Do You Have Low Stomach Acid? 3 Things You Can Do Today
Low stomach acid is one of the most common issues I see with my clients. Low stomach acid is typically characterized by reflux, GERD, heartburn, burping, and digestive distress, or incomplete digestion. Those who are struggling with low stomach acid will actually feel like they have high amounts of acid in their stomach. This is because when food is not broken down properly due to acid levels being low, gas production is increased, which creates the feeling of a high-acid state.
Many who have a condition like Hashimoto's, Graves, Endometriosis, or Lyme, often are struggling with low stomach acid. Low stomach acid, by default, puts individuals at more of a risk of developing autoimmunity. When stomach acid is low, digestion will suffer, and pathogens that enter into the body through food and water have a greater chance of survival when there is less of a strongly acidic protective barrier. In terms of digestion, while carbohydrates begin to digest in the mouth, fat and protein rely on hydrochloric acid, stomach acid, to fulfill the digestive process.
Adequate levels of stomach acid are also needed for the prevention of SIBO - small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. When someone is struggling with SIBO, low stomach acid is almost always going to be present. Some indication include reflux, burping, cramping, undigested food and digestive discomforts of all varieties.
Do you have low stomach acid?
While there are expensive tests out there that measure the PH level of the stomach, I suggest beginning with an easy, almost free baking soda at-home test.
First thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything:
Mix ¼ tsp baking soda in 4 to 6 ounces of cold water.
Drink the baking soda solution.
Time how long it takes for a burp to occur. Time it for up to 5 minutes:
If you have not burped within five minutes, it may be a sign of insufficient stomach acid. Early and repeated burping may be due to too much stomach acid (do not to confuse this with small burps from swallowing air when drinking the solution). Any burping after 3 minutes is an indication of low stomach acid levels.
Step #1: Take Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast that protects the stomach lining
Protect your stomach lining by taking a probiotic yeast that will protect you from a pathogenic bacteria, helicobacter pylori, or H-pylori for short. Because low stomach acid is typically seen hand in hand with H-pylori, it's important to take precautions to protect your stomach lining from any pathogens. Testing for H-pylori is not reliable or accurate as well, and often will not show up on tests. For this reason, I suggest taking a probiotic yeast to support your body's defenses against pathogens.
Step #2: Drink ginger and peppermint tea with a small amount of ACV
Ginger and peppermint tea (of course I suggest organic and my favorite brand is Traditional Medicinal) with a small amount of ACV, apply cider vinegar is a great daily addition when you are dealing with reflux and pain from low stomach acid. The ginger will sooth nausea, the peppermint will bring relief from pain and discomfort, and the ACV will help stomach acid levels increase, by fostering an acidic environment. Take one tea bag of each tea steeped in water, add 1 tsp. ACV, and drink prior to meals. You can also suck on ginger and peppermint lozenges, apply peppermint oil to the stomach, and take ACV in pill form if the flavor is difficult for you to tolerate.
Step #3: Avoid triggering foods, and sleep with your head elevated
While step three technically includes two steps, it's all centered on preventing triggering situations in regards to reflux, GERD, or gastritis. Aim to avoid triggering foods while struggling, as in spicy food, foods with tomatoes, citrus juice (including orange), and peppers, even bell peppers, until things begin improving. Sleep on your back with your head and upper back elevated to prevent acid from coming up into the esophagus overnight. This will not only make you feel better, but it will also prevent damage to the esophagus, which can result in a condition known as erosive esophagitis. Over time, you will most likely see less of a need to take the preventative measures, but while acid is still low, these precautionary steps are very valuable.
A note on HCL and betaine: sometimes, a small amount of supplemental HCL or betaine can be helpful, but it's not my first suggestion. I have low stomach acid resolved without the use of either, and I have also seen gastric ulcers that have been caused by individuals taking large amount of either. I know they are common suggestions, but I suggest starting here, with these three steps, and then working with a practitioner if things are not yet resolved.
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice, and does not replace the advice of a licensed professional.