10 Ways to Improve Stomach Acid Levels - DrJockers.com

10 Ways to Improve Stomach Acid Levels

10WAYSTOIMPROVESTOMACHACID_Cover

10 Ways to Improve Stomach Acid Levels

Stomach acid is critical for disinfecting and killing off bad microbes and for optimizing protein digestion in the body.  When the body is unable to produce enough stomach acid, than inadequate digestion and microbial overgrowth occurs.  One of the most important and underappreciated health principles deals with optimizing our stomach acid levels.

The normal volume of the stomach acid fluid is 20-100 mL with a pH range from 1.5-3.5.  Due to the logarithmic nature of the pH scale, there is a significant difference between a pH of 1.5 and that of 3.0 or 3.5.  For healthy protein digestion, the pH should be in the 1.5-2.2 range.

StomachAcid_7Ways

7 Major Functions of Stomach Acid

  1. Sterilizes the Food: Whenever we consume food, bacteria and other microorganisms come in with the food (even if it was cooked or pasteurized).  The stomach acid helps to neutralize the bad invaders we don’t want in our system (1, 2).
  2. Protein Digestion: Stomach acid is necessary to begin the process of breaking down protein.  Have you ever marinated meat in vinegar?  Vinegar is not nearly as acidic as what your stomach acid should be, yet, over time it degrades the meat.  This is what your stomach acid should be doing in a much quicker fashion.
  3. Activating Pepsin: Pepsin is a proteolytic enzyme that is necessary for our body to effectively metabolize protein.  Stomach acid activates pepsin from its inactive form called pepsinogen.
  4. Activating Intrinsic Factor: Stomach acid helps to activate intrinsic factor which is a glycoprotein produced in the stomach that is necessary for vitamin B12 absorption.
  5. Stimulating the Delivery of Bile and Enzymes: Stomach acid helps to stimulate the release of bile from the liver and gall bladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
  6. Closing the Esophageal Sphincter:  Stomach acid is an important trigger for the contraction of the esophageal sphincter (just above the stomach) to protect the soft, delicate tissue of the esophagus from the harsh acids in the stomach.
  7. Opening the Pyloric Sphincter: Stomach acid helps to active the pyloric sphincter which allows food to move from the stomach to the small intestine.

LeakyGutRecipe_OptinBanner_2

The Problem With Low Stomach Acid:

When the body is unable to produce enough stomach acid, it is unable to digest protein molecules and key minerals (3).  These partially digested protein molecules get into the small intestine and create significant stress on the pancreas to produce adequate enzymes to metabolize the protein effectively.

If this occurs repeatedly over time, it will wear down the pancreatic enzyme storage and cause stress and irritation to the intestinal lining.  Additionally, if the protein molecules are not efficiently metabolized we are unable to absorb enough amino acids which are necessary for numerous vital functions of the body.    This can lead to amino acid deficiencies, poor healing and a breakdown of various important bodily functions. (4)

The large protein molecules and incomplete digestion irritates the gut lining, leading to leaky gut syndrome.  This process can trigger the development of auto-immune activity in the body.  Poor digestion also creates an environment suited for the development of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Candida overgrowth and parasitic infections (5, 6).

When we digest our food poorly it leads to increased inflammatory activity which depletes key minerals and anti-oxidants throughout the body (8).   This mineral depletion leads to an inability to form stomach acid and the vicious cycle of poor digestion and chronic inflammation continues (7, 8).

StomachAcidCycle_ig

12 Signs that You Have Low Stomach Acid:

The condition of low HCL causes poor digestive motility and sphincter activity.  This allows food contents to sit in the stomach and be metabolized by bacteria that are able to survive due to lack of stomach acid.  The result of this bacterial fermentation is gas which can cause bloating, cramping, belching, etc.

Here are the most common signs and symptoms that you have low stomach acid production.

1) Gas and Belching: With low HCL, this usually comes on shortly after a meal, within 60 minutes.

