The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide

Allergy Cooking with Ease

Easy Bread Making for Special Diets

Easy Cooking for Special Diets




Getting to the Root of the Problem -- Digestion

We’ve often heard, “You are what you eat.” This statement is partially true: we can be no healthier than our diet. But just eating a food does not mean we derive benefit from it. We must digest and absorb the nutrients in order for that food to contribute to our health. Therefore, poor digestion is at the root of the food allergy problem both as it contributes to malnourishment and as it leads to the absorption of larger-than-normal food molecules.

Many people with food allergies have impaired digestion. Incomplete digestion of foods which then pass through a leaky gut into the bloodstream is a major contributing factor to the problem of food allergies.{1}

There are several things you can do to improve your digestion. The most basic is to pay attention to how you eat. Try to be in a relaxed frame of mind when you eat. Chew your food very thoroughly. Chewing breaks the food down into smaller particles that can be acted on more easily by your digestive system, starting in the mouth. When you chew well, you begin the process of starch digestion by mixing the food with the enzyme salivary amylase.

Drinking water with meals is a controversial subject. Some have suggested that it dilutes the digestive juices. Using large quantities of water to wash down food rather than taking the time to chew thoroughly is a practice to be avoided. However, studies have shown that a moderate intake of one to two glasses of water with a meal improves digestion by facilitating both the production of gastric secretions at the time you eat and also the secretion of bicarbonate into the small intestine that normally occurs one to two hours after a meal.{2}

The presence of undigested food in the stool indicates a deficiency in the secretion of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, of digestive enzymes by the pancreas, or both. These deficiencies can be helped by supplementation. Digestive enzymes are available as supplements in several forms. For further details about digestive enzyme supplements and how to rotate them, see The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide.

It is estimated that 80% of patients with food allergies suffer from some degree of impairment of hydrochloric acid secretion by their stomachs.{3} This can range from the complete absence of hydrochloric acid (achlorhydria) to a deficiency in the amount of hydrochloric acid secreted (hypochlorhydria). The passage of acidic stomach contents into the small intestine is the stimulus for the pancreas to release digestive enzymes and bicarbonate. Therefore, if you have hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria, you may not secrete digestive enzymes properly even if your pancreas is fully able to do so. This is one of several reasons that hydrochloric acid supplements may be essential to your return to health. However, hydrochloric acid supplements, if not needed or if taken in too large amounts, can cause ulceration of the stomach. Supplementation with betaine-HCl (from beets) or glutamic-HCl (from grains) should be done only under medical supervision. If your doctor suspects hypochlorhydria because of the presence of undigested food in a stool analysis, he or she may do a Heidelberg gastrogram (a test that determines your ability to secrete hydrochloric acid) or may have you take gradually increasing amounts of a hydrochloric acid supplement and report your symptoms to determine your degree of need for hydrochloric acid.

Surprisingly, a common symptom of hypochlorhydria is heartburn. Television commercials tell us when we have heartburn we should neutralize our stomach acid with various antacids, or, even more drastically, take medications which have become available over the counter, such as ranitidine, cimetidine, nizatidine, or famotidine, which reduce our production of stomach acid. For those who have heartburn because of hypochlorhydria, these medications may bring relief of heartburn but could lead to poor digestion and thus to dysbiosis, leaky gut, and food allergies. Before you risk compromising your health with these medications, ask your doctor to help you find out if your real problem might be inefficient production of hydrochloric acid.

In addition to stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid plays other roles in your health. It is essential for the ionization of minerals so they can be absorbed. It is interesting to note that some cases of iron deficiency anemia and other mineral deficiencies can be traced to low hydrochloric acid production. Protein cannot be digested without sufficient hydrochloric acid. This acid is responsible for nearly sterilizing food in the stomach, so insufficient secretion can result in bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. Finally, hydrochloric acid promotes a friendly pH for the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the small and large intestine.{4}


1. Bland, Jeffrey, Ph.D. Digestive Enzymes, Keats Publishing, Inc., New Canaan, CT, 1993, pp. 13 and 15.

2. Ibid, p. 9.

3. Braly, James, M.D. Dr. Braly’s Food Allergy and Nutrition Revolution, p. 73.

4. Chaitow, Leon, and Natasha Trenev, Probiotics, Hohm Press, P.O. Box 2501, Prescott, AZ 86302, p. 12.


The information on this page is abridged from
The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide
($24.95, eBook $13) © 2007


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The information contained in this website is merely intended to communicate material which is helpful and educational to the reader. It is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment, but rather to provide information and recipes which may be helpful in implementing a diet and program prescribed by your doctor. Please consult your physician for medical advice before changing your diet.

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