Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Optimize Gut Health to Slow the Aging Process

"All disease begins in the gut"   Hippocrates

In this series of blogs based on my new book: "Vibrant Midlife Aging and Wellness: Natural Ways to Slow the Aging Process,"  introduced the:
"5 Keys to Healthy Aging."

These 5 key health areas need to be optimized if we want to slow the aging process and prevent disease; otherwise premature aging is more likely to occur.
So, here is the first key to high level health and aging:

#1. Optimize Your Gut Health

Leading-edge science now confirms what Hippocrates proclaimed over 2,000 years ago-that "the foundation of our health is in our gut." A well functioning gut is vital for strong  bones, joints, skin, immunity, brain function, mood health, and our vitality.
Basically, our overall health depends on a healthy gut. 

Many times we aren’t aware that we have gut issues because we don’t have the typical symptoms of digestive problems like heartburn or reflux, but gastrointestinal issues affect millions of Americans in distant parts of their body in addition to their GI tract.
There are eight vital components of gut health
  1. Stress Management
  2. Nutritious High-fiber Diet
  3. Mindful Eating (slow and thorough  chewing)
  4. Sufficient Stomach Acid (HCL) levels
  5. Sufficient Digestive Enzymes in saliva and intestines.
  6. Beneficial gut  bacteria
  7. Healthy intestinal lining
  8. Daily bowel elimination
Weakening digestion (low stomach acidity) and mal-absorption problems are a very common issue for many of us in middle age.

In fact, it has been suggested that stomach acid declines by half after age 40, and about 50% of individuals over 60 suffer from low stomach acid production. (Low HCL)

This can hinder the digestion and absorption of the nutrients in the foods that we eat.

In addition, undigested food can decay, build up and become food for opportunistic health-impairing microbes.

Without proper HCL, the pancreas and liver will also under-function.

Our digestion and absorption of proteins, minerals, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 can be especially compromised due to impaired HCL output; resulting in nutritional deficiencies.

It’s important to note that if you have a stress-filled life it’s more than likely that you have low acid levels, as stress suppresses stomach acid production.
Stomach Acidity (HCL) Functions
  • Breaks down proteins so they can be absorbed. 
  • Separates/ionizes minerals from foods so they can be utilized.
  • Extracts vitamin B12 from food
  • Supports vitamin C absorption
  • Kills harmful bacteria that come from our mouth or from our food
  • Supports our immunity
 Low Stomach Acidity (HCL) Quiz. We are not what we eat, but what we absorb!
Check symptoms if they occur regularly. One or more checks indicate possible deficiency in stomach acid production.

Excess burping, gas, bloating, and/or heart burn immediately after eating a meal
Undigested food in stool
A feeling of heaviness in the stomach post meal- Food just sits there
Feeling nauseous when taking supplements; Not craving meats due to difficulty in digesting them.
Having intestinal parasites, candida overgrowth or dysbiosis
Indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, or difficult bowel movements
Weak, cracking, spoon shaped and ridged nails 
Iron deficiency anemia or low zinc levels
Having multiple food allergies or  sensitivities

One of the most important things that we can do to prevent disease and to sidestep accelerated aging is to ensure that we have sufficient stomach acidity.
There is a very easy home test to determine your stomach acid status utilizing baking soda, water and a timer. It’s a good idea to test yourself from time to time to ensure proper digestion and absorption of your food. I tested myself this morning, and had a positive result. Here is the test:

Home Baking Soda Stomach Acid (HCL) Functional Test
Upon rising, drink ¼ tsp. baking soda with 1 cup water; then time yourself. A loud burp should come up within 1-5 minutes if you have adequate HCL levels. (Due to the reaction between an acid and an alkaline compound)  

If a late burp, or no burp- poor HCL levels are indicated.

*There is a standard dietary supplement known as Betaine HCL with Pepsin that is widely used to support HCL production. It will also help you to reverse your symptoms and to digest and absorb your foods optimally.
A very common cause of poor stomach acidity in middle-age is zinc deficiency. Zinc is a vital mineral for all areas of health as it has over 200 functions (enzyme reactions) in our body, and we have an increased need for zinc as we age.

Zinc is required for proper liver functioning and detoxification, and for brain and mood health. Additionally, zinc is needed for good sleep, proper immunity; and thyroid, sex hormone, prostate and skin health. It's also important for prevention of eye diseases and arthritis. Fortunately, you can easily determine your zinc status at home using a natural product known as Zinc Challenge by Designs for Health. See below for more info on this home test.

