Do you have constant heartburn, brittle nails, bowel issues, or food intolerance? If you suffer from one or more of these symptoms, you may be experiencing low stomach acid. We require a healthy level of the acid to maintain good digestive and overall health. Our stomach acid levels naturally decrease as we age, but certain health conditions play a part as well. We will discuss the importance of stomach acid and home remedies for low stomach acid treatment.
Known in the medical world as hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid can affect more than just the functions of our digestive system. Our stomach acid has one major role: to filter harmful substances in our food. It also aids in the production of digestive enzymes and breaks down protein into the essential amino acids and nutrients we need. Low stomach acid can result in indigestion, inflammation, infection, and an increase of stress hormones.
What Causes Low Stomach Acid?
As our stomach acid is connected to many functions within our digestive system, it is vital to maintain the appropriate acid levels throughout our life. Low stomach acid leads to absorption of toxins into our intestines and production of acidic blood, all from improper protein breakdown. The more acidic our blood is, the more likely our blood will reach for minerals from our bones. This may result in osteoporosis as well as other serious health conditions.
Although antibiotics are used for fighting infections, long-term use of these medications can increase inflammation in the intestines. This can lead to a reduced production of stomach acid as your stress hormone levels increase. Overusing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin can also lead to lower production of stomach acid. These over-the-counter drugs can damage the stomach lining.
2. Pylori Infections
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a form of bacteria that is usually harmless, with more than half of the population contracting it in childhood. It enters the body and lives in our intestines for most of our life. Stress, medications, and an unbalanced nutritional diet can affect H. pylori numbers. An abundant amount of the bacteria will produce carbon dioxide and ammonia, which gives us belching and bad breath symptoms. When combined with our natural stomach acid, it can attack the lining of our stomach and cause ulcers in the stomach and small intestine.
A little stress once in a while does us no major harm, but when we develop chronic stress, it can destroy our digestive functioning and reduce our production of essential stomach acid.
The effects of a poor diet can release an increase of stress hormones and trigger inflammation. This can result in low stomach acid as when we eat excess processed food and sugar, our stomach cannot produce sufficient acid to combat the harmful matter.
5. Food Intolerance
Symptoms of upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating, and even headaches after meals could signal sensitivity to a particular food or groups of food. Your body takes on stress when dealing with such an intolerance. This leads to lower levels of stomach acid production. Avoid soy, gluten, and dairy products.
As with many health issues, the production of stomach acid is also influenced by the natural aging process. Maintaining good digestive health may allow you to preserve sufficient acid levels as you age. There are ways to increase your lower stomach acid levels if need be.
Low Stomach Acid Symptoms
Several reports list dozens of symptoms of low stomach acid. Many of those studied have a direct relation to specific health conditions. We have listed the most common symptoms of the production of stomach acid, regardless of the cause.
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Gas buildup with bloating, belching, and flatulence
- Brittle or weak nails
- Chronic fatigue
- Hair loss (women)
- Yeast infections
- Dry skin
- Rectal itching
- Food sensitivity
- Stools with undigested food
- Iron deficiency
- Autoimmune diseases
- Kidney problems
Natural Ways to Reverse Low Stomach Acid
There are many medical products on the market to increase stomach acid, and while some have scientific studies to back the results, we have compiled a list of at-home low stomach acid remedies that may also be effective for treating the condition.
1. Manuka Honey
Known as a healing tool in New Zealand, this honey has antimicrobial properties that may work to combat harmful bacteria in the small intestine. Studies show it is successful in controlling H. pylori. Take one teaspoon once or twice a day.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar may aid in balancing the pH levels of your stomach. Take one teaspoon with water before every meal.
3. Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzyme supplements can replace the natural enzymes your body is not producing due to a lack of stomach acid. Without the appropriate amount of stomach acid, your pancreas does not receive the signal to secrete required digestive enzymes. Your supplement should have proteases to breakdown protein, lipases for fats, and amylases for carbohydrates. Take one or two capsules before every meal.
4. HCL with Pepsin
Adding a hydrochloric acid with pepsin supplement to your daily routine may ensure you have sufficient stomach acid to break down the necessary nutrients and minerals. A word of caution, these HCL supplements should only be taken with medical advice. You should not take this supplement before a meal that contains no protein.
A lifestyle tip to improve the function of lower stomach acid levels is to eat small meals. You should also chew each bite thoroughly, breaking down the food into smaller pieces that will make it easier for the stomach acid to do its job. Another tip is to reduce stress as much as possible.
We all have issues with stomach acid from time to time, whether the levels are too low or too high. As many of our body functions depend on maintaining a stable level of stomach acid, it is important to pay attention to the signals our body sends. Like many symptoms, the effects of low stomach acid can affect our digestion, our stress hormones, and our overall health.
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Jockers, Dr., “Causes and Symptoms of Low Stomach Acid,” Dr. Jockers; http://drjockers.com/causes-and-symptoms-of-low-stomach-acid/, last accessed February 21, 2017.