I’m talking about the importance of stomach acid! This article will let you know why you should care and I’ll also give you an easy test you can do at home to give you an idea of your stomach acid levels, so read on…
Stomach acid, otherwise known as hydrochloric acid (HCl), plays a pivotal role in the breakdown of food, a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut, and the prevention of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and so the prevention and treatment of IBS. As it’s becoming widely accepted that a healthy body depends on a healthy gut, this is important stuff for your health.
Many people with reflux also actually have low stomach acid, rather than too much. You can read more about that here.
When we eat food, digestion begins in the mouth through the process of mastication (chewing to you and me) and the release of enzymes, such as salivary amylase which starts the digestion of carbohydrates. Chewing our food sets the digestive process off to a good start!
Food is further broken down in the stomach by HCl (PH 1.0 to 2.5) and more enzymes. This kills harmful microorganisms and helps create favourable conditions for enzymes such as pepsin which helps to break down protein.
HCl also makes nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium available from our food..
If the stomach is too alkaline, the system of the digestive tract does not work well and you end up with up complications further along the tract such as SIBO.
Also, it is often a lack of acid in the stomach, not an excess, that causes reflux as food is not being properly digested and is causing acid to flare up into the esophagus.
But the amount of acid produced is also affected by the amount and type of food you are eating, and also how you are feeling!
Pause for a second, and let that sink in …
If you are stressed and eating on the go, your body is likely to be producing less HCl and your digestion just isn’t going to be great, whatever you are eating. A good tip is to take three, deep mindful breaths whenever you sit down to eat, and to eat away from electronic devices or your office desk.
How to Test for Stomach Acid Levels at Home for Free
Now, I’ll show you the simple test you can do from your home with just bicarbonate of soda and water, to give you an indicator of your HCl levels (remember this is just a guide!).If you are taking NSAIDs, Corticosteroids, or have other concerns, please speak to your GP first.
- First thing in the morning drink (in one go) a mixture of 1/4 tsp of bicarbonate of soda mixed in 150ml of room temperature water
- Set a timer and measure how long before you belch
- Repeat for several mornings to check the results
Ignoring tiny little burps, the test tends to show the earlier you burp, the more stomach acid you have
- 0-2 Minutes: You have plenty (& possibly, though rarely, too much) HCl
- 2-3 Minutes: You have about the right amount of HCl
- 4 Minutes upwards: This may suggest you have low HCl
Other signs of low stomach acid include noticing undigested food in your stool, or feeling overly full after eating a protein rich meal (like it sits in your stomach).
If you suspect you have low HCl, you can encourage its production by mixing a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, or some lemon in about 200mls of water before you eat.
Eating bitter food or drink may also help digestive secretions and prompt HCl production. Bitters include a bitter tonic such as the traditional Swedish bitters, and foods such as rocket, chicory, dandelion (including tea), radicchio, endive, and artichoke. HCl + pepsin is also available as a supplement if required.
And if you unlucky enough to already have an ongoing gut issue such as digestive discomfort, IBS, IBD, bloating, leaky gut, or just want to improve your gut health, drop me a message and I’ll see what I can do to help…