jus de citron

Start the Day Right with Lime and Salt

There is another one morning habit besides the meat and nuts breakfast that yields impressive results with minimal preparation time.

That habit is drinking a glass of water with lime and salt upon waking up.

It is a very effective trick that improves 3 major body systems in one sweeping gesture. In fact, it will positively impact digestion, as well as adrenal function and detoxification pathways.

You are not what you eat but what you absorb

Notwithstanding the amount of anti-acid medication prescribed each year, low stomach acid is actually a VERY common situation.

The field test to assess your level of stomach acid is the HCl test and I’ve been using it since 1994. One of the first thing I do with clients is assess their HCl. The reason is that many supplement or dietary protocol will prove pointless if digestion is subpar. The test is very simple. You only need to swallow a dose of HCl in the middle of a meal and look for symptoms of burning – nothing painful be reassured.

The HCl Test

Say you are having a 400g ribeye.

Eat 200g, take one tablet of 400-600mg HCl

Eat the rest of the meal.

Wait 15 minutes. If there is no burning sensation you are at least 400-600mg HCl deficient.

Next meal increase the dose by 1 capsule of 200 mg. And so on.

Start at 200 mg and titrate up until you feel a burning sensation. Once you do, back off 1 capsule. This is your dosage

Don’t go over 1400 mg. No reaction at this dosage is proof enough that your stomach acid production is poor.

In 22 years I’ve only seen 4 people pass the test at 200mg. Two Danish students and 2 pro soccer players from Cameroun. Bob Rakowski, one of the best functional medicine practitioner, says that roughly 99% of his patients fail the test. So relax, this is not a contest! Participations medals won’t be handed to losers either…


Lemon and lime juice have a chemical structure very similar to HCl, hence facilitating gastric function. They will not only improve acidity levels in the stomach but stimulate its innate production as well. Regulatory and preemptive measure! Upon leaving the stomach, lime juice also triggers bile release. Sea salt acts as a companion to the process. It actually provides copious amount of chloride which is integral to stomach acid production.

HCl levels are critical for vitamin absorption. For instance the Bs: B6, B9 & B12 which are crucial for dopamine production. Mineral assimilation also depends on stomach acidity. In particular zinc, which is itself necessary for HCl production. Zinc deficiency feeds a vicious circle of downward HCl production. Finally of particular interest to the sport enthusiasts, HCl levels are, for obvious reasons, linked to protein digestion.

Additionally, adequate level of stomach acids are integral to the destruction of pathogens that hitch along for a ride with food. Dysbiosis leads to a host of health issues that science is only beginning to appreciate. An added benefit to consuming salt early in the morning is that it facilitates bowel movement. A sluggish transit allows toxins to recirculate in the body, adding to the already heavy toxic burden of the body.

Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis

Down the axis, we have the adrenals. These are tiny glands that produce more than 50 different hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, norepinehrine, aldosterone, DHEA… They modulate various bodily functions ranging from heart rate, blood pressure, hydration levels, blood sugar, sex hormones.

The adrenals rely heavily on sodium for proper function. This is so true that many misguided individuals keep restricting their salt intake way beyond what is healthy. Meaning, a lot of people are sodium deficient in some capacity. The government “salt scare” recommandations have done a great disservice to many, and traditional medicine has ingrained the idea further. As a side note, it is interesting to know that in functional medicine circles salt cravings are usually seen as a warning sign of HPA disregulation.

Beware though, salt need not be demonized but common table salt still won’t cut it! Opt for colorful salts such as Himalayan salt, Celtic salt, “fleur de sel”, Hawaiian salt. Colors are a sure fire proof of a rich mineral content. These salts provide the main electrolytes i.e sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium that facilitate salt absorption.

Table salt on the other hand offers zero mineral value. A very bad bargain when you consider how many additives that negatively impact health are added on the other end. For instance table salt is white thanks to bromide treatment which unfortunately causes iodine to leak out of your body. And wreak havoc on thyroid function down the line. No wonder they had to add iodine to salt!

Hepatic Health

Lime and citrus fruit in general have been shown to be liver protective. In addition, lime’s high content in vitamin C (much higher than oranges) also supports glutathione production. Glutathione is a peptide that plays a pivotal role in phase I of liver detoxification pathways.

Liver detoxification takes place in a two step process – arguably three steps, but more of that later. Phase I, regulated by cytochrome P-450, depends mainly on minerals and vitamins to turn fat soluble toxins into water soluble components. To note: lime and salt contribute largely to the mineral and vitamin pool. During the next step in detoxification the now water soluble by-products – actually more toxic than then they were originally – will be coupled with amino acids to be neutralized and eliminated through, urine, sweat or feces.  The last step involves alcalinisation. Once again, the high mineral charge of lime and natural salt caters to these needs.

The first 30g of protein ingested during the day are geared towards detox function. Hence breakfast is the ideal moment to provide glutathione and protein. Which is exactly what this lime and salt drink achieve alongside the Meat and Nuts breakfast.

Parting Words

Be sure to use fresh limes as the bottled version use unripe fruit which do not display the full array of nutrients. Plus the simple fact of pressing a fresh lemon in the morning is a step forward in the direction of mindfulness. Remember stress is one of the main reason why stomach acidity leaves to be desired in the first place.

Avoid using tap water as it is ridden with pollutants and unwanted chemicals. Also cold water can be stressful first thing in the morning thus favor a room temperature beverage. So use room-temperature water with a good quality filter

Don’t worry about the saltiness of the mixture, the lime juice will mitigate the taste.

Try it!

This is the recipe:

– ¼ Tsp. Colored Salt
– A shot of lemon or lime juice
– A glass of water – ideally filtered


Coach Charles R. Poliquin