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  • Writer's picturejenniferstill82

Too much or too little stomach acid?

Low stomach acid is an issue I am encountering more often in my clinic. Whilst I often rely on stool testing in my clinic one of the markers that cannot be tested is stomach acid levels. However, there are some simple ways to gauge whether stomach acid support is the cause of your gut related and non gut related symptoms.

Stomach acid helps us breakdown protein in our food, its acidity eliminates unwanted pathogens that we may ingest, it is plays a vital role in the absorption and production of vitamin B12 as well as the absorption of iron and some minerals like calcium and magnesium. Having a healthy level of stomach acid is also key for telling your stomach valves when to open and close - if they don't close or open appropriately symptoms such as nausea, acid reflux and other lower gastrointestinal symptoms can manifest.

I will admit stomach acid support is a bit of controversial topic amongst practitioners because supplementing inappropriately, ie someone with stomach ulcers, could potentially cause damage.

Sometimes symptoms of low and high levels of stomach acid can overlap. However I do find that these symptoms are common amongst those who benefit from stomach acid support:

- bloating and indigestion after eating high protein foods (eg meat, eggs, chicken, fish)

- early satiety/fullness

- chronic gastritis (inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach)

- lots of burping and belching after eating

- bad breath

- acid reflux

- unexplained ongoing B12, calcium and/or iron deficiency

- feeling like something heavy is in your stomach after eating or like the food your just consumed is just sitting there

- nausea after consuming supplements

Some common causes of low stomach acid are not chewing properly or eating when stressed/rushed, infections like H pylori, ageing, certain medications, poor diet, hormonal changes, autoimmunity, or if you are anaemic.

Simple ways to support stomach digestion are to really chew your food well as this can help stimulate the production of stomach acid and also consume digestive bitters. Digestive bitters can come in the form of drops you add to water or as food like rocket, chicory, ginger, grapefruit or dandelion greens. Taking a few slow deep breaths before each meal can help prep your digestion for food too.

I often get clients to try a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in a small amount of water before meals to see if that helps. If apple cider vinegar helps I might try them on a gentle dose of stomach acid to see if that relieves their symptoms. If it does great we know what we are working with! If not, we can likely rule low stomach acid out as an issue! A simple and very inexpensive test.

If you are wondering whether stomach acid is an issue for you or if gut symptoms are ongoing, such as acid reflux, it is worth speaking to a nutritional therapist before trying stomach acid supplements. Sometimes something more soothing or coating is required for your stomach lining. It is different for each individual, hence it is best to work with or speak to a nutritional therapist first.

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