2) Acid Reflux: This is most commonly caused by low acid  (not too much acid) as explained in this article.

3) Bloating and Cramping: The gas production from the bacterial fermentation in the stomach produces this.  Again, it typically comes on within an hour of eating.

4) Chronic Bad Breath: This is due to the toxic metabolites produced through bacterial fermentation in the stomach.

5) Bad Body Odor: Poor stomach acid production leads to an overall microbial overgrowth throughout the body.  More microbes produce more stinky toxins.

6) Undigested Food in Stools: This is obvious, you are not able to completely metabolize the food you are consuming.

7) Aversion to Meat: Many people with low stomach acid desire to avoid meat and have digestive problems (as described above) when they eat it.  Especially red meat which is usually tougher and depends upon more HCL than whiter meats for digestion.

8) Tired After Meals: If the digestive process has to work twice as hard, it will cost us a lot of energy, leaving us tired.

9) Feeling Full But Still Hungry: You are full because food isn’t leaving your stomach, but you are hungry because you are not absorbing nutrients effectively.

10) Chronic Anemia: You aren’t having excessive bleeding, you are consuming enough iron in your diet (or even in supplements), yet you still have a non-responsive anemia (9).

11) Weak Fingernails: If your fingernails break, chip or peel easily it is a classic sign of nutrient deficiencies, especially protein, minerals and B12.

12) Frequent Nausea: Because your stomach gets full quickly, it can often trigger a nausea reflex.

Additionally, you may be more prone to food poisoning because the less stomach acid you are producing, the less able you will be to sterilize the food stuffs in the stomach.  Have you ever wondered why 2 people can eat the same dish, one gets sick and the other doesn’t.  It may have had to do with stomach acid production.

Some of the other symptoms that one may experience with low stomach acid include the following.

AcidProzyme-Symptoms

The Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test

Ingesting baking soda has been a natural remedy used for many years to help settle an upset stomach.  Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate which has hydroxide (OH-) ions that reduce acidity.  Since reducing acidity can create more comfort in someone with acid reflux, baking soda developed this reputation.

There is a simple test you can do at your home in order to see if you have enough stomach acid.  This involves drinking baking soda in order to create a unique chemical reaction within your stomach.  This reaction happens when the (OH-) ions of the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and the hydrogen (H+) ions within the hydrochloric (stomach) acid (HCL).  This should naturally result in carbon dioxide gas production and a resulting burping effect.

This test is virtually free (other than the cost of a ¼ tsp of baking soda) so there is nothing to lose.  I recommend doing this test because it is safe and has no cost and it can be done very easily.

However, the test isn’t without its flaws.  There are many variables that go uncontrolled for in this experiment.  To minimize extraneous variables, I recommend performing the test on 3 consecutive mornings in order to find an overall average.

With this method, you are looking for a pattern of results rather than a one-time “yes” or “no.”  Also, to improve the accuracy it is important to do the test first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else.

There are no scientific studies that discuss this method as either reliable or unreliable.  The results of the test can vary widely depending upon the individual so it is up to your interpretation from what you are experiencing with this.  Here is how you do the test:

StomachAcid_BakingSodaTest

Early and repeated belching may be due to excessive stomach acid (but don’t confuse these with small little burps from swallowing air when drinking the solution).  Any belching after 3 minutes is an indication of low stomach acid production.

The Betaine HCL Challenge Test:

This is a very reliable test you can perform if you have the symptoms above and failed the Baking soda test.  It will cost you a bottle of Betaine HCL ($20), which you will probably need anyways if to help you restore HCL levels if they truly are low.

To Perform the Test do the Following:

  1. Buy some Betaine HCL with pepsin (we use Acid Prozyme)
  2. Eat a high protein meal of at least 6 ounces of meat (you can have veggies too)
  3. In the middle of the meal (never in the beginning) take 1 Betaine HCL pill
  4. Finish the meal and observe what you notice.

