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Ask Elsa: Stomach issues

Q I have noticed that you mention low stomach acid as being a common cause of digestive trouble. I have many symptoms including heaviness, wind and burping after meals, but how can I tell if low stomach acid is the problem?

A You could start by doing a basic stomach acid assessment. The purpose of this home test is to give you an indication as to whether your stomach is producing adequate hydrochloric acid.

For this test you will need bread soda (sodium bicarbonate -- not baking powder). Mix one quarter teaspoon of bread soda in eight ounces of cold water, first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. Drink the bread soda solution. Time how long it takes to belch.

If your stomach is producing adequate amounts of hydrochloric acid you should probably belch within two to three minutes. Belching results from the acid and baking soda reacting to form carbon dioxide gas. If you do not give a good burp within three minutes then you may need a stomach acid supplement.

If you have not belched within five minutes stop timing anyway. Early and repeated belching may be due to excessive stomach acid.

Keep in mind that other conditions can also cause these symptoms so it's important to consult a health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Q I find that if I'm really tired, my legs start to twitch. It starts as a tingling feeling but if I don't get up and walk around, the twitching starts. It makes me feel very restless and affects my sleep, any ideas what might be causing it?

AI think it's possible that you could be suffering from restless legs syndrome, which is a common condition characterised by the irresistible urge to move the legs. For most, symptoms strike when they are lying in bed at night or after prolonged periods of sitting. The most common symptoms involve feelings of burning, tingling, itching or crawling deep beneath the skin of the lower legs. Severity of symptoms varies but generally moving the legs tends to ease the discomfort for most.

Restless legs can often arise as a result of a magnesium deficiency. I would recommend that you take a magnesium supplement about 30 minutes before bed. Magnesium citrate is an excellent form of magnesium which our bodies absorb well. Good food sources include green leafy vegetables as well as nuts and seeds.

Caffeine, alcohol and smoking can all trigger symptoms so avoid these and get plenty of exercise.

In some cases, low levels of iron can result in restless legs syndrome, so consider getting your iron levels checked to assess if supplementation might be necessary.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie