65—Have you got...

The stomach for it?

Naturopath Lisa Fitzgibbon demonstrates on herself where your stomach sits

Is your stomach growling at you - even when you're not hungry?

I like to think of the stomach as a Volcano God — albeit a grumbly one. It must be appeased with regular, quality offerings in order for it to continue to bless us with good health.

We must revere the Volcano God and give it the respect it deserves, as there is good reason that the stomach is located at the centre of your body (at your solar plexus1). It is at the forefront of your digestive system because it orchestrates the whole process of nourishing, replenishing, and protecting us.

Your stomach’s job is to extract minerals + B-group vitamins from the food you eat, help to break-down protein, activate Vitamin B12, and to kill bacteria in food + drink. And in doing so, to ignite the rest of the digestive tract to perform its duties effectively.

Your job is simple enough — tend to this (digestive) fire:
1— Regularly supply your stomach with good quality food + water.
2—Don’t over-feed your stomach.
3—And whatever you do, never ignore it or take it for granted.

Note: You do not want to anger the Volcano God! Lest it erupt and the human sacrifice it will demand – will be you! (Think hellfire: stomach ulcers, gastric reflux + heart attacks.)

What your stomach will tell you about your diet — if only you'll listen

You may experience the following symptoms — which are directly related to poor stomach function:
Bloating + abdominal discomfort
Flatulence — which can also be stinky!
Feeling ‘full’ quickly
Food intolerances
H. pylori
Mineral deficiencies (e.g. iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium)
Nausea — especially after taking supplements
Peptic Ulcer
Poor appetite
Stomach pain + cramps
Undigested food present in stools

You may also experience the following health issues — which you wouldn’t normally associate with poor stomach function:
Candidiasis — a Candida albicans infection
Chronic autoimmune disorders (e.g. Rheumatoid Arthritis + Sjogren’s Syndrome)
Coeliac disease
Heart disease or heart attacks
Hiatus Hernia
Iron-deficiency anaemia
Menstrual problems
Pernicious anaemia — this is a severe Vitamin B12 deficiency
Skin problems (e.g. Rosacea, Eczema, Psoriasis, or itching)

Note: this list is by no means exhaustive!

What gets digested where

Our three food groups get digested primarily in different parts of our gastrointestinal system.

Digested in the mouth (alkaline) and in the small intestine (alkaline)

Digested in the stomach (acid) and in the small intestine (alkaline)

Digested in the small intestine (alkaline)

If you get a bit of everything on your fork (protein + carbs + fat) and eat everything on your plate, then you will confuse your digestion. You will slow it down, and render it inefficient.

if you want to make your digestion quick and more complete you should consider eating less + separating the food groups.

Note: This is why I’m not a fan of over-complicated recipes.

Poor food combining slows down the digestive system by neutralising digestive secretions. When this happens, you increase the chances of your intestinal flora fermenting your food long before you can digest and absorb the nutrients. When this happens, it initially manifests in your body as gas — bloating, pain, burping, or flatulence.

Note: Not processing protein thoroughly in your stomach puts a great stress on your pancreas (which produces digestive enzymes for all the food groups).


Optimal pH actually varies throughout the body. And nowhere is this better illustrated than in our digestive system. The different environments of each compartment are very important to ignite the next phase (and area) of digestion. These parts work together like a battery — alternating between acid and alkaline; not to make energy but to extract energy from our food:

The mouth should be alkaline
The stomach should be acid
The small intestine should be alkaline
The large colon should be acid.

Naturopath Lisa Fitzgibbon holds a shot-glass of fennel liquid herb alongside its bulb and seeds

Your stomach has a number of important roles — not just fat rolls...


The stomach should churn and gyrate to promote the mixing of food with its digestive secretions.

  1. The stomach helps to breakdown protein

    The only food-group that is broken down in the stomach is protein. (Carbs and fat aren’t broken down at all in the stomach.)

    Note: Poor breakdown of protein is one of the leading causes of food intolerance.  

  2. The stomach breaks down minerals and the B-group vitamins

    These substances need Hydrochloric acid (HCL) in order to be broken down.

    Note: This is why it’s important to take your mineral supplements + B-group vitamins straight after a meal that contains protein.

  3. Stomach acid is necessary to transport Vitamin B12

    HCL activates Intrinsic Factor in your stomach. This substance binds to Vitamin B12 and escorts it into the small intestine for absorption.

    Note: Without the activation of Intrinsic Factor there will be no absorption – resulting in Pernicious anaemia. It would pay to consider that you may have a stomach acid issue rather than a Vitamin B12 deficiency.

  4. Stomach acid kills bacteria in our food

    This helps to protect us from food poisoning or bacterial infection.

