10 Ways to Improve Stomach Acid Levels

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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, inadequate digestion and microbial overgrowth occurs.  One of the most important and underappreciated health principles is taking time and creating rituals to improve 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.  That is a big jump and that is why it is so important to improve stomach acid levels for optimal digestion.


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.


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).


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.


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 (excluding 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 instead of 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:


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 it is most likely that you have low stomach acid levels.
  2.  You Notice Indigestion:  If you notice a burning, hotness or heaviness in your chest then 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 Stomach Acid Levels: 

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.  When you improve stomach acid levels, it makes a huge difference on your overall health and quality of life!

  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.  This is very important to improve stomach acid levels.
  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 apart from 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.  Relaxing before the meal is key to improve stomach acid production.


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 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.

If 4 caps took away your indigestion you can stay on that until you noticed that 4 caps now CAUSED indigestion.  Then you can drop your dosage to 3 caps until you notice the new 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.


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 rather than avoiding them or using them marginally.  Fortunately, they are one of the most inexpensive supplements you can find on the market.

Taking the time to improve stomach acid levels will make a huge difference on your health and quality of life if this is an issue for you!

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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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

      2. I can’t find a print button anywhere. I did look at the end of the citations and
        scrolled through the article several times which is how I found this comment.
        Can you help?

  3. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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


    1. 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.

      1. What about the protein shake part of the question? I am most interested in knowing the answer to that part of the question too

  8. 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.

  9. 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!


  10. 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?

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. I have been diagnosed with IBS. There is a list of foods I can not eat. Which cause gas and cramping and soft stool usually the next morning. I usually have 4-5 trips to the bathroom before the gas and cramping is done. Then I’m fine till the next episode. This can happen 3-4 times a week. Too much fiber creates this problem as well as hard to digest foods for example iceberg lettuce, skin on fruits and vegetables, dry foods, onion, spicy foods etc. I do have some of the symptoms above. I have no heartburn. This problem occurred after menopause, about 15 yrs ago. It’s a quality of life issue for me. Do you have any insight on what I can do to help this issue?

    1. Sorry to hear about this Fran, I know it can be overwhelming. There could be multiple factors at play here like a microbial imbalance, SIBO, food sensitivities that you are unaware of, leaky gut, etc. You could try an Elimination diet and see if this improves your condition. Working with our nutritionist may be really helpful as well! You can reach her at nutrition@drjockers.com

  14. Hi! I have recently started on HCL but notice that though I feel better during and right after the meal, my reflux symptoms return within an hour. I think my LES is malfunctioning but I don’t know how to prove or correct it. Any advice is appreciated.

  15. Hello Dr. Jockers!

    Within the last several months, I’ve been having a lot of symptoms related to IBS. Gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation have been the main symptoms. I’ve also dealt with acne for awhile. I’ve done a lot research about low stomach acid and the gut skin connection. It seems like it doesn’t matter what I eat; I’m in constant pain and my acne doesn’t get better no matter what I eat. I started taking enzymes and haven’t seen a huge difference. I really think my acne is due to digestion and I want to get it over with and also want to help friends and family members that also have similar issues. What do you think I should do? Thank you so much!

      1. Thank you Dr. Jockers! Would there be a time this week that I could visit with you over the phone to ask you a few questions and maybe setup an individualized program? I looked at your articles and watched your videos. It all makes so much sense! I really just want to successfully get rid of whatever I have, so if you can help me to figure out exactly what I need to do that would be amazing! Thank you so much and God bless!

        1. Hey Gabriel!

          One of our Functional Nutrition Practitioners would be happy to work with you! You can reach them through the “Coaching” tab at the top of this page. They each offer a free 10-minute introductory call.

