In my practice I often see clients who’s stomach doesn’t produce enough stomach acid. They come in with symptoms of acid reflux, IBS or fatigue. In this blog about the importance of stomach acid I explain why low stomach acid is not a good situation. You might ask yourself this question: “Is my stomach acid too low? And how do I know?”
Low stomach acid will affect your whole digestion and through that, your health. That’s because:
- You’re less able to break down your proteins well
- So you can’t absorb and use the amino acids – and they are the building blocks for your cells, tissues and your enzymes!
- If what leaves your stomach isn’t acidic enough, there’s a less strong signal for the release of enzymes and bile. And that then affects the digestion of carbohydrates and fats – on top of your proteins that aren’t broken down properly!
- All those partly broken-down food particles come into your small intestine can’t be absorbed. So they can start fermenting, causing gas, pain and bloating.
- When your stomach acid is too low, it can create problems like leaky gut, constipation, diarrhoea and even malnutrition.
How do you know you have low stomach acid?
Here are some signs to look out for:
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Gas and bloating. If food comes into your stomach when it’s not acidic enough, it starts fermenting and producing too much gas
- Feeling full for quite a long time after eating. Feeling like food is sitting in your stomach forever
- If you are often a bit nauseous and/or do a lot of burping and belching
- Seeing undigested food in your stools
- If you have bad breath
- If you’re older than 65, chances are your stomach acid is low because sadly, things often don’t get better when we age
Can you have too much?
You can also have too much stomach acid and some symptoms are very similar to having low stomach acid.
So, how do you find out whether your stomach acid levels are high or low? Testing is not very common here in the UK. If you go to your doctor, they will probably assume you’ve got too much acid and give you antacids or proton pump inhibitors. Those can help with the symptoms but don’t address the root cause!
There is a test you can do at home that can give you an indication, see below. Another option is to use a supplement called HCl betaine and see if it helps. I think it’s wise to work with a nutrition practitioner if you’d like to try that out. If you’d like to know more, feel free to pop me a message or book a free call with me here.
Test for low stomach acid
There’s a simple test you can do at home to check your stomach acid levels. It’s not conclusive, but can give you an indication. You can download and print the handout here.