Like a farmer who spends money to produce a crop and hopes the crop brings in more money than it cost to produce it, our organs of digestion spend their Body-Money nutrients (enzymes, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, etc.) digesting food in hopes that the food will give back more nutrients than it costs to digest it.

When the food we eat gives us a good return on our investment, our energy, vitality, and health are built up. If the food we eat brings in less nutrient Body-Money than we spend digesting it, we walk toward unpleasant symptoms of disease and aging.

How do we know if we’re harvesting rich Body-Money nutrients or if the food we’re eating has lost its Body-Money on the road to our mouths? It’s easy to tell by looking at the package the food comes in. If the word “artificial” appears anywhere, even among the tiny words on the back of the label, it means the food has lost the nutrients that once gave it its rich, natural flavor and color.

What happens to the food when it gets inside our body? This is the topic of the Take Charge Workshop on Tuesday night this week, but I’ll give you a sneak peek into the answer here.

Our body sets up a series of events that puts the food through a nutrient volcano in the first foot of our small intestine. In the workshop, we set off this volcano. It shows us the role each organ of digestion plays in harvesting the Nutrient-Body-Money from our food.

The more we understand about how our body functions, the better we will be able to take charge of those functions and control symptoms like the burning that comes from our stomach.

The burn is no fun to experience, and it comes from the acid. We could ask, “Why does our stomach have to make this bad stuff that hurts so much? Why doesn’t it hurt everybody? Why does it hurt sometimes and not others? It didn’t hurt when I was a kid, so why does it hurt now? What does stomach acid have to do with harvesting energy from food? And why doesn’t the prescription pill keep the problem from coming back?”

Strong Hydrochloric Acid performs many important functions in digestion and is a key player in the volcano. Weak acid doesn’t get the jobs done.

Here are two of the five important jobs that strong acid performs: 1. It wakes up the protein-digesting enzyme, 2. closes the Cardiac Valve (the entrance door to the stomach) so nothing can go back up the way it came in and burn the esophagus.

Even weak acid will burn the delicate tissue of the esophagus when it gets up there where it doesn’t belong.

Every pharmaceutical company makes an antacid medication for this. These medications stop the acid in its tracks. This is a good thing for the esophagus, but the antacid doesn’t stop there. It goes on down into the stomach and neutralizes the acid down there.

Now that the acid has been stopped, who’s going to wake up the sleepy protein enzyme? How is the protein going to get digested? What happens to food that doesn’t get digested? It is not useable by the body. Now that the protein is not useable, how is the liver going to make new cell parts with undigested protein molecules?

How can I know if my stomach acid is weak? Drink four ounces of beet juice on an empty stomach. If the next urine is reddish, suspect low HCl. There isn’t enough acid in the stomach to break down, or bleach, the red pigment, so it shows up in the urine or feces.

If you have heartburn or a feeling of having too much acid, swallow a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. If it makes the symptoms worse, you are producing more than enough HCl. If the symptoms are relieved, you need HCl supplementation.

Drink lemon water before each meal. Recipe: Put 1 oz. of fresh squeezed lemon juice in a glass and 9 ozs. of pure drinking water, with a little bit of Celtic Sea Salt (to taste). This is perfect for hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. Do this when low HCl symptoms are just beginning to appear, or ask Family HELM for their special DIJS Acideze dietary supplement that’s on sale this month.

Until then, take charge.

(Sylvia J. Harral is a digestive health specialist and Michele Stewart is a pilates master trainer. They each have more than 15 years experience. Send your questions by e-mail to; by mail to Family HELM Health Center, 379 N. Hockett St., Porterville, CA, 93257; or by phone at 202-9105.)

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