Stomach acid levels must be adequate for proper protein digestion and harmful microbes disinfection. Insufficient stomach acid production can lead to microbial overgrowth and suboptimal digestion. In America, 22% of us have this serious issue, but there is a solution.
The Consequences of the Lack of Stomach Acid
Lack of stomach acid can result in poor mineral absorption, leading to stress and inflammation. This condition can cause amino acid deficiencies, poor healing, and a breakdown of critical bodily functions. The gut lining may become irritated, resulting in leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune activity. Poor digestion also creates an environment suitable for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Candida proliferation, and parasitic infections. Chronic inflammation caused by poor digestion depletes essential minerals and antioxidants, leading to a vicious cycle of low stomach acid and inflammation.
Are you experiencing digestive issues such as bloating, cramping, and belching? Have you noticed bad breath or body odor that will not go away? Do you struggle with fatigue after meals or feel full but still hungry? These symptoms could be signs of lack of stomach acid.
When your body doesn’t produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCL), food sits in your stomach longer, allowing bacteria to metabolize and produce uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, belching, acid reflux, bloating, cramping, chronic bad breath, undigested food in stools, aversion to meat, tiredness after meals, feeling full but still hungry, chronic anemia, weak fingernails, and frequent nausea.
Lack of stomach acid can also make you more susceptible to food poisoning since your body cannot sterilize food well. Some people get sick after eating the same dish as a family member due to differences in stomach acid production.
10 Strategies for Optimizing Stomach Acid Levels
One of the most overlooked health principles is establishing habits that boost stomach acid.
Stomach Acid’s Role in Digestion
Stomach acid has several crucial functions:
- Sterilizing food by neutralizing harmful bacteria and other microorganisms.
- Digesting protein by initiating protein molecule breakdown.
- Activating enzymes such as pepsin and intrinsic factor, which aid in protein digestion and vitamin B12 absorption.
- Stimulating bile and enzyme release, which prompts the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas to release bile and digestive enzymes for optimal digestion.
- Protecting the esophagus from damage by triggering esophageal sphincter contraction and preventing acid reflux.
- Facilitating food movement as it activates the pyloric sphincter, allowing food to move from the stomach to the small intestine.
Ideally, stomach acid must be 1.5 to 2.2 pH, to effectively close the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), break down food, and open the pyloric sphincter to move the food into the small intestines properly.
Test Your Stomach Acid
Use baking soda to test your stomach acid levels at home. Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate and drinking it with water will trigger a chemical reaction within your stomach by combining the hydrogen ions of the hydrochloric acid (HCL) and the hydroxide ions (OH-) of the baking soda. The result is the production of carbon dioxide gas and an ensuing burping effect.
It is a safe and convenient method to evaluate your stomach acid levels. The test is straightforward to conduct and incurs minimal costs, with the only expense being a ¼ tsp of baking soda. To increase the test’s accuracy, perform it on three consecutive mornings to determine an overall average. For accurate results, it is crucial to perform the test on an empty stomach first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else.
If you don’t experience a belch within 2-3 minutes, it may indicate that your stomach acid levels may be insufficient. If you don’t burp within 5 minutes, you most likely don’t have enough stomach acid.
Early and recurrent belching may indicate excessive stomach acid levels (although, please do not confuse small burps from swallowing air with belching).
Another test to determine your stomach acid levels is the Betaine HCL Challenge Test, which is highly dependable and ideal if you exhibit the symptoms mentioned above and fail the baking soda test. The cost is a bottle of Betaine HCL, which you will likely require if your stomach acid levels are indeed low and need restoration.
Here are the steps for the Betaine HCL Challenge Test:
- Purchase some Betaine HCL with pepsin – Digestive Complete
- Eat a high-protein meal of at least six ounces of meat (vegetables are also acceptable).
- Take one Betaine HCL pill in the middle of the meal (never at the beginning).
- Finish the meal and observe any changes you notice.
You likely have low stomach acid if you do not detect any difference.
If you feel a burning, hotness, or heaviness in your chest, it suggests that you have adequate stomach acid levels.
Repeating this test 2-3 times is preferable to eliminate the possibility of a false positive. Three primary reasons may lead to a false positive:
- If you have consumed a meal low in protein, you will not need much HCL.
- If you take the capsule before your meal, your body may not be ready for the supplement, resulting in indigestion.
- If you have esophageal sphincter dysfunction or a hiatal hernia, the supplement may cause indigestion-like symptoms. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a medical professional to rule out such conditions before performing the test.