        2. Hello Dr. Jockers! I just have a few questions for you. I was visiting with my Father about what you’ve said and your digestive restoration program. I’ve had no lab work done because of the expense involved. I have a lot of the symptoms related to leaky gut, low stomach acid, sibo, and ibs, but don’t know what I have. My father is hesitant about setting up an appointment with you or any of your colleagues because we would be doing over the phone or online and he doesn’t know if I’m going to really fix whatever I have. My question is if this digestive restoration program doesn’t work, what would I do? Would I have to eat differently after the month is over? Has your program helped a lot of people with similar symptoms that I have? I also wanted to thank you for writing all your great articles! It’s been a great learning experience and the way you explain it makes tons of sense to me. I feel like some Doctors just want to prescribe you this medicine or this topical cream and you end up spending tons of money and you never fix the real problem. Thank you as well for always getting back to me. I really appreciate it!

          1. The digestive health restoration program has helped many people with these issues Gabriel! The best option is to get lab work done and work with a practitioner so they can make an individualized plan geared towards what we see in those labs. The digestive health restoration program is still a very powerful tool for all of these issues as long as you follow it as it is presented. These issues very often have common ties in the body and that is why I made the program to address these things! Thanks for reading!

  16. HELP! I need HCL for low stomach acid but am not absorbing anything in pill form due to SIBO and other gi issues.

    Can I remove the hcl from the capsule and put on food or would apple cider vinegar be ok to use and if ACV is ok to use how much should I take per meal for it to digest my food?

    Or is there a sublingual or liquid form I could take?

    1. Hey Jean,

      You can use ACV as well as an HCl supplement. Make sure to take HCl halfway through or after your meal. Start with one cap and add one each solid food meal until you feel slight indigestion. Once you reach this level, take one less as your standard dose. So if 4 gives you indigestion, take 3 with your solid food meals.

  17. I’ve just been told I have an ulcer. I don’t want to take it, but I’ve been prescribed ezomeprazole, but know that I get severe diarrhoea from taking just one 15mg lanzoprozole in the past and suspect I have low stomach acid because when I did the acid test with baking soda it took between 20 and 55 minutes to burp. Would it be safe to try the Betain HCL when I have an ulcer? I’m thinking about getting some Zinc Carnosine and Slippery Elm to help restore the gut integrity and have been on a low FODMAP diet for 6 weeks (no gluten). Thanks for all your fabulous information.

    1. Hey Mandy,

      You will probably want to avoid HCl until you employ a gut healing protocol first. I typically recommend doing a 30 day liquid meal plan to take stress off the digestive tract and rebuild the intestinal wall.

      1. Dr. Jockers, thank you so much for this comprehensive article. Where can I read about the 30 day liquid meal plan? I’m interested in doing this as I have been dealing with intestinal/stomach issues for years (gas, the smell of foods I eat coming through my pores an hour later (leaky gut?). All the things I’ve tried that are supposed to be great to heal the gut – ACV, lemon water, coconut oil, supplements to rebuild the gut wall – give me horrible body odor. I tested negative for celiac etc and don’t really fit the IBS/Crohn’s profile. I do not have acid reflux. I tried to do a green smoothie 30 day plan, and the first 2 weeks went great and then I suffered severely debilitating stomach pains, and almost ended up in the hospital. They went away once I stopped juicing. My gastro told me my body cannot handle that amount of raw vegetables and that juicing a vegetable does not actually make it easier to digest. Would I be able to do pureed soups on the liquid meal plan?

        1. Kay,

          Sorry to hear about these health challenges. We have a Digestive Health Restoration Program that could be really helpful. http://drjockers.com/the-digestive-health-restoration-program/ You could also work with one of our health coaches. You could try a 3-5 day bone broth fast followed by a another 5 day liquid nutrition phase where you consume smoothies, soups, and puddings. Blueberry Gut Healing Protein Shake, Turmeric Zuchini soup, and Chocolate Avocado Pudding are some good recipes to try!

        2. Hi, Kay. I once purchased one if those bullet blender devices and then thought about how eating so many more veggies would entail ingesting so many more potentially toxic insectescides and sprays. Perhaps it wS this and not the veg you reacted to. The entire topic of digestion is complex and Dr. Jockers really helps shed some light. I am allergic to mold. Is ACV good or bad fir someone with low stomach acid symptoms but a mold allergy? Also wondering if low stomach acid contributes to or perhaps even is causetal of environmental allergies?

  18. Does taking betaine HCL cause your body to stop producing its own stomach acid? i heard that is a danger with melatonin (that your body stops producing its own melatonin), so i am wondering if taking HCL on a regular basis and longterm can cause a problem down the road. Thank you

    1. That is a great question Maria. The answer is no. In fact, taking supplemental HCL will help your body produce its own stomach acid. This is because it helps to reduce stress on the bodies digestive system, reduce inflammation and improve nutrient absorption. All of that results in better digestive juice production and improve stomach acid.

  19. My husband is on Keytruda and is responding well to it but I’m not sure what to do for his stomach. He doesn’t burp after soda 1st in am. He used to love meat but now he can’t stomach it. He had taken soda in water to help his stomach for several months and I’m afraid he now has no stomach acid. Pain tonight in lower abd after one hcl tablet following small serloin burger. He also c/o terrible taste in his mouth causing lack of appitite. Please advise.

    1. So sorry to hear this Peg. I would make sure he follows the instructions in this article and also follows a healing diet here: http://drjockers.com/5-benefits-healing-diet/

      For supplements, we need to soothe and rebuild his gastrointestinal lining as it sounds like he has an ulcer. I would recommend our Gut Healing Protein, Gut Repair (2 scoops of each every day in a shake) and taking digestive enzymes with meals.

      Gut Repair: https://store.drjockers.com/products/gut-repair

      Gut Healing Protein: https://store.drjockers.com/products/gi-cleanse-protein

      Super Dzyme: https://store.drjockers.com/products/super-dzyme

  20. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    I have continuous burping and on heavy meal with protein i will have GERD from last 6 years. Last year i started taking PPI’s and H2 blockers as suggested by Doctors, but the symptoms never reduced. After i get up in the morning i get body pain and i also started developing severe back pains. Now i have stopped all kind of medications and continuing with my problems. Please suggest me what to do to get rid of burping and GERD, along with body pain and back pain.

    1. Hey RAJU you will likely need a plan to restore your digestive health. This is a great one: http://drjockers.com/the-digestive-health-restoration-program/

      You could use HCl and Enzyme Supplementation with meals which we carry both (Acid ProZyme & SuperDZyme)

      Our health coach Michael would be happy to work with you if you wanted to do a coaching plan as well. He can put together a custom health plan for you that takes into account everything you’ve got going on. Email him at michael@drjockers.com

  21. Hi Dr. Jockers
    Thank you for this great comprehensive article, I found it very useful. But Ive got a question for you in regards to low stomach acid and alkaline water. How alkaline water affects stomach acid? I do have an ongoing issue with low stomach acid. I was introduced to the idea of drinking alkaline water for many general health benefits. How would that affect my condition, as there are very confusing opinions on a net.
    Thank you for your time

  22. I have started taking HCL with pepsin – one twice a day with meals – and would like to increase but as I have silent acid reflux and a loose esophegeal sphincter I am not sure I would experience any heartburn to indicate I am taking too much. Can you advise?

  23. Hello Dr. Jockers,
    I’m 39 years old and up until a year and a half ago when I was diagnosed with very low stomach acid (Heiglberg test) I was a vegetarian for about 20 years. I was treated for SIBO and began eating small amounts of chicken about once a day. I’m still having trouble digesting food. I can see it in my stools and about once a day, I get the feeling like a brick is sitting in my stomach. I’m supplementing with HCL with pepsin, digestive enzymes and Absinthium liquid that I’ve gotten from my naturopath. I’m up to 6 HCL tabs with no burn at all. I’m wondering if I keep taking these supplements do you think my body will eventually start making its own acid?? I do sometimes notice a slight headache with HCL but feel it’s worth it if I can digest what I’ve eaten. Although, most of the time, it still isn’t helping. Any advise?? Thank you!

    1. Hey Katie, definitely follow the strategies above as close as possible. If you are noticing that you are still having trouble digesting even the using HCl, you may want to consider working with one of our health coaches to put together a plan for this!

  24. I got acid reflux from taking 1 betaine hcl tablet with a big protein meal! This happened on a number of occasions! Someone recommend I take even more a one or two could cause problems but a higher dose may not! I kind of worked as I got less acid reflux at 4 tablets. Love your articles by the way

    1. Hey David! Yes the heart burn after taking one may be a sign that you weren’t taking enough to signal the esophageal sphincter between your throat and stomach to close. Once you hit that upper threshold where it seems to go away, that is where you should keep your dosage.

  25. Hello Dr. Jockers ,

    This article is well explained. Good one.
    I am 32 years old and I had a good poisoning months ago , then first migraine attack , then frequent sinus.
    My intake of water is too less. I suddenly developed vaginal itching followed with anal itching.
    Was treated for yeast infection with flucozanol, creams, vaginal suppositories,
    The pain and rashes cleared but mild itch is always there.

    With much caution I found some foods r not suiting me , sugar , gluten , processed food, spicy , high fat , high protein. I avoid all of them but eat a tiny amt sometimes.

    Now I have gas bloating , acid reflux , hungre like feel even in full stomach , immediate noisy movement in tummy region then urgency to defacate.

    My doc checked for yeast infection , blood test , urine test etc. Everything is normal

    Could u please tell me what is causing what.

    Is it stomach issue causing bacterial overgrowth with yeast , or yeast overgrowth causing stomach pblms.

    What tests should I do.

    I only feel good when I eat small amt , avoid all fodmap food and have yogurt with probiotic. But I know I am not normal.

    Itch in anal and vaginal area is there in mild.

    It was informative reading this article.

    1. Hey Jessica, So sorry to hear about these struggles. It sounds like low stomach acid and microbial imbalance. Start with the strategies in this article: https://drjockers.com/8-ways-to-reduce-gas-and-farting/ and consider using some gentle anti microbial, such as this one: https://store.drjockers.com/collections/top-sellers/products/gi-regulator. You may also consider sending an email to our Functional Nutrition Practitioner Michael to get started on a digestive restoration program. His email is michael@drjockers.com

  26. Hi Dr Jockers
    I have chronic gastritis and mild candidaitis.
    I take HCL with each meal
    Not sure if this is aggravating the lining
    how can i increase stomach acid if i cant take HCL becuase of current inflammation
    thanks and kind regards

  27. Interesting article. Thanks!

    I suggest correcting a mistake in your presentation of the chemistry. Sodium bicarbonate does NOT contain OH- ions; it contains bicarbonate ions (HCO3-). The reaction you are describing is as follows:

    H+ + HCO3- = CO2 + H2O

    This could also be written as:

    HCl + NaHCO3 = NaCl + CO2 + H2O

    Perhaps you are confusing sodium bicarbonate with milk of magnesia (Mg(OH)2), which does contain OH- ions.

  28. It’s a great article. I have been suffering from Autoimmune problems i.e Low B12, Pernicious anemia & presence of Anti parietal cells. Due to non-advise from doctors, I was given B12 injections very late, so by the time I started the treatment, I already had the atrophic gastritis with little or no stomach acid . Then I started having all the cyclic problems which you explained in your article. I have leaky gut, SIBO, candids, bad absorption, vitiligo etc. etc. looks like the origin of the problem is the low stomach acid. Though I am trying with HCL supplement, kefir, sauerkraut nothing has been improved. Also, I have the elevated gastrin levels (>1000) & I am scared of tumour cells. So bit lost.

    Can you help?

