Low stomach acid & SIBO - Bone broth vs. avoiding liquid at meals?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 31, 2011 at 4:50 PM

I've been dealing with symptoms of leaky gut/dysbiosis for years using diet, with varying success. I've been able to moderate my symptoms, but have not been able to resolve the underlying dysbiosis. (Before anyone asks, I eat tons of fermented foods and have taken various probiotics on and off as well).

Recently I've been wondering if low stomach acid might be involved. I'm going to try the betaine HCL protocol that Chris Kresser recommends for GERD. In that article he also recommends avoiding liquid during meals: "It is also important to avoid consuming liquid during meals. Water is especially problematic, because it literally dilutes the concentration of stomach acid. A few sips of wine is probably fine, and may even be helpful."

I'd like to try avoiding liquid during meals, but not at the expense of my bone broth. Does anyone have any insight as to what the optimal balance might be between less liquid during meals vs. plenty of bone broth?

Another option would be to have bone broth separate from meals, but that would inconvenient and would also decrease the fasting time between meals.




on January 24, 2012
at 02:43 PM

Well, I'm pretty sure low stomach acid was not involved. I did the HCL protocol, wasn't sure if I felt the "mild burning sensation" at one pill, but definitely felt it at two. Though I do have some sort of dysbiosis, I've never had a problem with GERD, so it doesn't really surprise me. My stomach acid has been off for the past week or so after stopping the protocol, (now I am getting occasional burning sensations) no doubt a matter of having disturbed homeostasis. Hopefully things will settle back down shortly.

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on December 31, 2011
at 05:01 PM

I am in the camp that believes that it's generally a good idea to keep eating and drinking separate (after all, Grok was not running around with a bottle of Evian to consume with meals).

What I'd probably do -- at least as a test to give the HCL protocol a chance to see if it helped symptoms -- is consume bone broth 15 minutes or so prior to a meal. That wouldn't affect your between-meal fasting time by much.

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on January 03, 2012
at 07:27 AM

I have thought about this question myself quite often and from all I have read about drinking liquids with meals, there is no hard science showing it is either good or bad, just a lot of theories and anecdotes. Therefore I have come to my own conclusions about the subject based on common sense and some basic knowledge of biochemistry.

I think the amount of liquid consumed during a meal and its composition are equally important. I agree with Chris Kresser's recommendation to avoid water during meals because it does dilute stomach acid (I haven't disagreed with anything he has said to date, so no surprise there). However not all liquids dilute stomach acid during meals and some liquids actually work with your body's production of HCl to improve digestion, because such liquids are acids also and lower the pH of your stomach like HCl does. Lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and water kefir (my favorite of the 3) are the best examples I know of in this category of liquids that improve digestion.

Regarding the amount of liquid consumed during meals, I think a good rule to follow is to consume no more liquid during a meal that is not part of the meal than the amount of water you consume naturally in the foods you eat. All foods contain a certain % of water because all food was once a living organism, and virtually all living organisms contain water. So as long as you don't drink more liquid during a meal than you consume in the food itself it shouldn't dilute your stomach HCl significantly.

As for bone broth, I don't know what its pH is, but my opinion is that it is nutrient dense enough that it shouldn't dilute your HCl enough to cause problems. Also many cultures that are healthy and live long lives around the world consume bone broth without any problems, so that shows it doesn't cause digestive problems for healthy people. Since you have leaky gut and/or dysbiosis, I would try having small amounts of bone broth with meals and see how it makes you feel. If it doesn't cause any problems then increase the amount to what you are most comfortable with.

Lastly, personally I wouldn't worry about consuming bone broth between meals because of how easily it is digested and my educated guess is that it is relatively low in calories (no definitive data online).


on December 31, 2011
at 04:58 PM

Hmmm...I did food combining for a long time--balancing acid alkaline principles. They advocate no liquid at meals but better to drink before than after. I would say take your bone broth first and then eat solids. Also..according to their principles if you add some veggie and meat to the broth but no starches your digestion is better for that meal.


on December 31, 2011
at 10:38 PM

I have pretty sensitive digestion (Crohn's will do that) and immediately notice symptoms if I have water in the 30 minutes prior to a meal. However, with broths I have been able to slowly sip them in that half-hour lead up with no ill effects. Perhaps this kind of liquid is an exception..? Of course I'd drink 1 cup or less and it was really sipping. I took my time.



on December 31, 2011
at 06:10 PM

I drink 3-4 oz of kombucha with my meat meals and have noticed that it works better than the betaine HCL ever did.

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