Maximize Your Progress with Hydrochloric Acid

Written by Mark Coles - Follow on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter

Stomach Acid is more important to your development than you think. Read the latest insights on digestion with tips for improving your own.Are your muscles getting all the protein contained in that 12-ounce steak? Does your immune system enjoy all the antioxidant protection from the vitamins and minerals in organic fruits and vegetables? Do your supplements work as well as the manufacturer promises? There’s a 50/50 chance that the answer is “No.” The reason is that it’s not so much what you eat or what supplements you take, but how much you assimilate.

This statement might seem peculiar, but it is true. I’ve worked with countless athletes who seem to do everything right with their diet and training but make little or no progress in the gym. Their problem can often be traced to low levels of stomach acids, a condition known as hypochlorhydria.

Stomach acid breaks down food, chemically altering it so that the body can extract the required nutrients for proper structure and function, including muscle maintenance and growth. The acid begins the digestion of protein in the stomach and then triggers the pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes and the gallbladder to release bile into the small intestine. The acid is also responsible for killing pathogenic bacteria that enters the body via food. The Growing Epidemic of Low HCl According to functional medicine practitioner Dr. Robert Rakowski, 98% of the US population is deficicient in HCL. Some gastroenterologists are now advancing that it is today's most under diagnosed ailment.

Over the last four years at my training centres we have been doing stomach acid challenge tests routinely. In this time I have yet to see a single successful male over the age of 40 with normal stomach acid levels. Actually some of them are actually achloridic, which means that they make almost no stomach acid. At our Chicago facility, 158 out 160 clients failed the HCL test miserably.

There are many reasons for low stomach acid:

Stress: It has been estimated that we 100 times the stress levels of our grandfathers. Elevated stress levels ramp down HCL production, which ironically prevents the absorption of the nutrients needed for HCL production.

Zinc and Thiamin Deficiency: According to Dr. Harry Eidenier, the production of hydro-chloric acid is dependent on a lot of factors, two of them being zinc and thiamine levels . Zinc and thiamine deficiency will often result in an inability of the patient to produce hydrochloric acid Zinc and thiamine deficiency are omnipresent in North America and beyond the subjective indications of need for both elements, zinc deficiency can usually be identified by a decreased serum alkaline phosphatase or with the zinc tally test and thiamine need by a decreased serum CO2 and/or an increased anion gap.

Gastrin hormone deficiency: This is mainly caused by the abuse associated with regular junk food consumption. This is especially true of those who eat: 1) heavily cooked foods (which contain no live enzymes), 2) difficult-to-digest foods such as red meat or fried foods, 3) highly processed foods, such as those containing artificial preservatives and additives, 4) soft drinks, which contain high amounts of phosphorus, white sugar, and immune-stressing chemicals and 5) barbequed foods, which cause high digestive stress. (The blackened areas of the food contain carcinogenic [cancer-causing] agents.)

Age: Your pituitary loses a certain amount of function with age, and you subsequently produce less gastrin, the hormonal signal that advises your stomach to start HCL production.

The Acid Test

In our land of abundance, it is hard to imagine that our body’s cells could be starving, especially when we consume high-quality food in sufficient quantities. Yet many of our affluent habits prohibit us from properly digesting our food, leaving our cells weak from undernourishment.

If there is insufficient hydrochloric acid (HCl), proteins will pass into the intestine and putrefy instead of being digested. In addition, carbohydrates will also be left to ferment without adequate digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Fat digestion is also dependent on the acid’s influence on the pancreas to secrete lipase and the gall bladder to secrete bile. Poor digestion of these macronutrients means poor absorption of our basic energy sources.

Low stomach acid prevents adequate absorption of essential minerals such as zinc, manganese and calcium because they cannot be ionized for proper absorption. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their estrogen-detoxification properties through the production of Diindolylmethane from Indole 3C, but this extraction cannot occur without an adequate amount of stomach acid.

Low stomach acid also puts you at an increased risk of food poisoning since you are missing your primary defence against bacterial organisms. It has been shown that the drugs that inhibit stomach acid, such as Prilosec and Tagamet, can cause an increase in stomach bacteria and inflammation.