Possible Outcomes:

  1.  You Don’t Notice Anything:  If you do not notice any difference than it is most likely you have low stomach acid levels.
  2.  You Notice Indigestion:  If you notice a burning, hotness or heaviness in your chest than these are signs you have adequate stomach acid levels.

It is best to do this test 2-3 times in order to make sure you aren’t getting a false positive.  There are 3 main reasons for someone getting a possible false positive.

  1.  Didn’t Consume Enough Protein:  If it is a relatively low protein meal, you won’t need much HCL and therefore the supplement can cause too much of an increase.
  2.  Took the Capsule Before the Meal:  This will almost always cause indigestion as your body isn’t ready for the supplement.
  3.  Have Esophageal Sphincter Dysfunction:  For some individuals, they may have a hiatal hernia or poor contractile activity of the esophogeal sphincter that can cause an increase in indigestion like symptoms.  It is always good to get a medical exam to rule these things out before doing the test if possible.

After getting 2-3 positive tests in a row, begin using the HCL supplement with the protocol I give at the bottom of this article along with the 10 ways to improve your stomach acid levels.

10 Ways to Improve Your Stomach Acid: 

These are tips to help improve your digestion if you have lower stomach acid levels.  By following these strategies, you reduce stress on your digestive system and absorb nutrients more effectively.  This will help your body to have the resources it needs to produce adequate stomach acid in the future.

  1. Use Liquid Nutrition Throughout the Day: You should make at least half of your meals in a liquid form such as a protein shake or green smoothie.  Protein shakes are pre-metabolized and very easy to digest and do not depend upon HCL production.  If you have low HCL it is wise to have 1-2 protein shakes each day to enhance amino acid absorption and reduce stress on the GI system.
  1. Use Ginger: Ginger is one of the best things for improving digestive juices.  Ginger is part of a group of herbs called carminatives along with peppermint, anise, cardamom, coriander, etc.  I recommend drinking 2-3 cups of ginger tea each day, you can put ginger essential oil in water (2-3 drops in 8oz of water),  juice a ½ inch of fresh ginger root in a green juice each day and use ground ginger on your foods.  You can also consume fermented ginger which is common in Asian dishes such as kimchi.
  1. Super Hydrate Outside of Meal Times: I am a HUGE advocate of optimal hydration and it is especially important if you have low stomach acid.  Good hydration will help activate bowel motility and push contents through the digestive system which will reduce microbial fermentation and toxicity in the body.
  1. Drink Very Little With Meat Containing Meals: Anytime you are going to have meat or any sort of heavier food (not a smoothie or a veggie salad), you should cut off drinking water at least 30 minutes before the meal other than perhaps 2oz for taking a supplement.  This will reduce any potential dilution of the gastric juices and allow for better digestion.
  1. Hold Off On Water After a Meal: To allow for optimal digestion, I recommend abstaining from water or liquids until at least 30 minutes after a meal.  This allows for proper stomach acid activity, sterilization, protein metabolism, etc.
  1. Use Lemon and Apple Cider Vinegar: Squeezing fresh lemon or using lemon juice or apple cider vinegar on your meat and veggies helps to pre-metabolize the food.   This allows for better digestion and nutrient absorption.  You can either marinate foods in a lemon or ACV base or just add them as a dressing right before you consume them.
  1. Eat Protein Foods at the Beginning of the Meal: The stomach will begin churning out its stomach acid when you begin eating, especially when you are consuming protein.  It is very common for people to eat a salad before their protein dish, but this doesn’t work well for your HCL production.  It is a much better idea to eat your protein with the salad or veggies.
  1. Use Fermented Veggies: Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, pickled ginger, etc. all contain organic acids, enzymes and probiotics which help to improve digestive juice secretions.  I recommend using one of these with all of your heavier meals and especially any meal with protein.
  1. Use Fermented Drinks: Fermented drinks such as ACV, coconut water kefir and lemon water (not fermented) contain organic acids that have an anti-microbial effect.  So these help to reduce the bacterial load, especially the bacteria in the stomach such as H Pylori.  Keeping H Pylori levels down is important for the body to be able to produce enough stomach acid.
  1. Eat Your Largest Meal When You Are Most Relaxed:  In order to produce adequate stomach acid, your body needs to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.  If you are busy and on the go, you will be in fight or flight sympathetic mode.  If you struggle with low stomach acid, this is not going to allow you to produce anywhere near enough.

StomachAcid_ImproveStomachAcid

Use liquid and raw food nutrition such as smoothies, shakes and light salads  during your busier periods because these foods don’t depend upon much HCL production.  Plan your meat containing meal(s) for times when you can be relaxed at least 30 minutes before the meal and 1-2 hours after the meal.

If you are eating meat at a more stressful  time period, try taking a few deep breaths before you begin consuming your meal to help relax your body and pull you out of fight or flight.

Supplementing With Hydrochloric Acid:

One of the most important supplements I have ever worked with is supplemental hydrochloric acid.  I have seen this make a huge difference in so many people’s lives.  This is a betaine HCL tablets.  You should find them in dosage ranges of 300-500mg per capsule and in combination with 100-200 mg of Pepsin per capsule.

There are 2 protocols I use with my clients.  One is for those who have acid reflux on a regular basis while the other is for those who rarely (once a month or less) or never experience acid reflux.

Always take the Betaine HCL either half-way through the meal or right at the end of the meal.  Never take it before the meal or you may get a faulty experience of heartburn and you will turn off your natural stomach acid production for this meal.  Additionally, if you are taking any sort of NSAID medication such as ibuprofen, tylenol or aspirin than do not take HCL.

If You Don’t Suffer From Acid Reflux:

Take 1 capsule during or after the meal (never before the meal) and see if you notice a mild burning sensation in your stomach, chest area.  This is a mild experience of indigestion or hearburn.  When you notice this with 1 cap of HCL, it is a sign you are producing enough HCL.  If not, you are not producing enough HCL.  At your next meal, try taking 2 caps and continue this until you find how much it takes to induce the indigestion/hearburn.

If 4 caps induces indigestion, then take 3 caps with your larger protein meals (not protein shakes or broth – only meals with meat and protein).  Once you begin feeling indigestion with 3 caps, drop it to 2, etc.

If You Suffer From Acid Reflux:

Do not take any ant-acids or acid reflux meds

Take 1 capsule during or directly after the meal (never before the meal) and see if you do not have the indigestion.  If you continue to have the indigestion, you need more.

At your next meal, take 2 caps and continue this process until you find the amount you need in order to not have indigestion.  Continue to use this amount until you notice you have indigestion again.  When you do, drop your dosage by 1 cap for your next meal.

So if 4 caps took away your indigestion than stay on that until you noticed that 4 caps now CAUSED indigestion.  Than drop your dosage to 3 caps until you notice that that amount causes indigestion.  When you notice indigestion at 3 caps, drop it to 2 and continue with this until you plateau or are able to completely eliminate the usage of the HCL caps.

AcidProzymeHeader-1024x428

Do I Need to Take Betaine HCL For Life?

This is the most common question I get from my clients after they see the remarkable results they get from optimizing their stomach acid and using the Betaine HCL caps.  Because stomach acid is something our body naturally should produce, this is a very valid question and concern.

The answer is maybe.  Individuals who are younger and healthier can absolutely regain near optimal HCL production and maintain that throughout life with the right plan.  Older individuals or those who have suffered with chronic health problems for a longer time may need extra stomach acid support for life.

Either way, your life will be much better by taking the HCL supplements you need so you can optimize your digestion than avoiding them or using them marginally.  Fortunately, they are one of the most inexpensive supplements you can find on the market.