  5. Correct stomach function fires up the whole digestion process

    Food entering the stomach is the stimulus for peristalsis to begin (the movement of food along the gut lumen). This mass action is necessary for the absorption of nutrients + the elimination of waste.

There are many reasons why your stomach may not be playing nicely.

  1. You're stressed

    Your nervous system is made up of two parts:
    Sympathetic Nervous System
    Fight or flight. (If you are stressed… YOU ARE HERE.)

    Parasympathetic Nervous System
    Resting, digesting, repairing + breeding.

    It is this latter part of the nervous system that is responsible for your stomach’s action. The Parasympathetic Nervous System brings the blood and energy to our digestive functions.

    Note: This is why you’re told not to eat when you’re stressed.

  2. Your stomach is 'hardened'

    If you’ve ignored your stomach for long enough, it will stop telling you when a particular food irritates it. (What’s the point in it constantly complaining if you’re only going to ignore it, right?)

    Normally the stomach churns and gyrates to promote the mixing of food with it’s digestive secretions. If you’ve just taught your stomach to ‘take it’, it doesn’t perform this function very well anymore.

    Note: You don’t toughen up your stomach in this way, you actually just make it somewhat mute in the short-term (with its vague rumblings). In the long-term it will have the last say about your health, when it can finally ‘take it no more’.

  3. You have leaky or weak stomach sphincters

    You can lose the integrity of the muscular flaps that keep food + acid safely in your stomach. You can do this by putting too much pressure on the stomach via any of the following methods:

    Pregnancy OR being overweight OR having dysbiosis (having an imbalance between your good + bad bacteria).

    Jogging/running OR smoking OR eating fried food OR eating chocolate OR drinking coffee OR drinking alcohol OR drinking “Fizzy drinks”.

    Eating too much food OR by not consuming or digesting adequate amounts of protein + minerals (as these nutrients strengthen sphincters).

  4. You're not getting enough of the B-group vitamins or Zinc.

    B-group vitamins and zinc make HCL.

    Note: Ironically, HCL is necessary to breakdown B-group vitamins and zinc.

  5. You're taking drugs + drinking alcohol!

    The consistent use of NSAIDS (non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs) + aspirin + alcohol will prevent your stomach from making the necessary buffer (mucous) it requires to protect itself from the gastric acid it produces.

    Note: Antacids + Proton pump inhibitors + H2 Receptor antagonists also disrupt correct stomach function.

I'm not a fan of the use of antacids.

There are two categories of Antacids:

Short-term relief
You use these as required. Examples of these are  Gaviscon + Mylanta + Quickeze.

Note: While ideally I would recommend that you not use medication at all for stomach issues, I realise that in some situations – for quick relief – these may be a relatively convenient option.

Chronic (long-term) use
You use these everyday to prevent any issues. Examples of these include:
Proton pump inhibitors  e.g. Omeprazole/Losec, and H2 Receptor antagonists e.g. ranitidine + cimetidine

All antacids work against stomach acid. With long-term use this can cause a number of digestive issues + seemingly unrelated health issues. This is because these medications actually interfere with the digestive process and disrupt gut microbial ecology.

Lisa says:

Encourage the production of HCL — never the suppression of it.

Contrary to what most people think, the over-secretion of gastric acid is rarely a factor in any digestive issue. This is because, under normal circumstances,  your body also produces protective factors to shield your stomach from the acid.

You’re more likely to be producing too little gastric acid — and also too little protective factors (mucous).

Naturopaths can address the underlying issue for this occurrence, whether that be stress related, a nutrient deficiency, or some unrelated health concern that requires you take NSAIDs (e.g for headaches or Osteoarthritis).

Natural options for short-term relief of Heartburn.

There are several remedies you can use — instead of medication — if you’re experiencing heartburn (or rather poor digestive function).

Meadowsweet is a herb that reduces gastric acid, and Slippery Elm is a herb that physically protects you from gastric acid.

‘Nat Mur’ (Sodium Chloride) is a Tissue salt that is antacid in nature, or you can use other alkaline mineral supplements e.g calcium + magnesium.

Note: The Tissue Salt ‘Calc Fluor’ is helpful to reinforce the integrity of sphincters.


If you have a small intestine or large colon digestive issue, the root cause of this problem may actually stem from poor stomach function. It would pay to focus up-stream if you suffer from the likes of:

— Candidiasis
— Coeliac Disease
— IBS or

Note: I would actually recommend you consider your stomach health in all respects to your general good health.

You might have a small intestine or large colon digestive issue, but the problem actually stems from poor stomach function!

Make an appointment with Lisa

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.

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