When we are hungry and see and smell food, we produce stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) which helps digest protein and absorb minerals, as well as killing off unwanted bacteria that we ingest with our food. As we get older stomach acid levels can decline. The amount of acid we produce is also affected by stress which can lead to under or over production of stomach acid. There has been an increase in the amount of stomach acid suppressing medications (known as PPI’s Proton Pump Inhibitors) that are prescribed and are be used for longer than the recommended 2 weeks. This suppression of stomach acid can result in poor bone health or malabsorption of protein / minerals.
Sometimes indigestion can be the result of food intolerances such as dairy or low levels of acid / digestive enzymes which means food stays in the stomach for longer. Overgrowth of bacteria can cause reactions to certain vegetables causing burping and discomfort in the upper digestive area.
Symptoms of low stomach acid:
1. Difficulty digesting protein
2. Feeling full in the upper stomach for too long
3. Mood disorders (digestion of protein is linked to neurotransmitters)
4. Iron deficiency
You can conduct an at-home test to see if your hydrochloric acid is low:
On an empty stomach (not first thing) , aim to produce stomach acid by looking at, thinking about and smelling nice food, ideally before lunch or dinner.
Mix 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda in a half glass of room temperature water and drink and wait. If you burp within 5 minutes, that is good indication that you are producing stomach acid. If you burp within 10 minutes it indicates you have lower levels of stomach acid. Retest on another day and if it’s then same, consider a Betaine supplement or sip 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar diluted in 50ml of water with a meal. If it takes 15 minutes or more it indicates that you have very low levels of stomach acid and a supplement of HCI should be taken.
Note this test should not be carried out if you have gastritis or ulcerative conditions of the stomach.
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