  29. Hi Dr Jockers, I have just started adding hack to my protein meals. I have suffered from fatigue issues and have noticed some positive changes with hcl. My energy is improved and my tongue is now a healthy pink, not coated as before. I also feel much more clear headed. But I have also noticed that I am much hungrier now. Also I’m not sleeping as well because I am feeling so energized. I have also experienced some leg cramps. Is this due to the hcl using more magnesium? Please shed some light on this.
    Thank you!

  30. Hello, Dr. Jockers. I’m so glad you’re still monitoring these comments. 🙂 I’ve been following the advice on acid reflux that, among other things, prohibits tomatoes, coffee/caffeine, chocolate, and citrus fruit. But these items don’t seem to appear on lists I’ve found so far regarding low stomach acid. Are they still off limits? Thank you!

  31. Hi dear! M very upset because my mother suffering from decease which is still could not diagnosed by the doctors from last 6 months at start 6 months before she compliant that she could not pass the food from there esophagus easily. Then time passes and she uses lots of medicins but no one was affective. And now the situation is even she cannot pass the drink through food pipe. Kindly reply me and tell me something about this condition.

  32. Hi Dr, I have been diagnosed with H.pylori and chronic gastritis 5 years ago. I was given antibiotics for the h.pylori and omeprazole for the acid reflux. I’m still taking omeprazole 20mg currently but my stomach has not improved in 5 years. I’m certain I have low stomach acid. Would you recommend I take HCL supplements with my conditon of chronic gastritis? Thanks.

  33. What an amazing article Dr. Jockers….. thank you !

    Question, can I apply all these suggestions to my condition : lactose intolerance and Gerd

    Lika Richards

  34. can my h pylori cause shortness of breath. i have been experiencing shortness of breath after a meal how can i deal with this.

  35. Hi Dr. Jockers.

    Thank you for the article. I have been following a ketogenic diet since January 2018 and started incorporating intermittent fasting and a few longer fasts of 2-5 days. Initially I was losing weight at a steady pace (27 pounds over three months) but since March I have not been able to lose any. I have actually gained weight. In May my hair started falling out/thinning dramatically and I suspect that my stomach acid levels are low. I get very bloated and gaseous after each meal and sometimes I experience bloating when I havent eaten. Some mornings, upon waking I burp and it tastes as though my food from the night before is still sitting in my stomach. I have experienced a little bit of a burning feeling in my esophagus on occasion but cant really seem to tie it to any specific foods. This burning feeling usually comes about when I havent eaten/several hours after eating.

    I drink water with fresh squeezed lemon regulary, take a tablespoon of ACV before or with meals, supplement with probiotics and sacchromyces boulardi, take digestive enzymes with my meals. Despite all of this I am still having these issues. I also eat plenty of leafy greens and cruciferous vegtables (about 7-10 cups a day).

    Do you suspect that this is indeed due to low stomach acid? I never had these issues before keto and intermittent fasting. Is it possible that either of those contributed to the problems I am now having? I am feeling hopeless and fear that my body is not agreeing with my new keto and IF lifestyle.

    I would greatly appreciate it if you would share your thoughts and any advice you may have.

  36. Dr.,

    What is your opinion on the use of Coca-Cola with its phosphoric acid. Many people jokingly say that coke will dissolve iron! The reality is that it is not a joke, it IS very acidic. I would think that it would be helpful in instances of low stomach acid.

  37. Dr. Axe recommends taking Betaine HCL BEFORE meals. Dr. Jockers recommends taking Betaine HCL mid-way or AFTER meals. How can something so essential to know as the appropriate time of usage for a prophylactic be in dispute or open to interpretation??? https://draxe.com/what-is-betaine/

    1. Not sure what his reasoning is but I like to allow your stomach to produce its own stomach acid first then use HCL to supplement what is already there. If you take it before meals then you may not produce as much of your own!

