WRITTEN BY KRISTINA TELHAMI AND DR. SWATHI
Are you having symptoms such as acid reflux, heartburn, gas, bloating? Do you have nutritional deficiencies, skin problems, hair loss, weight gain, adrenal fatigue, and digestive issues? These symptoms may indicate that you have low stomach acid. This may be the opposite of what you are told when it comes to heartburn, as we are told that too much stomach acid leads to these kinds of symptoms.
It is important to note that as you age, your stomach acid declines. One study found that 40% of women over 80 years of age are unable to produce stomach acid at all. This is why you might find these symptoms especially common when you age.
When you have low stomach acid, your body is unable to break down proteins into amino acids and nutrients. Having a low stomach acid is correlated with lower nutrient and vitamin status such as vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, folate, vitamin c, and zinc.
Stomach acid is crucial for digestion and killing harmful bacteria from the food we eat. Consistent low stomach acid also causes bacterial overgrowth. Unwelcome, bad bacteria are unable to survive when the pH is 3 or less — the normal pH of the stomach ranges from 1.5-3.5; therefore, when stomach acid is not low enough, the bad bacteria can begin to take over. Stomach acid supports digestion and absorption of carbohydrates by releasing the digestive enzymes from the pancreas, and into our small intestine.
How can you naturally increase stomach acid? Check out these tips below!
- Incorporate bitter herbs in your diet, such as caraway, fennel, ginger, arugula, milk thistle, peppermint, dandelion, and hops.
- Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water daily (particularly before meals) and/or incorporate it into your diet in another way that works better for you.
- Avoid water while eating your food because this can actually dilute your stomach acid and thereby hinder both your digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Manage your stress and eat a diet abundant in plants and whole foods to build our gut lining; this has demonstrated the ability to protect the stomach from its own acid. Eating a diet in processed foods and sugar can cause inflammation in our stomach and decrease the stomach acid process.
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Wright JV. Treatment of childhood asthma with parenteral vitamin B12, gastric re-acidification, and attention to food allergy, magnesium and pyridoxine. Three case reports with background and an integrated hypothesis. J Nutr Med 1990;1:277-282.
--This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and written by Elēment Apothēc Scientific Communications Intern, Kristina Telhami. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, California.