Bitters and Digestive Secretions: Spotlight on Hydrochloric Acid

By now you may have heard the good news: that regular use of bitters is one of the very best ways you can support digestive health. Among a laundry list of other benefits, tasting something bitter promotes digestive secretions which helps us break down and assimilate our food efficiently and effectively. Hydrochloric acid (aka stomach acid or HCl) is one of these secretions. And there are plenty of reasons why you want adequate levels of it around before you sit down for your next meal.

HCl is a bit of a superstar, really, when it comes to digestion. The highly acidic secretion’s jobs include killing unwanted bacteria, helping liberate vitamin B12 from food for absorption, and breaking down protein. All of these are indispensable to our well-being. Keep in mind, also, that sufficient protein breakdown isn’t just about ensuring proper assimilation of this critical building block. It’s about preventing gas formation, too!

Beyond these functions, HCl is required for keeping the gastro-esophageal sphincter (the valve separating your stomach from your esophagus) closed. Why is this important? Because a closed valve prevents your stomach’s contents from climbing up into your esophagus, which is a frequent cause for heartburn. So while the common approach in this instance is to take something that lowers stomach acid, it’s quite possible that doing so would actually be a disservice in the long run. In the case of occasional heartburn, consider supporting adequate secretion of HCl instead. For this, some people find taking bitters before a meal works well, while others find that a few drops after meals is best.

Given all we know about HCl alone, bringing bitters to the table might be exactly what your body wants. As we like to say at Urban Moonshine, #tastebitterfeelbetter!


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