My regular readers know I've been working on healing a leaky gut (from allergens in my diet primarily -- the elimination diet is rigorous but paying off, by the way).
When I saw my naturopath recently, I asked her about taking hydrochloric acid or HCl, as I was taking it with many of my meals (sometimes 350mg and sometimes 600mg dosages). She advised me to start with the lowest dosage possible and take one tablet more each day with meals until I hit an acidic feeling level and then to back off to the previous day's amount. She noted that this is the naturopath's old-fashioned, low-tech way to assess the level of HCl needed to support digestion.
Excessive levels of HCl can cause havoc with the stomach lining, which, of course, would reverse all my good work with my super-strict diet (no gluten, dairy, eggs, almonds, cranberries, or lima beans -- the joke is always, "ha ha ha, too bad about the lima beans, eh?!"). Thus, I'm being more careful with my HCl intake now.
Now for a quick tutorial for those of you who haven't studied this rather dull-sounding chemical!
Hydrochloric acid helps break down proteins and also plays an important role in signaling to the pancreas to release digestive enzymes and bicarbonate.
In my research, I also learned that HCl also plays an important role in ionization of minerals so they can be absorbed. Iron, calcium, and other mineral deficiencies can be correlated with low HCl production.
I also learned that apple cider vinegar and lemon juice with meals helps stimulate HCL production and that sufficient vitamin B6 (and other B vitamins) is required for HCl production (don't you just love little-known related factoids).
Finally, and quite importantly, HCl helps sterilize stomach contents so that bad bacteria cannot hitch a ride into the small intestine for invasive and destructive colonization.
Plenty of folks over 40 or 50 have insufficient HCl for digestion; heartburn is often linked to low HCl levels and over-the-counter medicines only address the symptom and not the root cause and can lead to poor digestion, dysbiosis, leaky gut and allergies. Supplemental HCl is inexpensive, so the temptation is to just add some into your daily routine without considering dosage carefully.
However, please do be careful with your own self-treatment, as too much HCl can ulcerate the stomach's lining and botch all your finest health efforts. And, supplemental HCl is often best used on a short-term basis, wherein natural HCl production may return on its own.
Ideally, you should consult with your healthcare practitioner regarding supplemental HCl, as many different conditions can masquerade as nothing more than a stomach acid imbalance.