Sources For This Article Include:

  1. Dukowicz AC, Lacy BE, Levine GM. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: A Comprehensive Review. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2007;3(2):112-122.
  2. Pereira SP, Gainsborough N, Dowling RH. Drug-induced hypochlorhydria causes high duodenal bacterial counts in the elderly. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Jan;12(1):99-104. PMID: 9692707
  3. Champagne ET. Low gastric hydrochloric acid secretion and mineral bioavailability. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1989;249:173-84. PMID: 2543192
  4. Low Stomach Acid: The Risks, the Symptoms, and the Solutions Link Here
  5. Saltzman JR, Kowdley KV, Pedrosa MC, Sepe T, Golner B, Perrone G, Russell RM. Bacterial overgrowth without clinical malabsorption in elderly hypochlorhydric subjects. Gastroenterology. 1994 Mar;106(3):615-23. PMID: 8119531
  6. Tennant SM, Hartland EL, Phumoonna T, Lyras D, Rood JI, Robins-Browne RM, van Driel IR. Influence of gastric acid on susceptibility to infection with ingested bacterial pathogens. Infect Immun. 2008 Feb;76(2):639-45. PMID: 18025100
  7. Cater RE 2nd. The clinical importance of hypochlorhydria (a consequence of chronic Helicobacter infection): its possible etiological role in mineral and amino acid malabsorption, depression, and other syndromes. Med Hypotheses. 1992 Dec;39(4):375-83. PMID: 1494327
  8. Britton E, McLaughlin JT. Ageing and the gut. Proc Nutr Soc. 2013 Feb;72(1):173-7. PMID: 23146206
  9. Betesh AL, Santa Ana CA, Cole JA, Fordtran JS. Is achlorhydria a cause of iron deficiency anemia? Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):9-19. PMID: 25994564

LeakyGutRecipe_OptinBanner_2

Print Friendly

Comments

comments

Get Your FREE Guide to the SuperCharged Recipe Plan - Click to Learn More

31 Responses to 10 Ways to Improve Stomach Acid Levels

  1. Pauline January 22, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

    This is the most thorough and indepth explanation of my acid reflux. Thank you Dr. Jockers. I will start the betaine today since I have it but proberly. Nexium precribed by a specialist for acid reflux helped a little but ankles hurt so bad I couldn’t walk 2 miles a day then read about Nexium and bone fractures. Dr. Jockers article is outstanding and right on with my acid reflex daily problem.

    • Dr. Jockers January 23, 2016 at 5:20 am #

      Thank you for that great comment Pauline! Very important to get to the root cause of acid reflux and not just treat the symptoms! Blessings!

  2. Lynn January 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Thank you Dr. Jockers ~ For providing such clear (with visuals) explanations of how health problems occur, and how to heal them. I am addressing a plethera of concerns ~ and your excellent presentations are fantastic to learn how the body systems really work!
    Would you please consider putting a PRINT icon link (at top of your articles) for those of us who read from paper preferably, (due to difficulty viewing in front of computers and electronics – for various reasons). Seemingly more websites do electronic links to FB, Twitter etc. and omit “printing” – an important option too.
    I love your spirit in seeking, teaching and helping so capably ~ in providing safe, natural and effective solutions are super important ~ you and the other wise practitioners are really appreciated!
    I have just found your awesome website and begun to read your articles that are addressing so clearly – many of my health
    challenges! Thank you again.

    • Dr. Jockers January 26, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

      Thank you so much for all the encouragement and love Sue! It is a great reward for me to see my research and publications making a difference in people’s lives.

      We actually do have a print button, it is on the bottom of every article and recipe, right under the citations. Many Blessings!

      • Lynn January 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

        OMG ! I only saw the internet icons on the R of your articles!
        Thanks again ~ after I just spent an hour cutting and pasting!
        They should be all in the same place, no (?) but now I will now look under citations on other websites!

        Blessings! Lynn

  3. Harriett March 1, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    Very interesting article!! I’m wondering if these steps you have given will also help with Bile Reflux which is what I have been diagnosed with? I am wanting to heal this without meds! Thank you.

