top of page

Gut health: the role of proper chewing, saliva, stomach acid & digestive enzymes

Updated: Sep 5, 2022

The food we ingest needs to be reduced into very small particles in order to be absorbed. Digestion starts in the mouth, with saliva containing enzymes to aid the breaking down of food molecules and chewing our food thoroughly facilitating good digestion & good health.

Once our food reaches the stomach, it undergoes further digestion by gastric juices, including hydrochloric acid with a pH between 1.5 - 3.0, which is comparable to the acidity of lemon juice or vinegar. The acidic stomach environment is needed to activate digestive enzymes to break down big protein molecules into small amino acids, to aid the absorption of minerals and to promote emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine.

If the stomach cells fails to produce enough gastric juices, as in the case of low stomach acid, then food stays for a longer period in the stomach and stomach emptying is delayed. This is experienced as a sensation of fullness, bloating and abdominal discomfort. In some cases, food is pushed back into the oesophagus (acid reflux), producing a heartburn sensation, sour taste and even sore throat. This can lead to chronic damage to the oesophageal mucosa.

The stomach acidity regulates the opening & close of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), a ring of muscles that acts as a gate for the passage of food from the oesophagus to the stomach. Low stomach acid cause relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter and reduces its capacity to close tightly after meals. This presentation is often misunderstood as having 'too much stomach acid' and get further aggravated by the intake of antacids drugs.

The acidic stomach environment also act as a primary line of defense from pathogens that we may ingest in food, so having low stomach acid is a risk factor for gastrointestinal infections. An acidic stomach environment also stimulates the release of the hormones secretin & cholecystokinin involved in the release of pancreatic enzymes which are potent antimicrobials, also bicarbonate which stimulates the growth of healthy microflora and the release of bile, a potent antimicrobial that also protects the integrity of intestinal mucosa.

Unfortunately, most people turn to antacids to manage their acid reflux.

Despite providing instant relief for heartburn, such drugs disrupt healthy digestive function, and causes insidious gastrointestinal problems, including hyperpermeability of the intestinal mucosa or leaky gut, microbiome imbalances, gastrointestinal infections, and reduces the absorption of key nutrients required for the healthy function of your whole organism.

The good news is that low stomach acid and the associated digestive symptoms can be easily corrected with good eating habits and the help of digestive herbal tonics and other specific nutrients in accordance to your physiological and personal needs.

If you are suffering from indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, nausea, gas or abdominal pain you may like to seek the advice of a qualified Naturopath, as per each case should be assessed and treated individually.

Grace Rivas

Naturopathic Practitioner

BHSc Naturopathy

Member of NHAA (Naturopaths & Herbalists Association of Australia)



bottom of page