If you receive two or three positive test results, you should commence using the HCL supplement with the protocol outlined at the end of this article, coupled with ten ways to improve your stomach acid levels.
10 Ways to Optimize Stomach Acid Levels
Lack of stomach acid can lead to many digestive issues, but there are strategies to improve digestion and nutrient absorption. You can reduce stress on your Digestive System and help your body produce adequate stomach acid for optimal health and well-being by implementing the following:
- Incorporate Liquid Nutrition: Including liquid meals, such as functional food shakes or green smoothies, in your daily diet, can be incredibly helpful for those with a lack of stomach acid. These are easy to digest and reduce the dependence on hydrochloric acid (HCL) production. Aim to consume at least half of your meals in a liquid form and incorporate 1-2 functional food shakes daily to enhance amino acid absorption and reduce stress on the gastrointestinal (GI) system.
2. Utilize Ginger: Ginger is a natural carminative that aids digestive juices. Sip on 2-3 cups of ginger tea, add 2-3 drops of ginger essential oil in 8 oz of water, or include ½ inch of fresh ginger root in vegetable juice each day. You can also try ground ginger on your foods or enjoy fermented ginger in Asian dishes like kimchi.
3. Hydrate Outside of Mealtimes: Optimal hydration is crucial for activating bowel motility and promoting a healthy Digestive System. Drink plenty of water and other hydrating beverages outside of mealtimes to reduce microbial fermentation and toxicity in the body.
4. Limit Water with Heavier Meals: Avoid drinking water at least 30 minutes before any heavier meals, such as those containing meat, to prevent dilution of the gastric juices and promote better digestion.
5. Wait to Drink After Meals: Refrain from consuming liquids for at least 30 minutes after meals to allow for proper stomach acid activity, sterilization, and protein metabolism.
6. Incorporate Lemon and Apple Cider Vinegar: Drinking diluted apple cider vinegar before meals (see recipe) can help stimulate stomach acid production and promote healthy digestion. Fresh lemon or apple cider vinegar on your meat and veggies can pre-metabolize food, leading to better digestion and nutrient absorption. Use these ingredients as a marinade or add them as a dressing right before consuming your meal.
7. Start with Protein Foods: Eating protein-rich foods at the beginning of your meal prompts the stomach to produce HCL. Avoid eating salads or vegetables before your protein dish, which can hinder HCL production.
8. Try Fermented Veggies: Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and pickled ginger, contain organic acids, enzymes, and probiotics that enhance digestive juice secretions. Include one of these options with heavier meals, especially those containing protein.
9. Drink Fermented Beverages: Fermented drinks like apple cider vinegar, kefir, and lemon water (not fermented) contain organic acids that have an anti-microbial effect, reducing bacterial load in the stomach, such as H Pylori. Lowering H Pylori levels is essential for the body to produce enough stomach acid.
10. Eat Your Largest Meal When You Are Relaxed: The parasympathetic nervous system must activate to produce adequate stomach acid. You won’t have enough acid if you are in fight-or-flight sympathetic mode. Relaxing before a meal can improve stomach acid production, so it’s best to eat your largest meal when you are most relaxed.
Incorporating these tips into your daily routine can significantly impact your digestive health and overall quality of life. By reducing stress on your Digestive System and promoting optimal nutrient absorption, you can enjoy improved energy levels, reduced inflammation, and better overall health.
Here are a few more tips:
Limit antacid use: Antacids can neutralize stomach acid, impairing digestion and promoting microbial overgrowth.
Supplement with Betaine HCl: Digestive Complete is a natural supplement that can aid in stomach acid production. Take 1-2 per meal based on your need.
Consume bitters: Bitter herbs, such as dandelion and gentian root, can stimulate the production of stomach acid.
Eat slowly and chew thoroughly: Chewing food thoroughly signals to the body that it’s time to produce stomach acid and aids optimal digestion.
Avoid overeating: Consuming large meals can overburden the Digestive System, leading to suboptimal digestion.
Manage stress: Chronic stress can impair the production of stomach acid, so it’s essential to establish stress-management practices such as meditation or deep breathing.
For your health,
Video of the Week
Recipe of the Week
From Teresa’s 7 Systems Kitchen
Apple Cider Vinegar Drink
- 2 teaspoons Bragg organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- 8 ounces chilled, filtered water (not bottled water)
- 1 scoop favorite NutriDyn Fruits & Greens
A great way to add vinegar to your diet!
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