If you’re suffering from fatigue, memory problems, weak hair and nails, gas, excessive burping, acid reflux, heartburn, bloating, or indigestion, you may have insufficient stomach acid.
Officially called hydrochloric acid, this compound is essential to digest protein into the building blocks of muscles, tissues, and even your genetic material—amino acids.
Stomach acid also helps ensure the proper absorption of other critical nutrients including: niacin, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, beta carotene, magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium.
Many chronic medical conditions are associated with low stomach acid: thyroid dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, chronic candida, food allergies, fibromyalgia, chronic intestinal parasites, osteoporosis, chronic iron deficiency, various autoimmune diseases, post-adolescent acne, psoriasis, Restless legs, Rosacea, sore or burning tongue and Vitiligo (skin disorder involving white patches)
Lack of proper stomach acid leads to
- Increased risk of infection
- Increased bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract (dysbiosis)
- Ulcer formation in the stomach (H. pylori)
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin conditions
Without proper stomach acid you become mineral deficient and protein malnourished. Low stomach acid eventually creates a vicious cycle: low stomach acid = low minerals = acidic blood
Ways to test if you have low stomach acid (even though it’s a given for most thyroid patients if you find yourself with low nutrients like iron, B12, Vit. D or more)
- Baking Soda test (non-scientific): After you have gotten up in the morning, and before eating or drinking, mix about 1/4 tsp baking soda in a cup of water and drink it down. Watch to see if you have burped in the next 2 – 3 minutes (stomach acid and baking soda react to form carbon dioxide gas). If you do NOT, you probably have low stomach acid. NOTE: one test is not definitive. You have to do this test at least 3 mornings and see if you have more “No, I didn’t burp in 2-3 minutes”, then Yes, I did. This test is only a rough indication.
- Betaine HCl Challenge Test (non-scientific and not to be done if you have peptic ulcers): You will need to purchase Betaine, preferably the 600 mg pills, at your local health food store–a man-made hydrochloric acid. Your goal is to find out how many tablets it takes to feel a warmth or burning in your stomach. Patients with normal stomach acid levels would feel this with one, or sometimes two pills. On the first day, take one right before or at the beginning of large meal. On the second day, take two before or at the beginning of a large meal. On the third day, take three before or at the beginning of a large meal….etc up to the 7th day and 7 tablets, if needed (some versions of this test go up to ten days and 10 tablets). The more tablets you have to take to feel that warmth, the more likely you have low stomach acid. NOTE: if this test produces excess burning in the beginning, it’s a sign you have too much stomach acid and this test should immediately stop. Otherwise, this test is only meant to be used until you feel that burn/warmth, which could happen before the seventh day.
- The Heidelberg Stomach Acid test (scientific): This is a test you’ll have to ask your doctor about, and thus, is far more exact than the above, but can be costly–more than $300 US. You are instructed to drink a baking soda solution (sodium bicarbonate) as well as swallow a capsule with a tiny pH meter and radio transmitter (radiotelemetry). It will analyze the pH of your stomach acid. NOTE: you will need to be off any Proton Pump Inhibitors or over-the-counter stomach aides for about five days. This test takes about an hour or slightly more time.
- The Beetroot Test. The discolouration of the urine, to red or pink, after eating beets is called beeturia. It’s caused by the betalain pigments in the beets, breaking down and being excreted. The stomach acid and the flora of the gut play an important role in breaking down the pigments in food, so if they are low or compromised you may experience beeturia. Often people eat or drink beetroots on purpose in order to test their digestive health.
If you do have low stomach acid there a several ways to increase it.
A good supplement that contains a potent blend of digestive enzymes and HCL designed specifically to help you digest proteins from all animal and vegetable sources.
Simple changes in your diet to increase stomach acid:
- Reduce or eliminate sugar. Replace mineral-depleting sugar and sweeteners with Stevia
- Add fermented foods and drinks to your diet. Fermented foods and drinks keep you looking and feeling healthy from the inside out. Some of our favorite fermented foods and drinks are:
- Cultured vegetables – a delicious, vitamin, mineral and probiotic-rich, raw, fermented food.
- Young Coconut Kefir – full of minerals and probiotics, this is a fermented drink you can easily make at home.
- Super Spirulina Plus– thought of as one of the “world’s healthiest foods,” the fermented spirulina in Super Spirulina Plus is a perfect protein and an almost immediate energizer anyone suffering with adrenal fatigue.
- Eliminate processed foods.