Why is stomach acid so important to your health?
We produce stomach acid for two good reasons:
- To help us digest food
- To kill any harmful bugs that we might accidentally ingest
Remember the pH scale from chemistry class? A pH of 1 is very acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is very alkaline. Well, the acid that your stomach produces has a pH of around 2 – now that’s strong!
But what if you don’t produce enough? Or even too much of it? This can lead to tummy troubles. Here’s what to look out for and how to fix it.
Not enough stomach acid
Low stomach acid is simply when the stomach doesn’t produce enough acid. Less acid means poorer digestion. It also increases your risk of tummy bugs – yikes!
Symptoms of low stomach acid include:
- Feeling full quickly
The most common causes of low stomach acid are medications used to treat heartburn (e.g., omeprazole) and a pesky bacteria called H pylori.
Too much stomach acid
Excess acid is when the stomach produces too much acid. This can cause ulcers to develop in the stomach – ouch!
Symptoms of excess stomach acid include heartburn, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Although, excess acid is rare and usually caused by a condition called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
How to test for low stomach acid
Heard of the baking soda test? This is where you drink baking soda on an empty stomach and time how long it takes to burp. Since baking soda reacts with stomach acid to produce carbon dioxide gas, the theory is that if you don’t burp within a few minutes, then you don’t produce enough acid!
FYI: this IS NOT accurate
The only way to test for stomach acid levels is to swallow a capsule or tube that measures your pH levels.
How to treat low stomach acid
Apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, HCl supplements… these things sound promising on paper, but there isn’t any evidence to show they help symptoms.
The best way to fix low stomach acid is to get to the bottom of what’s causing it. For example, getting rid of H pylori infection with antibiotics will usually return stomach acid levels to normal.
That’s why we recommend speaking to your doctor or gut health specialists to get to the bottom of tummy troubles!
Burning to know more about stomach acid?