Guest Post- Stomach Acid: It’s Not a Problem of Having Too Much!

We have a guest poster.

Let me introduce Andrea:

“I’m enrolled in the Nutritional Therapy Consultant Program through the Nutritional Therapy Association based in Olympia, WA.  Dr. Horvitz piqued my interest in nutrition when he told me to check out the paleo diet 15 years ago, and I’ve been hooked on learning as much as I can about diet and health since then.  I know how frustrating it can be to not feel well all the time, and how discouraged I was when doctors consistently pushed drugs and medical procedures at me without even considering how what we eat affects our health.  I’ve dedicated myself to help achieve better health, and realized how great it would be to assist others in doing the same.”

Andrea wrote the following post about Stomach Acid. 

We’ve all seen commercials for Zantac, Nexium, Tums, and the like…the drug companies have us believing that our stomach acid is bad, and many of us have levels that are too high, giving us problems like heartburn and GERD.  It is true that stomach acid (also known as hydrochloric acid or HCl) can cause heartburn and indigestion.  And if you’ve taken an antacid for indigestion or reflux, you’ve probably gotten relief, so you definitely have a problem with too much stomach acid, right?  Well, what if I told you that you most likely have too little stomach acid?  I know, it sounds crazy, but bear with me a moment here.  Contrary to popular belief, stomach acid levels actually decrease as we age.[i]   Low stomach acid can also be caused by stress, excess carbohydrate consumption, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, and high alcohol consumption.  High stomach acid output, also known as hyperchlorhydria, is actually rare, and usually caused by a pathological condition such as cancer.

Stomach acid not only digests proteins, it also bathes and disinfects the stomach, killing any bacteria and parasites that may have entered with food.  If food isn’t properly broken down by not being acidic enough (the stomach needs to have a pH of 1.3-3.0 during digestion to work properly!), food will putrefy in the stomach, and will cause issues further down the gut, including bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines.  The rotting food and bacterial overgrowth cause gas and stomach bloating, which puts pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (or LES), that sits on top of the stomach.  The LES is meant to be one-way only, to allow food to enter the stomach from the esophagus.  So how does low stomach acid cause acid indigestion?  This abdominal pressure from gas and bloating can cause the acidic stomach juices and food back up through the valve into the esophagus.  It’s not because you have too much stomach acid; it’s because it’s in the wrong place.  Even a small amount of stomach acid can burn the esophagus.

So what’s a person to do who is suffering from reflux?  See your doctor first to rule out serious conditions like an ulcer, GERD, or esophagitis!  Then you can start off by implementing lifestyle changes:

·       Eat smaller meals

·       Avoid any food allergies

·       Wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t squeeze the abdomen (which can put pressure on the LES).

·       Limit food intake before bedtime

·       Quit smoking

Adding digestive support is good too:

·       Be relaxed while you eat (don’t eat while standing up) and chew your food well.

·       Digestive bitters (Urban Moonshine brand is a good one can be helpful before meals.

·       Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to 8 ounces of water and drink in the early part of your meal.  Don’t drink much more than that—you don’t want to dilute your stomach acid.

·       Take “plant” digestive enzymes with meals.  These include pancreatin, bromelain, and papain.

Adding in hydrochloric acid with pepsin can be helpful, but WORK WITH YOUR MEDICAL PRACTIONER on this!  Some medications such as anti-inflammatories can weaken the stomach lining, and taking HCl can damage the stomach even more.  If you’re on an acid-suppressing drug and are interested in getting off of it, discuss this with your physician too.  These natural therapies discussed above can help support your digestion while your stomach “learns” to make hydrochloric acid again.

The above post was written by Andrea and are her views. While I agree with much of what she wrote, as a disclaimer, the views written above are hers.









[i] Krentz K, Jablonowski H. In: Hellemans J, Vantrappen G, eds.  Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders in the Elderly, pp. 62-69.  Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone: 1984.


Sources and suggested reading:


Wright, Johnathan V. M.D. and Lenard, Lane Ph.D.  Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You.  M. Evans: New York, 2001.