  38. Thank you for the tremendous dedication to human life. I’ve been taking red yeast rice to lower and maintain cholesterol. My wife was on States for high cholesterol and she too would rather use a natural remedy. She switched to red yeast rice and blood test indicate each of us are well with in the o.k. counts. She, my wife, has been experiencing heart burn, constipation, acid reflux for many years. Recently, it seems to be after every meal. She started taking hcl, and it has helped the heartburn.

    I read that red yeast rice can cause gaterol intestinal problems for some of us. Have you done any research on bacterial issues, or yeast infections, and the effect of red yeast rice?

  39. Dr. JockersP
    I had my gallbladder removed . I wish to this day (20 years later) that I had not done that. Reason was nausea. Removal of gallbladder did not help with that. I have everyday nausea and frequent diarrhea. Constant concern for a rush call while out and about.
    So, does gallbladder removed complicate this whole issue and does the same advice here help with my symtoms.

  40. Dr.,

    How long should one wait after consuming betaine hydrochloride, before consuming mineral carbonates (calcium/magnesium/potassium/sodium)? Though the carbonate forms have an antacid effect, the opposite effect to what one is aiming for when using betaine hydrochloride, I feel that the carbonate forms agree with my system more than do citrate, malate and other non-carbonate forms (e.g. calcium citrate, magnesium malate). What is your opinion of the practice of purposely oscillating between acidulation and alkalinization with nutritional supplements?

  41. I am currently taking Eliquis for my Pulmonary embolism attack. Can I use HCL with Pepsin since I have acid reflux. Kindly advise.

  42. sir i am very skinny but still i have a very bloated belly which begins to swell the moment i drink a glass of water empty stomach.i have no other digestive issues such as heartburn acid reflux constipation and diarrhea. i have white tongue coating ,grey hair, oily skin,extreme ear wax, oily scalp ,acne and no sex drive and i know all these stem from my digestive issues only.also, i have started 2 spoons acv before meals and there is 30% improvement in bloating.
    1:should i add betaine hcl or continue with acv
    2:i dont eat meat so should i have betaine with all meals ?

  43. Dear Dr.Jockers, kindly advise;

    1. If over consuming of alkaline water and taking alkaline water during/right after meal in a long term basis will cause stomach low acidity and it’s related illnesses?

    2. If I choose to take ACV as supplement to increase stomach acid level by taking it with a cup of plain water in the morning, will this help?

    3. Should I take ACV halfway through a meal just like how consuming HCL?

    Appreciate your reply.

  44. A Cheema
    December 3,2028

    Dear Dr. Jockeys,

    Need advice really bad. My daughter has been suffering from really bad pains in her stomach and the pains also spread to her back and when she eats they get worse. She feels heavy in the chest and is burping every five to ten minutes a day. All of this started in March of 2018 where she would complain of stomach pain once or twice a month. During that time she started to have hair fall and has lost more then half of her hair followed with fatigue in her arms. However things got more serious in September 2018 when her continuous burping started and her stomach pains become more frequent and started to feel nausea especially after meals followed with vomiting. She feels extreme weakness and tired all the time. The family doctor has prescribed pantorazole 40mg to her. It has reduced her burping and reduced a little of her pains. But still she is having pains and weakness. She is 14 years old and is missing a lot of school, please help

  45. i had an infection from parasites from about 8 years ago that never went away until recently i took parabiotic and it destryoed the parasites. My dr said i have high acid and gave me some prilozec for a few weeks he said the bacteria may have caused me to release high acid. Does this sound probable or do you think it could be mistaken for low acid and i should try hcl?

    1. No, bacteria won’t cause you to secrete more acid. However, it may have lowered your stomach acid and not allowed your esophageal sphincter to close. I would be sure to work on strategies to improve your stomach acid levels!

  46. I had an esophageal motility test done and was told I had no significant reflux. Then an ENT told me I had terrible scarring and blistering in my throat and that I had silent reflux. I am confused about the discrepancy in the tests. Will the baking soda test and possible supplementing with HCL be enough for me to stop the reflux and heal my throat? I don’t have many acid reflux symptoms at all. My only symptom was choking at night.

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