Look At Your Fingernails
If this sounds like you, try inspecting your fingernails to see if they have any white spots or vertical ridges meaning ridges or lines that run from the cuticle to the tip of the finger. According to the Oriental medicine tradition , white spots on nails and vertical ridges on nails could be indicative of underlying gut dysbiosis or gut inflammation, as well as an associated nutrient deficiency.
Pearls And Other Issues
- Anything that causes an insult to the parietal cells can lead to the development of achlorhydria.
- KCNE2 and KCNQ1 were found to play a significant role in the functioning of parietal cells by a knockout study conducted in mice.
- Despite leading to some malignant conditions in the stomach, achlorhydria has a good prognosis.
- No specific guidelines have been established for long-term surveillance.
- The treatment varies on the underlying cause and is mainly directed at the replacement of nutrient deficiency.
How Do You Know If You Have Low Stomach Acid
If you recognize any of the symptoms of low stomach acid, you try an easy at-home test to gauge whether stomach acid is at play.
One gentle approach that Parsley Health coaches often recommend is known as a baking soda challenge. , we are looking to see how long it takes for you to burp, Zellner says.
Simply mix a ¼-teaspoon of regular ol baking soda with 4-6 ounces of water and drink on an empty stomach . Start a timer as soon as you drink the baking soda water. If you have sufficient levels of stomach acid, the baking soda will be converted into carbon dioxide gas, which should cause belching about three minutes after drinking, Zellner explains.
If you havent belched within five minutes, stop the timer. You may have low stomach acid. It can be helpful to work with a health coach, like those at Parsley Health, while doing this so they can help you interpret your exact results and come up with a treatment plan thats personalized to you.
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Cause Of Low Stomach Acid
January 14, 2021// by Dr Hagmeyer
Low stomach acid or Hypochlorhydria is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. While excess stomach acid is commonly believed to cause indigestion, these days, it is being more readily accepted that low levels of stomach acid may actually be the cause. Stomach acid is made up of hydrochloric acid or HCL, enzymes, and a mucus coating that protects the lining of your stomach. Hydrochloric acid helps your body break down, digest, and absorb nutrients such as protein and fat and having the proper levels helps eliminates harmful bacteria, yeast and viruses that hitch a ride on the foods we eat and cause many GI problems.
Transcript Jan 2021
In todays video, I want to review some of the causes of Low stomach acid . In previous videos I have talked about Symptoms of low stomach acid, natural treatment options for low stomach, I have talked about how to test for low stomach acid and while all of these are important- it equally important to understand whats actually causing low stomach acid. How do you try to fix something if you dont know what the cause is.
Hydrochloric acid helps your body to break down, digest, and absorb nutrients such as protein. It also eliminates bacteria and viruses in the stomach. Left untreated, low stomach acid can cause damage to the gastrointestinal system, cause infections like SIBO, fungal overgrowth, leaky gut. We also know that
Limit Refined Carbohydrate Intake
Making certain dietary changes may help increase stomach acidity. For example, diets that are high in refined carbohydrates may lead to inflammation in the stomach and other digestive organs.
Although some research suggests that the inflammation is directly due to refined carbohydrates and excess sugar, some experts suggest that it may be due to an overgrowth of yeast fungi in the stomach that causes diarrhea, bloating, and constipation.
Proponents may suggest trying the candida diet, which involves eliminating gluten, sugar, and certain dairy products. However, there is little scientific evidence to prove that this can prevent an overgrowth of yeast fungi in the gut.
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Signs Of Low Stomach Acid
Here are some common symptoms that can stem from low stomach acid:
- Heartburn or acid reflux shortly after eating
- Gastric cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Improper digestion due to low stomach acid can end up affecting your entire body due to the decreased availability of nutrients and increased levels of chronic inflammation.
What Is The Prognosis For Hypochlorhydria
This condition can often be reversed, or at least successfully treated, with HCI supplements. Its important to address the underlying causes, however. If you have an infection, disorder or inflammatory condition, these will continue to cause problems, including hypochlorhydria and others. Make sure to get a thorough medical screening before treating with HCI supplements. Your healthcare provider can help ensure youre treating the causes and effects of hypochlorhydria, including specific nutritional deficiencies.
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Low Stomach Acid Diagnosis
When you notice any combination of the symptoms described, you should reach out to your doctor so they can test your stomach acid levels. Your doctor will start with a history of your health and a physical exam and then will conduct a pH test or acidity test of your stomach.
A low stomach acid test will produce a pH reading between 3 and 5. Any reading above 5 indicates you have almost no stomach acid, which is a condition known as achlorhydria.
Undigested Food In The Stool
If you notice undigested food in the stool, it’s highly likely that your stomach acid levels are low. One of the most noticeable effects of low stomach acid is the way it interferes with the ability to digest or break down nutrients, especially protein, into digestible amino acids. This lack of acid in the stomach may lead to folic acid or amino acid deficiencies, as the absorption of key nutrients is lacking.
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Stomach Acid Production Decreases With Age
Unfortunately, an unhealthy or older stomach takes even longer to digest food due to lower levels of HCl and other associated digestive enzymes. And when food repeatedly sits in this type of stomach for long periods of time, decaying and creating gaseous fumes that burn the esophagus and cause heartburn, as one prominent example, other more serious health conditions can emerge such as full-on esophagitis or irritable bowel syndrome.
Again, the medical establishments standard solutions antacids or PPIs only address the symptoms without getting to their root cause. And by reducing stomach acid even more , these drugs can potentially cause more harm than good by allowing poorly digested food particles to enter the small intestine, where their noxious presence generates inflammation.
This inflammation often manifests symptomatically as bloating due to the membranes of the intestinal wall becoming inflamed and swollen. And as this swelling occurs, the intestinal wall becomes more permeable than normal, allowing inadequately digested food particles to enter into the body uninhibited a dangerous phenomenon known as leaky gut .
Besides rotting food particles, other damaging substances such as chemical preservatives, pesticides and herbicides, and antibiotics also pass through the intestinal membrane, toxifying the body to an even greater degree.
But keep in mind that pretty much all of this can be avoided simply by supporting healthy stomach acid production.
How Does Low Stomach Acid Cause Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is really a disease of the muscle at the end of the esophagus that leads to the opening of the stomach, called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter, or LES for short. This flap acts as a gatekeeper.
It opens to allow food to travel down the esophagus into the stomach, and also keeps it from going the other way.
So what happens if the LES isnt working properly?
Acid reflux! The symptoms you get with heartburn is from the acid being in the wrong place. The esophagus and small intestine were not built to handle the acidity that is quite normal for the stomach, so the discomfort is coming from acid touching the sensitive lining of the esophagus.
Excess stomach acid is blamed for being the cause of acid reflux, which is why most people are using antacids and acid blockers to manage their discomfort. However, in about 90% of cases, the actual cause of acid reflux is low stomach acid.
This means, those antacids you are taking are providing temporary symptom relief but can have a negative impact on your health. Confused? Let me explain.
Like we talked about above, the stomach is meant to be an acidic environment for many reasons. If our stomach acid decreases , it will make the stomach less acidic.
When the stomach isnt acidic enough, the LES is not signaled to close properly and remains partially open. And this then allows acid to go back up into the esophagus, causing reflux symptoms.
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What Does Low Stomach Acid Mean
Low stomach acid is a trigger for poor digestive activity. Because food and nutrients cannot be broken down, they stay in the stomach and cause bacteria to build up. The main symptoms of this process are gas and bloating. Other symptoms you may experience from low stomach acid include: cramping.
What are achlorhydria and hypochlorhydria?
Achlorhydria occurs when there is no hydrochloric acid in the stomach. It is a more serious form of hypochlorhydria, a deficiency in stomach acids. Both conditions can impair the digestive process and lead to damage to the gastrointestinal system.
What You Can Do To Help Low Stomach Acid
There are many lifestyle factors that can be helpful when it comes to increasing low stomach acid levels.
Lets look at a few things you can do to up your stomach acid game right now.
- Focus on your food
We live in a busy world, but rushing through meal time can hinder stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.
Has your mouth ever watered after smelling food nearby? Thats your body beginning the digestive process. Smelling and looking at food stimulates stomach acid, digestive enzyme, and saliva production to make sure you have everything you need to properly digest your food.
When meal time comes around, take a moment to look at your food, take a deep breath, and smell the delicious food youre about to consume – your stomach will thank you for it.
- Take prebiotics and probiotics
At the core of a healthy digestive system is a healthy gut microbiome. This collection of bacteria, yeasts, and viruses helps your digestive system function its best. But in order to do that, your gut microbiome needs to be balanced.
That means it has plenty of healthy bacteria and low levels of inflammation.
Taking prebiotics and probiotics is a great way to encourage a balanced microbiome. You can incorporate these in the form of food or supplements – whatever is easiest for you!
- Consume digestive-stimulating herbs like ginger
- Stress less
- Work with a healthcare professional to incorporate digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and pepsin
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Why Does Hypochlorhydria Cause Low Stomach Acid
A person with hypochlorhydria is unable to produce enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Stomach acid, along with several enzymes, help break down food. Other functions of this acid include: killing bacteria and other pathogens in the stomach to prevent infection.
How can a doctor know if you have hypochlorhydria?
To diagnose hypochlorhydria, a doctor will usually take a persons medical history and perform a physical exam. They can also test stomach acid with a small capsule that contains a transmitter. The person swallows the capsule and the transmitter reports the amount of acid in the gastrointestinal tract.
What Are The Symptoms Of Excess Stomach Acid
Although perhaps not as common as people may think, high or excessive stomach acid is still an issue for some. Symptoms include:
- Acid reflux acid reflux is commonly referred to as heartburn and is often the most recognisable symptom of stomach acid issues. Our stomach has a protective mucous layer to protect it from the powerful digestive agent that is hydrochloric acid. Our oesophagus doesnt have this protective layer so if stomach acid makes contact with your oesophagus a severe burning sensation can be felt which can be very painful and be experienced across the upper chest
- Pain extreme, burning pain is often a result of the acid reflux
- Belching belching or burping is common as the oesophagus becomes irritated. This can even result in acidic taste in the mouth as acid travels up the oesophagus. This can also give rise to a sore throat
- Nausea nausea occurs as a result of the acid travelling up your oesophagus when can cause us to gag or even vomit
- Recurrent acid reflux can result in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease . In GORD there is a problem with the lower oesophageal sphincter muscle it doesnt work properly allowing stomach acid to travel back up into the oesophagus. GORD may be exacerbated with certain dietary lifestyle choices.
