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Too Much or Too Little? Finding a Healthy Stomach Acid Balance

Healthy HCL Levels

The Importance of Stomach Acid

When you think of stomach acid or stomach acid problems you might think of conditions such as acid reflux or stomach ulcers. Both of these conditions are associated with excess stomach acid but did you know that too little stomach acid might also be the cause?

Too Much or Too Little?

Known as Hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid can be linked to conditions like stomach cancer, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Many people often associate symptoms such as heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), bloating and cramping with excess stomach acid. Too LITTLE stomach acid can be just as big of a problem. Stomach acid plays a key role in nutrient absorption and breakdown. Also known as gastric acid, it contains a blend of hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride and sodium chloride.

Gastric acid and hydrochloric acid are responsible for many important functions within the digestive system.

    • Gastric acid helps activate important digestive enzymes as well as hormones and neurotransmitters.
    • Many nutrients rely on stomach acid for proper absorption.
      • Calcium
      • Vitamin B9
      • Vitamin B12
      • Vitamin C
      • Vitamin A
      • Vitamin E
      • Zinc
      • Iron
      • Beta carotene
      • Magnesium
    • Stomach acid helps kill bacteria that could enter the GI tract. If they enter the lower GI tract these pathogens could cause infections and increase your risk of stomach cancer and other diseases.

Hypochlorhydria is more common than you may think. It’s a serious condition that can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer and can also lead to problems with digestion and nutrient absorption. Symptoms of low stomach acid can include any of the following.

  • Belching or bloating
  • Indigestion and constipation
  • Acid reflux after eating
  • Gas after eating
  • Abdominal tightness
  • Heartburn
  • Undigested food in stools

Causes

So what causes hypochlorhydria? I mentioned that many people often think their stomach issues are caused by too much stomach acid. They’ll usually take some sort of acid-blocking medication, thinking it will help solve their symptoms. In reality, these medications might make symptoms even worse! Nutrient deficiencies and stress can also cause inadequate levels of HCL.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing low stomach acid can be difficult. The “gold standard” test for low stomach acid is the Heidelberg Stomach Acid Test. It’s an extremely invasive test and can be pretty pricey ($350+) but it is the most accurate test available for determining stomach acid pH.

The Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test is also an option. This is a safe, low cost test that is easy to do at home. The idea is that the baking soda and HCL in your stomach will create a chemical reaction. This typically causes burping. The idea is that if your stomach is producing enough stomach acid you’ll experience burping within a few minutes. Your body will experience the chemical reaction which shows that you have adequate HCL levels. If your body takes longer to react to the baking soda you might have inadequate HCL levels. This is not the most accurate test though so it’s recommended that those who try the baking soda test also try the Betaine HCL Challenge Test for Low Stomach Acid.

The Betaine HCL Challenge Test is the most reliable at-home test for HCL levels. It’s important to note that if you are taking NSAIDs or Corticosteroids that you should consult a physician before trying this test but the test itself is pretty simple.

  • The first step is to buy a quality Betaine HCL with pepsin supplement.
  • Step two involves eating a high protein meal with at least 6 ounces of meat
  • At the halfway point of the meal take 1 Betaine HCL supplement

You may not notice anything after taking the HCL supplement. If this is the case it’s very likely that you have low stomach acid. You may also start to feel symptoms such as burning or hotness in your stomach which indicates you probably have adequate acid levels. It’s important to repeat this test more than once to make sure you get the same results. Typically, 2 positive tests indicate it is time to start taking a Betaine HCL supplement regularly.

A lot of information, isn’t it? If you find yourself with 2 positive tests the next thing you’ll want to do is find an HCL supplement to help increase your HCL levels. We recommend choosing a quality HCL supplement like Premier Research Labs HCL. It contains a natural source of hydrochloric acid to promote healthy nutrient absorption.

For even more information check out the video below from Dr. Hagmeyer, the clinic director at the Naperville Institute for NeuroMetabolic Solutions.

Resources:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/382590-too-much-acid-in-the-stomach/

http://scdlifestyle.com/2012/06/hypochlorhydria-3-common-signs-of-low-stomach-acid/

http://metabolichealing.com/key-integrated-functions-of-your-body/gut/lack-of-adequate-stomach-acid-what-you-don-t-know-could-be-causing-major-distress/

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