By Josh Redd, DC on April 12, 2019
Doctors typically treat symptoms of acid reflux, gas, bloating and heartburn with antacids, histamine type 2 receptor agonists (H2 blockers), Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), or even surgery. They also do not use a lab test for stomach acid levels, even though testing exists.
Unfortunately, stomach acid meds worsen the problem for many people.
Antacids lower stomach acid for a temporary time. This causes the stomach to produce more acid to bring it back to its natural pH level. While this brings temporary relief, it does not fix the actual problem.
H2 blockers block a compound that activates the production of stomach acid. They work more slowly than antacids and last longer, however, they inhibit production of pepsin, a digestive enzyme that breaks down food proteins.
Proton pump inhibitors block an enzyme that tells your stomach to produce acid.
All of these methods not only cause serious side effects, but also perpetuate chronic low stomach acid and the larger health conditions that causes.
Most people don’t know about low stomach acid, or hypochlorhydria, or that it plays a large role many chronic health conditions.
Fortunately, you can use a variety of methods to test your stomach acid levels. This will better help you remedying gut problems caused by low stomach acid.
This test helps you determine if you have hypochlorhydria, hyperchlorhydria (high acid), or achlorhydria (complete lack of acid).
Repeat the betaine HCl challenge two to three times to confirm your results. Three positive tests is the best way to identify low stomach acids.
You can have a false positive for the following reasons:
First thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything:
Not burping at all within five minutes may be a sign of low stomach acid. Burping after 3 minutes is also an indication of low stomach acid levels. Early, repeated burping may be from high stomach acid (do not to confuse this with burps from swallowing air).
Because proper digestion is so important to gut and immune health, low stomach acid is associated with other health conditions:
B12 levels: Intrinsic factor in the stomach is necessary for B12 absorption and doesn’t function when stomach acid is too low. This results in vitamin B12 deficiency.
Homocysteine levels: You need sufficient stomach acid to absorb B12, which keeps inflammatory homocysteine at the right levels. When B12 is low, homocysteine becomes too high.
How to support healthy stomach acid
Eat protein at the beginning of your meal to stimulate digestive enzyme production.
Limit liquid intake during meals to allow for proper stomach acid production and digestion.
Stay hydrated between meals to support gut motility so the contents of the intestines do not wash back up into the stomach.
Take betaine HCl with pepsin supplements to support healthy stomach acid levels and overall gut function.
Take your HCL either half-way through or right at the end of the meal — taking it before may create false heartburn and turn off stomach acid production. Caution: Do not take HCL if you are taking any NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, Tylenol, or aspirin.
When you feel warmth in your stomach, that means you are taking enough. Back it down a notch so you don’t have a burning sensation. You may need to lower the dose over time as your natural stomach acid production comes back online. The amount needed varies from person to person.
Pepsin. Typically used in conjunction with HCl, pepsin is a safe aid to digestion.
Digestive enzymes help to break down food proteins. Use a high-quality blend.
Apple cider vinegar. Take 1 tablespoon in a small amount of water prior to eating.
Taking the time to improve your stomach acid levels will make a huge difference in your symptoms and quality of life. Please contact my office for more help.