Whats A Good Diet For Low Stomach Acid
Diet alone wont restore your stomach acid, but these guidelines may help improve your digestion while living with hypochlorhydria:
- Eat protein first. Protein at the beginning of your meal helps to stimulate acid production.
- Drink fluids later. Save drinks until at least 30 minutes after youve finished your meal. This gives your stomach more time to produce acid and metabolize proteins.
- Eat probiotic foods, including yogurt, miso and sauerkraut, to help boost your good gut bacteria and keep harmful bacteria in check.
- Avoid overly fatty and processed foods, which are harder to digest and offer little nutrition.
- Fortify your vegetarian diet. Many of the deficiencies associated with low stomach acid, including protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B12, are most abundant in animal-sourced foods, such as meat, fish and dairy products. If youre a vegetarian, make sure youre supplementing these nutrients. This might be easiest with a quality health shake blend.
- Eat smaller meals and chew thoroughly to give your digestive system its best chance to break the food down.
- Finish your last meal two to three hours before bedtime. Give your body time to digest before lying down.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
Achlorhydria is not a very common disorder in clinical practice. Even when it presents, the signs and symptoms are vague. However, in order to avoid the high morbidity, healthcare workers including the primary care provider must consider it in the differential diagnosis when evaluating patients with epigastric discomfort. The pharmacist should assist with pain control. To make the diagnosis of achlorhydria, testing is always required. Once the diagnosis is made, the treatment depends on the cause. Even though there are no current guidelines on screening or monitoring of these patients, the clinician should always be aware that many cases of gastric cancer have been reported in these patients.
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How Is Hypochlorhydria Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam and listen to your symptoms and health history. If they suspect hypochlorhydria, they will suggest one of several stomach acid tests.
Medical tests to diagnose stomach acid include:
- The Heidelberg pH test. For this test, youll swallow a small capsule with a radio transmitter that measures the pH levels in your stomach. After taking a baseline measurement, youll drink a baking soda solution to neutralize your stomach acid. Then the test measures how long it takes your stomach to return to baseline acid levels. This tells healthcare providers how well your stomach produces and secretes acid.
- The SmartPill test. The SmartPill is another wireless transmitter that you swallow. Unlike the Heidelberg test, which measures pH levels, the SmartPill measures gastric acid levels.
- The gastric string test. This test involves swallowing a capsule attached to a string, then pulling it out by the string after 10 minutes. The string is tested with pH paper. Normal stomach acid has a pH level of one to two, which is highly acidic, with zero being the most acidic level on the scale. If you have hypochlorhydria, your stomach acid might be more in the range of three to five. Above five is a severe condition called achlorhydria, which means you have virtually no hydrochloric acid.
Causes And Symptoms Of Low Stomach Acid
As a clinician who specializes in helping people with chronic digestive complaints and auto-immune diseases, one of the most common underlying problems I see with these individuals is low stomach acid. This syndrome is also called hypochlorhydria in the medical literature and it is immensely important to correct first in order to get someone well.
Unfortunately, the mainstream medical system is almost completely unaware of this issue and actually does things, such as prescribing anti-biotics, NSAIDs and acid blocking medications that only make it worse. Most natural health practitioners are either not addressing this issue or they often think very lightly about it.
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Low Stomach Acid: What Causes It + How To Know If You Have It
Low stomach acid or hypochlorhydria is rampant and the cause of so many gut and health problems, including heartburn, reflux, SIBO, mineral deficiencies, and hypothyroidism. Learn 10 root causes + how to know if you have it!
Note from Dena: This post was co-written with Deina Hamdan, Dietetic Intern, as part of a research partnership between Back To The Book Nutrition and post-graduate nutrition students from the University of Houston.
We hear a lot about excess stomach acid and how to lower it, but many people with heartburn, reflux, bloating, and IBS actually have low stomach acid. Read on to learn what causes low stomach acid and how to know if you have it!
WHAT IS LOW STOMACH ACID?
Low stomach acid, or hypochlorhydria, occurs when your body has low levels of hydrochloric acid , making it harder to break down food and nutrients. When this happens, the body also releases less digestive enzymes and bile to help break down food, causing a variety of digestive symptoms .
SYMPTOMS OF LOW HCL
Here are a few symptoms that you may experience along with hypochlorhydria:
- Heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD
- Poor digestion after eating heavy foods you may feel a heavy sensation in your stomach, especially after eating high protein foods
- Food sensitivities
WHY LOW STOMACH ACID IS BAD FOR YOU
Although a lower HCl level itself is enough to cause symptoms, leaving it untreated may also lead to several other health complications such as: