Stomach Acid-Too Much or Not Enough?

Have you ever experienced these symptoms?

Gas?

Belching?

Bloating?

Heartburn?

Gastroesophageal reflux?


If so, your medical doctor has likely put you on a proton pump inhibitor (i.e., Prevacid, Nexium, Prilosec) or a histamine H2 antagonist (Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac).



What about these symptoms?

Bad breath?

Loss of appetite?

Mental fatigue?

Pernicious anemia?

Calcium deficiency?

Low potassium?

Paleness?


ALL of these problems are symptoms of not having enough stomach acid to break down your food.

Other symptoms include:

  • Undigested food in stool

  • Offensive smelling stool

  • White spots on fingernails

  • Drowsiness after meals

  • Hair loss

  • Some food allergies/intolerances

  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis

  • Delayed gastric emptying

  • Atrophic gastritis

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • Dysbiosis, bacterial

  • Yeast overgrowth/Candida

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Hives

  • Adult acne

  • Eczema

  • Asthma

  • Gallstones

  • Nausea when taking supplements

  • Burning

  • Diarrhea

  • Weak, cracked fingernails

  • Dilated capillaries in cheeks and nose (non-alcoholics)

  • Iron deficiency

  • Mineral and micro trace element deficiencies

  • Chronic intestinal infections

These conditions are often associated with low or no stomach acid:

  • Addison's disease

  • B-12 deficiency-B-12 can only be absorbed in a highly acidic stomach

  • Bone fractures

  • Celiac disease

  • Chronic autoimmune disorders

  • Chronic gastritis

  • Diabetes

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Graves disease

  • H. pylori infection

  • Hepatitis

  • Lupus

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

  • Osteoporosis

  • Pellagra

  • Pernicious anemia

  • Psoriasis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Rosacea (acne)

  • Stomach cancer

  • Thyrotoxicosis

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Urticaria

  • Vitiligo

Stomach acid, also known as betaine hydrochloric acid (HCL), is an important component of the gastric juices in our stomach. Our gastric juices are so important that the body uses a lot of energy and resources to keep these juices pumping. Here are some of the benefits of sufficiently produced hydrochloric acid:

  • Aids in digestion by breaking down proteins; this is important because undigested proteins can enter the circulation system; this can cause problems like fatigue, mood-related problems, poor skin health, hair loss, joint problems, and much more

  • Signals the release of bile from the liver and enzymes from the pancreas into the small intestines; this supports the digestion and absorption of fats and carbohydrates as well as essential vitamins like A and E, which are absorbed in the small intestines

  • Aids in the absorption and assimilation of vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin C, beta carotene, and iron by increasing their bioavailability

  • Protects against orally ingested pathogens

  • Prevents bacterial and fungal overgrowth in the body; research has shown E. coli is inactivated when stomach acid is high

Causes of Low Stomach Acid

  • Chronic stress

  • Alcoholism, smoking, and other exposure to toxins

  • Pregnancy and hormonal changes

  • Eating an unhealthy diet with a lot of processed foods

  • Taking antacids on a regular basis to reduce heartburn symptoms

  • Taking antibiotics and certain other medications

  • Food allergies/intolerances

  • Eating disorders, malnutrition, and extreme dieting/calorie restriction

  • Lack of exercise or enough physical activity

  • Extreme exercise

How to Increase Stomach Acid

According to Dr. Axe, there are several things you can do to improve the production of stomach acid and to ensure it is properly acidic.

  1. Take 1 tablespoon of raw, organic apple cider vinegar with a small amount of water right before the meals. This increases the acidity of the stomach so food can be broken down properly.

  2. Take digestive enzymes. Enzymes help to completely break down the nutrients you take in.

  3. Take a supplement of hydrochloric acid that contains pepsin whenever you eat protein in your meal. Start with one capsule and work up; when you get a warmness in your stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, or any other digestive discomfort, you have enough and should back down one. This is the most effective way to test the amount of stomach acid.

  4. Eat foods high in zinc. Zinc is used by the stomach to produce acid.

  5. Eat manuka honey. This honey comes from New Zealand and contains antimicrobials that naturally treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

  6. Chew your food completely. It is recommended that you chew 30 times before swallowing.

  7. Eat smaller meals. Large meals overwhelm the stomach and food is not effectively broken down.

  8. Relax at mealtime.

  9. Try fasting or intermittent fasting. This gives your digestive system time to recover and heal. Eating all day keeps the digestive system constantly busy.

  10. Reduce stress. Chronic stress diminishes stomach acid output.

  11. Exercise helps to lower inflammation in the body and pushes blood to the digestive system so it works more efficiently.

Herbal Remedies

  • Dandelion Root Tea to help digest fat. This is especially helpful if you have had your gallbladder removed.

  • Ginger helps relieve inflammation in the stomach due to low stomach acid. It may even help with the production of digestive enzymes.

  • Bitters help increase production of gastric juices. Herbs like gentian, barberry root, and artichoke aid in digestion as well.

  • Drink 16oz of celery juice first thing in the morning. Celery juice restores the stomach's production of HCL and strengthens digestion.

  • Eat a big spoonful of sauerkraut about 20 minutes before your meal. This provides the enzyme methymethionine (aka vitamin U), which stimulates hydrochloric acid and soothes the digestive tract.

  • Drink 4oz of freshly juiced cabbage on an empty stomach. This stimulates HCL production and soothes inflammation.


Resources

  1. Hovis, B. S. (n.d.). Nutrition-Other Nutrients. trinityschool.org. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://trinityschool.instructure.com/courses/499/pages/week-1-lecture-4-other-nutrients

  2. Hydrochloric acid deficiency. Digital Naturopath. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2022, from http://digitalnaturopath.com/conditions/hydrochloric-acid-deficiency/

  3. Levy, J. (2020, October 21). The stomach acid that defends against GERD, candida & leaky gut. Dr. Axe. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://draxe.com/nutrition/hydrochloric-acid/

  4. English, J. (2022, February 25). Gastric balance: Heartburn and gastritis not always caused by excess acid. Nutrition Review. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://nutritionreview.org/2018/11/gastric-balance-heartburn-and-gastritis-not-always-caused-by-excess-acid/

  5. Axe, D. J. (2019, September 18). Low stomach acid: 5 steps to naturally heal. Dr. Axe. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://draxe.com/health/low-stomach-acid/

  6. Hedberg, N. (n.d.). How to increase stomach acid naturally. Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, D.C. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://drhedberg.com/increase-stomach-acid-naturally/

  7. Eske, J. (2020, July 20). Increase stomach acid naturally with 6 methods. Medical News Today. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-to-increase-stomach-acid#6-natural-methods

  8. Nelson, M. (2015, July 22). Ways to naturally increase stomach acid (hcl) production. Branch Basics. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://branchbasics.com/blogs/food/ways-to-increase-stomach-acid-production