Undiagnosed low stomach acid is linked to various neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s because those ailments are linked to folic acid and B12 status (i.e. no stomach acid, no folic acid and B12 absorption.) In effect, you could go senile just from low stomach acid. Here are a few of the symptoms of low stomach acid:

1. belching or gas within one hour of a meal 2. bloating and fullness shortly after eating 3. bad breath 4. loss of taste for meat 5. nausea after taking supplements 6. brittle fingernails 7. undigested food in stool 8. foul-smelling stools 9. stomach pain 10. desire to skip meals 11. estrogen buildup 12. acne rosacea 13. depression

The Growing Epidemic of Low HCL

After taking numerous functional medicine seminars from digestion experts such as Dr. Nigel Plummer, PhD, from Wales; and Dr. Jeff Baker, NMD, from North Carolina, I realized how important it is to monitor stomach acid. In Wales alone, it is estimated that over 40 percent of the adult population is deficient in hydrochloric acid. In the USA, many experts estimate the deficiency also to be in the range of 40 to 50 percent. Some gastroenterologists are now advancing that it is today’s most under-diagnosed ailment.

Over the last four years at my training centres, we have been doing stomach acid challenge tests routinely. In this time I have yet to see a single successful male over the age of 40 with normal stomach acid levels. Actually some of them are actually achloridic, which means that they make almost no stomach acid.

There are many reasons for low stomach acid, such as B vitamin deficiency, excess carbohydrate consumption, hypothyroidism, food sensitivities, H. Pylori infection, soda consumption and aging. But the most common cause of low stomach acid is actually stress. Stress experts estimate that we now have 100 times more stress than our grandfathers did.

How do you test for low HCL? Here are a few ways:

1. From your blood chemistry screen values, or by a urine test(Tests are available from M10 Fitness) 2. A string test where you swallow a string in order to measure your stomach pH – not a pleasant test, incidentally 3. An examination of the reflex point on your abdomen, an inch below the bottom of the breastbone on the edge of the left rib cage 4. Presence of a zinc deficiency; an insufficient amount of this mineral is associated with hypochlorhydria 5. Presence of vertical ridges on your nails 6. Stool testing(available from M10 Fitness) 7. Amino acid profile tests

Finally, there is a simple test you can do at home. Here is how it is performed:

Step 1 - Have a high-protein solid meal (no shakes). Let’s say for illustration purposes a 12-ounce steak and vegetables.

Step 2 - Eat half the protein, roughly 6 ounces of the steak.

Step 3 - Swallow a 200mg capsule of HCL. (available at M10 Fitness)

Step 4 - Eat the other half of the steak and the vegetables.

Step 5 - Wait 15 minutes.

Step 6 - If your stomach acid is normal, you will feel like you just drank a hot cup of tea. If you feel nothing, you need HCl as a supplement. So what do you do next? At every meal repeat steps 1 to 6, upping the dose one capsule per meal until you feel the burning sensation. So if it takes five meals to get a burning sensation, you need on average four capsules per meal. If you get to seven capsules and you have no burning, stop the test – you are achloridic! Most people achieve normal levels within eight weeks even when they start at seven capsules, but some individuals take as much as 18 months. I have two clients who need two caps a day permanently. Why? Because neither one will ever escape their stress levels - one of them is a real estate mogul, and the other is a highly accomplished author.

One of the most common positive effects our clients get from HCl therapy is enhanced sleep. Why? Because they are finally absorbing the supplemental magnesium they have been taking. Minerals need an electric charge to be absorbed. You need sufficient HCL to provide that charge to the minerals. I had a client, a former Olympian in bobsleigh and former national weightlifting team member, go from an erratic four hours of sleep each night to a sound eight hours after three days of HCL supplementation.

Over the last four years, I have been amazed how a correction in HCL deficiency has led to not only dramatic improvements in physique and strength but also improvements in a variety of health parameters. Interestingly enough, in strength-trained individuals those improvements are often associated with gains of 15 to 18 pounds of lean body mass within two months! Why? They are now absorbing proteins and minerals.

Article by Charles Poliquin


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