Small appetites and itchy skin

Q. I have a very small appetite but eat often and healthily. Sometimes my stomach just doesn’t feel right and — here’s the strange part — if I eat something I start to feel a lot better. I rarely eat meat or dairy products and I never have a burning sensation. Sometimes after eating I feel very tired — as if the digestion of the meal is very difficult. Is this because of low stomach acid?

A. Low stomach acid is at the root of many digestive issues, including acid reflux conditions. It certainly sounds as if your stomach is not producing enough acid, given the symptoms and problems you describe, especially since your diet is so very clean and healthy.

In the late 1930s Dr Hugh Tuckey began researching patients with optimal and balanced diets. After following hundreds of individuals for 30 years he found that even these people with such healthy lifestyles were having issues with bloating, gas, bad breath, constipation, and indigestion. Dr Tuckey discovered that gut health was the root cause of the symptoms and confirmed this through almost immediate eradication of all symptoms with HCl (hydrochloric acid) supplementation.

Low levels of stomach acid often leads to reflux conditions due to the stomach holding food longer. The HCl naturally present in the stomach is mixed in with this food, which is then churned and passed through to the small intestine. When you are low on HCl, some of this food/acid mixture is typically regurgitated into your oesophagus, causing the burning sensation as the acid reaches the delicate lining of the throat. While antacids may ease this discomfort in the short term, they often make it worse.

A burning sensation, often linked with high levels of stomach acid, actually indicates low levels of HCl. Sufficient levels of HCl work to protect the chewed food from putrefying and creating gas, with one of the key signs of low HCl being an inability to effectively digest proteins and empty the stomach as quickly and completely as it should.

Since you mention that you have this difficulty, along with a small appetite and digestion-related fatigue, I believe your assumption regarding low levels of stomach acid is well founded. Supplementation with a digestive aid (containing Betaine hydrochloride/HCl and Pepsin), in combination with digestive enzymes and a quality probiotic, is the regimen which has been shown anecdotally to restore intestinal balance where low levels of stomach acid are causing digestion to slow down, or triggering reflux.

Viridian’s High Potency Digestive Aid, available from health stores, costs e21.75 for 90 capsules and contain digestive enzymes as well as Betaine HCl. Do not take these if you also suffer from stomach ulcers.

Q. I have very dry itchy skin, mainly on my thighs. It bleeds when I scratch and it keeps me awake at night. I have tried a selection of creams and used 1% hydrocortisone which helped, but the rash returned after a week of using it. What do you suggest?

A. Most skin conditions are an indication that your internal health needs some balancing — in many cases it is as simple as adding essential fatty acids to your diet; however, it can also indicate a food intolerance to certain ingredients.

There is a great deal of evidence supporting the use of fish oil supplements to help manage itching skin and rash type symptoms, particularly the active agent, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). MorEPA capsules from Healthy and Essential (www.healthyandessential.ie) have a high EPA content, and are tasty and chewable — a definite bonus where fish oil consumption is concerned. It is also worth taking a closer look at everything you use on your skin — soaps, detergents, toiletries, shampoos, moisturiser — even washing powder. Anything that comes into contact with your skin can be a potential irritant. Using natural products and minimising your contact with synthetics and irritants will help considerably. Including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, and excluding common allergens such as wheat and dairy can also help to manage your skin symptoms.

Vitamin D is another very important supplement to address skin troubles — with most people having some degree of deficiency in this hormone, particularly as they get older. Just 20-30 minutes in sunlight during the main part of the day without any form of sunscreen will typically produce around 20,000IU of vitamin D, which can be stored by the body to be used when necessary. Unfortunately it is not always possible for people to spend this much time in the sun without some form of protection, which is why I generally recommend vitamin D supplementation of around 4,000-6,000IU daily.

Coconut oil is a wonderful remedy for dry and itching skin, and can be used both internally and externally. Make sure that you use an organic, virgin, and cold pressed oil — avoid deodorised and refined products. Coconut oil also has antifungal, antibiotic, and antiviral properties. Apply externally as required, and use between 1-3 tablespoons daily as an internal remedy. You can add it to a juice, smoothie, etc.

If you prefer a readymade cream, then check out Themba, a cream made from the Kigelia africana tree.

Biocare’s vitamin D3 2000IU drops are available from health stores where 15ml costs e12.95. Themba cream is available from The Little Herbal Company (0044-1484-689807; www.littleherbal-international.co.nz).


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