  4. Daniel March 1, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    Every time I tape HCl it burns painfully, I was wondering if I should even be taking it because I have gastritis. If not what are some alternatives I can consume?

  5. Kim March 1, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    Thanks for such an interesting article. I have Barretts oesophagus and have been took I must take Nexium every day or else!. Wondering what you think as to this?

  6. Muniba Rafique October 23, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

    Asalam o Alaikum! Superb work on most important health issue with which many people are suffering but a few of them are aware. you simply helped a lot. ALLAH bless u.

  7. Muniba Rafique October 23, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    please also discuss about multiple sclerosis.

  8. curtis gandolph January 9, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

    Hi Dr Jockers.

    couple quick questions…. is their a limit on how many capsules you should take? I have tried the HCL challenge and got up to 12 caps per meal and I still didnt notice any discomfort… I got a little worried I was taking to much but wasnt sure if there is a cut off or not

    2nd question is should you only take HCL with meals that contain protein? and does that include protein shakes?

    Looking forward to your response

    thanks

    • Dr. Jockers January 11, 2017 at 6:50 am #

      Great questions Curtis. I usually stop my clients around 3 grams of betaine HCL as an upper limit. You may also need to be using a lot of things to support stomach acid like aloe, slippery elm, marshmallow root tea. Obviously all the recommendations in this article as well to boost up your HCL production.

  9. mike February 10, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

    hi. does it make any difference if ur protein is from vegetarian sources (legumes w/grains, soy products, especially fermented, etc)? for example, eating proteins 1st, drinking very little liquid w/meals w/meat, etc? thank u very much 4 any info.

    • Dr. Jockers February 11, 2017 at 9:58 pm #

      Yes, protein is protein. If you are consuming legumes you will want to consume those earlier in the meal.

  10. Casey Zhou February 15, 2017 at 1:05 am #

    Dear Dr. Jockers,

    This article is very well-written and very helpful! This is the best article regarding low stomach acid problem I ever read. Thank you for your excellent job and your generosity to help others!

    Casey

  11. Abdullah March 25, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

    Great article, thanks a lot!

    I am plagued with many of the symptoms you list plus:

    1. Balooning of an empty stomach upon drinking only one glass of water

    2. Aversion to oranges, yet lemon, ginger, red hot bell pepper powder are very helpful

    3. Aversion to fatty substances, yet low quantities of eggs, milk, butter, or chicken are fine

    4. Minimal (teaspoon) consumption of “hyper-fatty” substances like “Ghee” or “Farm” trigger complete closure of the pyloric valve, bringing digestion to a complete standstill for exactly 12hrs, after which burping exhibits a smell the likes of badly fermented old eggs, causing nausia, until the stomach is completly emptied with the last few thrusts being pure stomach acid, while bananas deliver immediate relief in such a state.

    Any thoughts?

  12. Pascual Martínez May 10, 2017 at 6:51 am #

    Hello

    The famous Spanish writer of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes said
    Health is forged in the office of the stomach.

    This great article confirms it

    Thanks Dr.

  13. Esmerelda May 20, 2017 at 6:34 am #

    Hi Dr Jockers,
    Thank you for your articles & all your responses.
    I usually get heartburn after drinking my protein shake (with coconut oil). You’ve said not to take HCL with protein shake, so any advice for me?
    Thanks.

    • Dr. Jockers May 20, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

      Hey Esmerelda it depends what all is in your shake. You can try snacking on an inch of fresh ginger before your shake or add it in!

  14. Tom May 20, 2017 at 7:14 am #

    Hi Dr Jockers, Thanks so much for posting this info. I have been living in hell since I stopped taking prilosec (only a 3 month prescription). Now, I have started taking HCL with Pepsin and seen a HUGE difference in my acid reflux. I am up to 2 HCL caps per meal without any adverse reaction. Although, I have a new dilemma I am now feeling bloated a long time after meals and have gained weight.

Leave a Reply