Stomach Acid Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment

Many individuals experience issues related to excessive stomach acidity, which can lead to distressing symptoms like reflux or heartburn. However, it is important to note that sometimes these problems may actually indicate the opposite situation - hypoacidity in the stomach, also known as "hypochlorhydria" in professional terminology. In such cases, the body may be susceptible to developing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and Helicobacter pylori infection. Therefore, it becomes crucial to strike a balance and restore the level of acidity in the stomach back to normal.
It's really important for people suffering from stomach problems to be aware of this potential scenario because attempting self-treatment without understanding the underlying cause can exacerbate their condition. For example, if I mistakenly believe I have too much acid in my stomach and try reducing acid levels accordingly, they might inadvertently worsen my problems, so it becomes a more serious issue. Left untreated or mistreated, it's easy to make a bad situation worse.

 What Causes Stomach Acid Deficiency?

The most common causes of stomach acid deficiency are:

1. Aging: As we get older, our stomach naturally produces less and less acid.

2. Persistent stress: Prolonged periods of high stress can negatively impact the digestive system and decrease acid production in the stomach.
3. Helicobacter pylori infection: While this bacterium can also be a result of low acidity in the stomach, it has the ability to either increase or decrease acid secretion depending on the overall health of the body. In some cases, a decrease in acidity may even indicate stomach cancer. Additionally, Helicobacter pylori hinders proper digestion of vitamin B12, which further contributes to reduced acidity levels in the stomach.
4. Pernicious anemia: This autoimmune disease impedes vitamin B12 absorption by the body, leading to an increase in stomach acid levels, as previously mentioned.
5. Stomach surgery: Surgical procedures involving the stomach can have an impact on its acidity level.

Please note that these are just general explanations for hypochlorhydria causes and should not be considered medical advice or diagnoses without consulting with a healthcare professional first.

Other contributing factors include:
- Repeated infections in the digestive tract
- Stomach or pancreatic cancer
- Eating too quickly
- Food sensitivity or allergy 
- Excessive sugar consumption 
- Inadequate zinc levels

Stomach Acid Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment

 What are the symptoms of low stomach acidity?

Immediate symptoms most commonly include:
1. Upper abdominal pain 

2. Swelling 
3. Gas  
4. Diarrhea  
5. Constipation  
6. Presence of undigested food in stool   
7. Acid reflux    
8. Heartburn  

If the situation persists, the following symptoms can appear as a result of malnutrition:

1. Brittle nails  
2. Hair loss   
3. Pale and/or dry skin  
4. Chronic fatigue    
5. General weakness     
6. Tingling sensation in extremities   
7. Memory loss    
8. Headaches    
9. Bad breath    

Stomach Acid Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment

How do you determine if you are experiencing hypoacidity in your stomach?

While these indicators may raise suspicion, they do not explicitly confirm the presence of hypoacidity in the stomach. There is a home test that can be performed, although it is highly recommended to consult a doctor for more comprehensive and professional tests.
The home test is quite simple: on an empty stomach, consume half a glass of water mixed with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda. If hiccups do not occur within 3–5 minutes, it could indicate hypoacidity in the stomach. Normally, the carbon dioxide produced from the mixture of baking soda and stomach acid leads to hiccups. However, if this reaction takes longer than usual or does not occur at all, it suggests inadequate production of stomach acid.

 How to treat the lack of acid in your stomach:

1. Consuming apple cider vinegar has shown positive results.

One way to rebalance the acidity in your stomach is by drinking apple cider vinegar before each meal. Taking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a small amount of water can help alleviate hypoacidity in the stomach and prepare it for digestion.
Stomach Acid Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment

2. Consume digestive enzymes

Additionally, incorporating digestive enzymes as a supplement can aid in breaking down food and making nutrients more accessible to your body. This is beneficial for individuals experiencing both low and high levels of stomach acidity, as excessive acid can hinder proper digestion and nutrient absorption. It is recommended to take this supplement right before eating.

3. Consuming hydrochloric acid (HCL) along with pepsin prior to consuming protein-rich meals. 

These are additional suggested supplements, since the stomach naturally produces hydrochloric acid which creates an acidic environment and aids in protein digestion. The appropriate dosage of these supplements varies depending on individual circumstances, so it is advisable to consult a doctor before starting. Some individuals may only require one capsule, while others may need more. Experiencing warmth in the stomach after consumption can indicate excessive intake of these supplements. Pepsin, an enzyme that assists in protein breakdown, is particularly recommended for older individuals facing this issue.

4. Eating Mānuka honey

Another recommendation is to incorporate Mānuka honey into your diet. This special type of honey originates from New Zealand and possesses unique antimicrobial properties that can be beneficial for those experiencing bacterial growth in the digestive tract as a result of hypoacidity in the stomach. Consuming one to two tablespoons daily can help prevent harmful bacteria from thriving in the intestines.

5. Chew your food well and take smaller bites

To promote better digestion, it is recommended to thoroughly chew your food before swallowing. While there is no set number, aiming for around 30 chews can help break down the food particles and make them easier for your stomach to process. Additionally, opting for smaller meals allows your stomach to recover more efficiently from the digestive process. If you want to further support your stomach's recovery, intermittent fasting can provide it with ample rest time.
Stomach Acid Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment

6. Protein first, drink later

When consuming a meal that includes protein, it is beneficial to start with this nutrient first. By doing so, you stimulate the production of gastric juices in the stomach even before introducing other foods. It is also advisable to refrain from drinking anything for at least 30 minutes after finishing a meal. This gives enough time for the gastric juices to work on digesting the food without diluting their acidity levels.

7. Eat more fermented vegetables

Incorporating more fermented or pickled vegetables into your diet can be super helpful. These types of vegetables undergo fermentation processes that enhance their nutritional content and promote gut health.

Eating kimchi salad, sauerkraut, or pickles can stimulate increased gastric acid secretion in your stomach. These fermented foods also contain probiotics that promote a healthy digestive system by protecting against harmful bacteria, enhancing beneficial bacteria, and reducing inflammation. However, before adding them to your diet, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure they are suitable for you specifically.
In conclusion...
That's all, folks! Remember to ask your doctor if you have any concerns about this. While we usually think of our acid levels as "ok" or "too much", there is the case of "too little" to consider. By being aware of this, you can prevent leaving a situation untreated or, even worse, self-diagnose as having too much acid and make it worse.  Be healthy out there!
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