food. When this is the case, many other imbalances and health conditions can arise. Our food becomes another assault on the immune system.
Wright describes his patient who was losing her sight.
What does beneficial stomach acid have to do with good vision? The client understandably asked.
Wright tested her stomach acid and it was indeed low. He proceeded to give her supplements to help to heal her digestion (always heal first before helping to introduce small acid supplements to aid digestion). After treatment the patient’s eye sight returned almost entirely to normal! What could have so easily been written off as old age and degeneration was helped by improving stomach acid function. Stomach acid is suppressed as we age. Wright starts with digestion with most of his patients. Of course there is always the exception, stomach acid is not always low.
We can support healthy digestion with supplementation. I always recommend doing this with the support of a doctor and a nutritionist if your life permits. Some of the helpful supplements Wright focuses on are, HCl (hydrochloric acid), pepsin, enzymes, and DGL(Deglycyrrhizinated licorice). HCl is produced naturally in a healthy and functional GI (Gastrointestinal system). This supports natural acid production in the stomach. He recommends that people who need to heal their digestion (when referred by a person’s health care professionals or doctor) should take pepsin and betaine hydrochloride at meal time to help the stomach to secret acid and pancreatic enzymes. Much of the time acid production is suppressed. There are tests that can be done to check this. Wright recommends DGL on an empty stomach thoroughly chewed with as little water as possible so that it can have the most targeted contact with the cells of the gastrointestinal lining for healing as well.
Low stomach acid can also be assessed by testing ones mineral content. If stomach acid is low, a person may not be fully absorbing the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) found in food.
Low stomach acid may play a significant role in the worsening of many imbalances and diseases such as asthma, anemia, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, GERD (gastroesopageal reflux disease), auto-immune deficiency diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis, gastric hypochlorhydria, and achlorhydria to just mention a small list. Wright does not claim that low stomach acid causes cancer of the stomach and yet he posits that with more research and scientific/financial backing he would not be surprised if there was a direct connection. He reminds the not-so-ignorant reader that it is important to never forget the drug companies in power have a lot to lose if the greater public were to realize their antacid products were in fact harmful and were to stop using them.
Wright draws the reader’s attention to the fact that there is NOT a lot of money to be made in quality supplementation. When I speak of supplements here I mean the high quality ones from sources such as Biotics Research and not the money making schemes we can buy from Cosco or GNC. Remember, supplements are not regulated/kept in check by a trust worthy source (as the FDA was intended to be) so many companies can take advantage of the desire to be healthy. I go with a quality company so that I know how they regulate their products. I have another blog post on this topic coming soon!
Supplements are meant to be taken temporarily to addresses the root of a nutritional deficiency such as low stomach acid. THIS is why they are not a long term money maker. I do recognize they can be expensive upfront. I see any step such as taking supplements as an investment in health (and as health insurance)! Supplements can support a person into innate health. HCl (hydrochloric acid) works to remind the stomach to produce acid at a good rate for that person and is not intended to create client dependency. People do not need to be on acid supporting supplements for life. Because healing is not based on making profit, a lot of money, resources, and time have not been poured into the study of low stomach acid as the large drug companies do not stand to make oodles of cash off the backs of the sick and dependent. Strong, healthy, capable Americans do not represent a good clientele. Acid suppressing drugs depend on people staying sick.
Via pill pushing we see yet again human health and the human body being made into a commodity that feeds greed and corruption. Capitalism supports this paradigm. The change needed lays in the hearts of those that would address head on the addictions that are holding us back. Talk about starting great change with YOU. I know it’s challenging and yet as Melissa Hartwig say in her book: It Starts with Food:
“It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.” - See more at: WHOLE30.
I know this could rub some folks the wrong way. Eating disorders and emotional attachment with food IS REAL. I don’t deny that. I have compassion as I am going through my own difficult journey of healthy and recovery from injury every day too. I get it. And yet there is always a reason to wait. Is the only body we will get really not a priority?
If not now, when?
The necessary changes require education, changing habits, the relationship to the body, and a desire to thrive in the organic abilities that our amazing, bio- individual selves are naturally built to utilize! No more just surviving.
I want to love the body I got
I learned three major truths from this wonderfully rebellious and eye opening book. First, it is important to take our health into our own hands with the help of health professionals (if we so choose). We are best supported if the professionals we choose recognize that it is important to contradict the modern diet of commerce and to utilize alternative methods of healing. If you can find a doctor who understands that many medical schools and institutions are dependent on corporate drug sponsors, build a relationship with them! I am still searching. I know it's time consuming. Never fear! We can heal a lot of nutritional deficiencies with a nutrient dense whole food diet and with supplemental support that begins with healing the GI.
Second, we are not commodities. We do not have to believe everything we hear from the mainstream medical world. We are right to question why any given research, medical journal, or doctor (not necessarily from malicious intent) is saying/telling us about the drugs we need to take. Many people are prescribed even heavier versions of tums such as Prilosec and Zantac which have a higher concentration of active acid-suppressing ingredients. Prilosec, Zantac, and others are much more detrimental to the GI especially when taken over a long period of time! This can be particularly harmful when given to the elderly in hospitals to make the patient more comfortable when in actuality most of the time it destroys their ability to digest properly and to fight off simple and more serious illnesses which can then lead to fatality.
Low stomach acid can contribute to illness especially because 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut! Stomach acid fights off unwanted germs.
Another truth I gleaned from Wright: be patient with alternative healing. Don't give up. Low stomach acid can be harmful to the digestive system and yet natural cures exist! These remedies take diligence and attention. On the positive side, some alternative healing methods are inexpensive and specific supplements have the power to remind my body of its own capability. Vitality is the body’s inherent state. If we let ourselves we will drift there gracefully. I like to tell myself:
I am 100% capable of bringing my body into digestive function without the assistance of harmful acid-suppressing drugs
Last power truth: I did not realize low acid could be connected to vitamin B complex depletion, amino acids production and absorption, and the body’s ability to create healthy neurotransmitters which has an effect on emotional health! Protein particularly matters because they break down into amino acids who work with good fats as the precursors for neurotransmitters! Proteins are also major building blocks all over the body and we need these from quality sources.
Can you believe our stomachs are connected to depression and anxiety?
Now I can. The body is interconnected. I have known this for years and yet I understand more about the the physiological functions of the body. I feel committed in a new way to my sweet gut knowing it can have everything to do with the health of my heart, mind, and spirit! Thank Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. I respect this man deeply for doing his work and for speaking these truths. It just goes to show all of our individual voices are of vital importance. Speak it.