Could you be suffering with low or high stomach acid?
Contrary to popular belief, indigestion is usually caused by low stomach acid — also called hypochlorhydria — and it affects up to half of our population.
Unfortunately doctors don’t check to see if you are suffering from high or low stomach acid and will prescribe a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Omeprozole, Pantaprozole, Lanzaprosole or you may reach for an antacid over the counter.
PPI’s are only meant for short term use of a maximum of 8 weeks. They have side effects of blocking the absorption of certain nutrients so long term this can lead to other imbalances in your body. Antacids are only meant for occasional use for the same reason.
These medications just suppress your symptoms. It’s important to understand what has caused the problem and heal your body from this “root cause”.
It’s important to know if you are suffering from high or low stomach acid because the nutritional support is different.
If you have low stomach acid you could be suffering from any of these symptoms:
- Bloating, belching, burning sensation, wind after meals
- Feeling particularly full after eating
- Indigestion/heartburn/acid reflux
- Burning sensation 30-40 mins after eating
- Food allergies/intolerances
- Itch around the rectum
- Weak, peeling and cracking nails
- Thread veins around cheek and nose
- Acne/dry skin
- Iron deficient anaemia/B12 deficiency
- Hair loss in women
- Chronic fatigue
- Adrenal fatigue
- Autoimmune diseases
- Undigested food in your stools
- Gastric ulcers
- Low bone density
- Poor immunity
- Nutrient deficiencies
- No symptoms
Some causes of low stomach acid:
- A diet rich in processed foods/mineral deficiency (certain minerals are needed for the production of HCL)
- Some medications
- Helicobacter Pylori infection – this infection neutralizes and decreases the secretion of HCL to aid it’s survival
- Low protein/high carbohydrate diet
- Aging – the production of HCL slows down as you age
- Underactive thyroid
- Zinc deficiency – this can be a catch 22 situation. You need zinc to make stomach acid, but you need stomach acid to absorb zinc
- History of eating disorders
If you have high stomach acid you could be suffering from any of these symptoms:
- Burning sensation immediately after eating
- Worse lying down at night
- A sensation of food being stuck in your throat
Triggers for high stomach acid
- Alcohol over consumption
- Caffeine over consumption
- Some medications
- Being over weight
- Excessive exercise
- A diet high in refined, processed foods
- Fizzy drinks
- Food intolerances
You need Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) in your stomach for many functions:
Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCl), is a very powerful digestive agent, and much more important than you realize.
- To break down proteins into smaller molecules
- For your stomach to empty properly
- As a line of defense against pathogenic bacteria and yeast found in our food
- Your stomach needs an acid pH to absorb certain nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, B12, selenium and boron
- To stimulate the pancreas and small intestines to produce digestive enzymes and bile to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. If all your food is not broken down properly in your stomach this leads to problems further down in your digestive tract
- To prevent disease by killing “bad” bacteria and yeast present in food.
You can test to see if your stomach acid is too high or too low.
- First thing one morning, on an empty stomach, before eating, drinking, brushing teeth
- Add 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda to 100mls slightly warm water
- Drink the mixture (it may taste slightly salty)
- Time for a burp!!! Don’t expect this to be a belch. It should feel like little air bubbles coming up from your stomach to your throat. You are doing a little chemistry experiment in your stomach. Mixing the alkalinitity of the bicarb with the acidity in your stomach. Obviously this isn’t a super scientific test but it does give you an indication.
- Do this test 3 days in a row to get an average result.
- Optimal burp time 1-2mins
- If you burp before 1 mins your stomach acid is too high and we need to calm digestive fire
- If you burp between 2-3mins you have slightly low levels of stomach acid
- If you burp between 3-5 mins your stomach acid is low
- Anything after 5 mins and you have super low or no stomach acid
- There are specific nutritional protocols to help your body get back to balance depending on your results.