Low stomach acid, also known as Hypochlorhydia, can cause a number of health issues. Without adequate stomach acid levels, it’s harder for your body to defend against pathogens, and food cannot be properly broken down to be used as nutrients. Having low stomach acid can be a daily annoyance for many.
You might be wondering how to know if you are suffering from low stomach acid. The first thing is to pay attention to your digestive issues.
You may be suffering from symptoms such as:
- Gas and bloating
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Difficulty digesting meat
- Leaky gut
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Undigested food in stool
- Constipation or diarrhea
Unfortunately, some of these symptoms are similar to other digestive conditions, so it’s important to not jump the gun and self-diagnose. If digestive upset is severe or chronic, it’s important that you consult with your medical professional to make sure you’re getting the best treatment.
If you feel you do have low stomach acid, know that it’s a common affliction in today’s world. With a few simple tweaks in behaviour and nutrition, you can start feeling better today.
What causes low stomach acid?
Though there are many potential causes, stress in our every day living has a big impact. Natural aging also plays a part, as stomach acid isn't as strong when we get older. Other causes include medications, surgery, H. plyori infection, or vitamin deficiencies.
How to test for low stomach acid at home:
Though this isn't a fool-proof method, it can give you an indication of what's going on. If unsure, it's always best to consult your medical practitioner.
Natural ways to increase low stomach acid:
1. Take a HCI (betaine hydrochloride) supplement:
Betaine HCL and pepsin are commonly taken together to help correct low acid levels. They differ from regular digestive enzymes, but can be used together. You’ll find Betaine HCL and pepsin in Digestion Plus by Ethical Nutrients. This formula is designed to help you digest protein and assist times of low stomach acid. Zinc and probiotics supplements are also helpful! To get a dietary form of probiotics, start incorporating more fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchi - not only will they help balance gut bacteria, but they can naturally increase your stomach acidity too.
2. Wake up with lemon or apple cider vinegar (ACV):
Starting your day with a squeeze of lemon or ACV in warm water is an excellent way to detox and prime your body! It’ll naturally increase your stomach acid to healthy levels, with the naturally acidic properties. You can also have lemon with meals, for example in a green salad or on top of your cooked fish. It’s also great way to get extra vitamin C, to help you process all the goodness of your food! If you want extra stomach acid support, try adding ginger – it’s a natural anti-inflammatory that is often used for a host of abdominal discomforts. ACV is commonly used around meals – you can have a tablespoon of it in water before or after your meals. If you find that it upsets your tummy, scale it back to a teaspoon and build from there. As you get used to it, you can start to drink it with less water.
3. Enjoy other digestive bitters:
Digestive bitters are traditionally used in many cultures for their digestion boosting effects. Bitters help promote gastric secretions and enzyme production, which help your stomach do its job. They can also help relieve annoying symptoms like gas and bloating, and promote healthy bowel elimination.
You can have digestive bitters in a salad, such as dandelion leaves. Having them before a meal can help you enjoy your food with less discomfort, by stimulating your digestion. Other bitters include rocket, watercress, bitter melon and radicchio - get creative with your next salad mix! You can also make digestive bitters tinctures at home, or buy them at the store. If you can't deal with the taste, you can also find them in supplement form, such as in Iberogast by Flordis or Stomach Comfort by Nature's Sunshine.
4. Chew your food properly:
When you’re rushing through the day, barely taking the time to sit and eat, you may be making your low stomach acid worse. By inhaling your food, you’re sending bits of food down your digestive tract that are too hard to break down, and may end up in stool undigested. Not only is this bad for nutrient absorption, but it will irritate your digestive tract. Undigested food particles are also linked to leaky gut!
When you chew your food well, it breaks your food down into tiny pieces, mixing them with saliva. This prepares your body for the next step in smooth digestion. If you’re struggling with chewing enough times, make sure that you don’t eat when you’re in a rush. You can even use a timer to make sure you’re not racing through meals. Putting the phone away is also a great idea!
5. Limit processed foods and sugars:
Sorry to be the fun police, but those super delicious snacks and junk foods you crave aren’t doing your body (or stomach acid) any favours! Highly processed diets that are full of carbohydrates can lead to systemic inflammation, including in the stomach. Experts believe that the excess sugar contributes to an overload of the gut’s yeast fungi.
It couldn’t be easier to find healthy alternatives to carb-heavy foods. A simple google search will have you going through pages of ‘clean eating’ inspiration that’ll have you never turning back! Try to increase your intake of healthy fats, and decrease your carbohydrates. You may find you have better hormonal balance and less dips in energy, and your stomach will love you for it!
*Disclaimer: Always talk to your healthcare professional if you have ongoing gut health concerns before taking on board a new supplement regime. Vitamins and minerals can not replace a balanced and nutritious diet.
Healthline. 2020. Hypochlorhydria (Low Stomach Acid): Causes, Treatment, And More. [online] Available at:
Loveleaf Co. 2020. How To Take The Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test For Digestion - Loveleaf Co.. [online] Available at: <https://loveleafco.com/baking-soda-stomach-acid-test/> [Accessed 15 October 2020].
Medicalnewstoday.com. 2020. Increase Stomach Acid Naturally With 6 Methods. [online] Available at: