Gut health: do I have low stomach acid?
Please note that this article does not constitute medical advice. If you suffer from conditions such as GERD please make sure to consult your primary physician before doing anything else.
1. The role of stomach acid
Stomach acid plays numerous key roles in our digestion and overall health. Here are a few examples:
It is needed for the proper digestion/ absorption of certain key nutrients such as proteins, vitamin B12 and calcium.
It acts as a first line of defense against pathogens
It is needed for the proper opening and closing of the the cardiac and pyloric sphincters which allow the food in and out.
Contrary to popular belief, many people actually suffer from a lack of stomach acid rather than the contrary, including individuals suffering from GERDS. That being said, I repeat that it is important to rule out more serious conditions first!
2. Symptoms and consequences
It is important to look at digestion from a north to south perspective to fully comprehend its mechanism and how low stomach acid may impact mechanisms further south. Examples of consequences may include:
It can make us more vulnerable to pathogens
It can lead to nutritional deficiencies
It can lead to delayed gastric emptying
It can lead to bacterial overgrowth
And many more
The symptoms and signs can be numerous and systemic (observed in other places in the body). Examples of symptoms may include: bloating, gas, reflux, belching, food sensitivities, undigested foods in stools, nausea, fatigue, difficulties digesting meats, and many more!
3. Causes of low stomach acid
Here are a few factors that may impact your stomach acid levels:
Lack of protein int he diet
The use of PPI
4. Solutions to low stomach acid
After ruling out anything serious, there are a few things you can do to increase your stomach acid. Here are some examples:
Activating the cephalic phase by looking and smelling your food
Chew and eat mindfully
Take 3 to 5 breath to activate your vagus nerve before eating
Incorporate fermented foods in your diet and other healthy gut promoting foods (only if your current gut health allows it)
Add bitter foods/ digestive bitters to your diet
Experiment with apple cider vinegar (only if you do not suffer from heartburn or GERD, if so you need to heal the tissue first)
Focus on nutrients needed for stomach acid such as zinc and chloride
Experiment with HCL supplementation (only if you do not suffer from heartburn or GERD, if so you need to heal the tissue first - stop immediately if you feel any discomfort either way)
Most important: find and address the root cause of the issue
Gut healing can be complex but definitely not impossible :) and sometimes even easier than we think!
This article helped but you still don't know where to start? as a holistic practitioner specialized in gut health, my job is to give you tools adapted to your very unique bio-individual needs to support your gut health including nutritional recommendations, lifestyle recommendations, and tailored supplements.