Note: Individuals with GERD (reflux and indigestion) may have excess stomach acid production, or ill placed acid in the esophagus and will burp immediately. An excess of stomach acid is also not optimal. To test if you have excessive stomach acid production while having reflux symptoms: take 1 tsp. baking soda with 1 cup water; If your GERD is resolved with baking soda- then excessive or ill placed stomach acids are indicated. If it is resolved with 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup water; it may indicate low stomach acid levels. Test for H. Pylori antibodies when suffering from GERD.

*Another way to determine HCL status is through Lab testing known as the Heidelberg capsule test.

The following chart lists a few tips to increase HCL production:                

For very low HCL stomach acid levels: (flatulence immediately after meals) Take Betaine HCL with Pepsin:  Take 1-4 Betaine HCL capsules before meals. Start with one capsule before your first meal and build up by one capsule until a slight burning sensation is felt, then back-off by one. This should be the optimal dose to support protein digestion. Stomach acid levels may improve with stress management and improved nutrition. Some people need to take 4 capsules, and others only one. 
Option one- for mild HCL support: Drink the juice of 1 lemon in 6 oz. of water shortly before meals (stimulates HCL)
Or option two-for mild HCL support: Drink  1 tsp-3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar with one cup water shortly before meals (stimulates HCL)
Eat bitter foods; such as arugula, dandelion, and parsley 15 min. before eating, to help stimulate stomach acid production, or buy "Swedish Bitters."
Drink home-made bone stock to improve long-term HCL production (glycine-rich)
Avoid drinking liquids with meals, (except lemon or vinegar water)
Liquids dilute stomach acids.
To increase “digestive fire”: Drink ginger tea before meals, or eat hot peppers, black pepper and other spicy foods with meals.
To repair acid-secreting cells in the stomach/increase HCL: Drink bone stock.
Take supplemental L-glutamine, vitamin B5, zinc, glycine, and DGL-licorice
To prevent gas: Use carminatives: dill, fennel and peppermint with or after your meal.
Avoid chlorinated water, medical x-rays, radiation: they reduce HCL

*Zinc Challenge Taste Test Directions for Determining Zinc Status
No food, drink, or smoking 1 hour before taking the zinc challenge. Take 1 Tbsp. of the liquid Zinc Challenge, and swish it in your mouth for 10 seconds. Observe the flavor.
Four Different Categories of Scores:
Category 1: No flavor at all. Like water. Severe and typical zinc deficiency is present. Greatest need for zinc. Zinc supplementation suggested along with zinc-rich foods.
Category 2: No flavor at the beginning, but later a reaction occurs. Taste described as either “dry,” “fluffy;” like baking soda, or sweet.  Moderate zinc deficiency is present. Some need for zinc. Zinc supplementation suggested, along with zinc-rich foods.
Category 3: A strong, but not necessarily unpleasant flavor is registered immediately, and builds up little by little; minimal zinc deficiency. You can try to build up zinc levels with food alone and by using stress reduction practices. Supplementation can also be of use.
Category 4: An extremely unpleasant flavor is registered immediately. You makes a face immediately, and want to spit it out right away. Good zinc status. Keep doing what you are doing. You are in the minority!
Zinc Supplementation: Zinc glycinate, orotate, aspartate, citrate or chelated zinc for best absorption. Take along with a multi-mineral supplement. Don’t take on an empty stomach, as it will cause nausea.
Optimal Daily Dosage: 15-20 mg if mild zinc inefficiency is present.
Therapeutic Dosage if severe or moderate zinc deficiency is present: 30-75 mg/daily.

Take supplements for 2-3 weeks and retest again with the zinc challenge taste test. If your zinc deficiency is more severe, it may take several months before tasting anything. When zinc levels have normalized stop zinc supplementation and continue eating zinc rich foods: oysters, soaked pumpkin seeds, ginger root, lamb, grass-fed beef, liver, egg yolks, and herring.
Well, I hope I have opened your eyes to the importance of gut health and good digestion.  When we ensure optimal stomach acidity and HCL levels we are more likely to age well. My next post will discuss optimizing another element of gut health: enhancing our pancreatic enzyme production.

To Your Vibrant Health,
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for informational purposes, and is not meant to substitute or conflict with the advice from your physician. It is also not meant for pregnant or nursing women. Do not use this information for diagnosis or treatment of any health problems. Please consult with your physician before attempting any practices in this blog.  Information in this blog is general and to the best of my knowledge is true and complete, and is offered with no guarantees on the part of the author. The author disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this blog.
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