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Are Your Symptoms Related to Low Stomach Acid? + The TRUTH About Heartburn, Acid Reflux and Indigestion

  • Published on: 12 March, 2015
  • Last update: 10 August, 2017

low stomach acid

Indigestion is a huge problem in the United States. Americans spend more than $7 billion per year on acid suppressing drugs and another $4 billion on OTC antacids such as Tums, because we’re told that too much stomach acid is the cause of acid indigestion, acid reflux, and heartburn.

Surprisingly, the actual cause of indigestion in 90% of the population is insufficient stomach acid!

Sometimes, no matter how clean our diet is, we’re still low in certain nutrients. Why is that? We seem to be doing all the right things, and yet there’s still part of the puzzle missing. The “puzzle” metaphor here is key: if it took you 5 years to get sick, it will take you 5 years to get better. Healing is a process that happens over time, requiring patience, diligence, and body love/acceptance of the process no matter how long it takes. When we treat our bodies poorly over time, we create certain deficiencies and allow microbes into our system that take time to heal. The severity of these deficiencies and microbial invaders depends on your individual constitution (meaning the strength of your immune system inherited from your mother), your sensitivity, toxic load, and so much more. Everyone is different.

A clean diet is always number 1 on your road to healing, and without it you will never get well.

However, there are other things you must take into consideration when asking yourself why you’re not getting better.

1. Have you gotten rid of emotional stress or developed proper coping mechanisms and outlets to handle everything?

2. Are you healing/sealing your leaky/damaged gut with healthy fats, bone broth, herbs like slippery elm bark, and aloe vera?

3. Are you replenishing minerals that have depleted over time and drain every time you get stressed, such as magnesium and zinc?

4. Have you completed a parasite cleanse to get those pesky flukes out of your liver so that it can filter toxins and process hormones? (My free parasite e-book can be found here & you can subscribe to our e-mail list for when it’s back in stock here)

5. Have you flushed your liver of stones? (the liver flush I do is in this book)

6. Are you taking care of any signs of a candida infection with anti-candida foods/protocol?

7. And finally, today’s topic: are you restoring your stomach acid so that you can actually use your food’s nutrients?

All of these things are interconnected in our complex health web. As an example of this connection: A poor diet creates nutrient deficiencies and allows microbes like candida/parasites to flourish. Constipation from this poor diet feeds the microbes. Nutrient deficiency, also stemming from the diet (and from toxins in our environment that leach nutrients from our bodies) creates low stomach acid. One specific nutrient deficiency highlighted in low stomach acid is zinc deficiency, which comes with copper overload. Now, having candida in your gut contributes to this low stomach acid problem since your acid is expended in the body’s attempts to kill/digest the microbes. Emotional stress only makes the problem worse! This stress causes a clogged (stagnant) liver, and in turn your liver can’t secrete enough bile to break down your food and actually use the nutrients. There is so much more I could add to this vicious cycle, but I think you get the point. Everything is connected so you have to look at all things involved in sickness to get a clear picture of health. By eating the right foods, drinking ginger tea every morning, cleaning the garbage out, and increasing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients (via stomach acid), you CAN achieve complete healing.

Effects of Low Stomach Acid in the Body

  • Failure to break down proteins into amino acids. Without amino acids in the bloodstream, your body cannot produce available neurotransmitters. This can lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
  • Undigested food in stool.
  • “Bad” bacteria, candida, and other microbes get to thrive. Pathogenic and food borne bacteria, usually easily killed by a low stomach pH, can make their way in and thrive in the intestines. A lack of acidity in the stomach means pathogens have a comfortable environment where there’s nothing trying to eat away at them! Researchers have shown that a common pathogen, E. coli (Escherichia coli) is inactivated when stomach acidity is high, with a pH ranging between 1.5 and 4.0. (1)
  • Bloating, nausea when eating or taking supplements, and feeling tired directly after meals.
  • Low stomach acid = inability to absorb nutrients properly. There’s nothing there to break them down, as referred to into the amino aid bullet. Jonathan Wright, MD, Medical Director of the Tahoma Clinic, reports observing that a number of minerals and micro-trace elements are poorly absorbed in cases of low stomach acid, including calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum and cobalt. (2)
  • Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, low stomach acid is the real cause of heartburn, GERD, and acid reflux. See below.
  • Constipation, bloating, gas, and belching. Food sits and ferments instead of getting broken down.
  • The pathogens (candida, parasites) that can thrive in a low stomach environment cause leaky gut. Leaky gut lets food get past the lining of your stomach and into your blood, causing your body to ‘reject’ the food as if you have an allergy to it. Hello food allergies!

Additional Symptoms:

Stomach-Acid2

source: nutritionreview.org

So how does low stomach acid cause acid reflux?

sphincter

The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) separates the esophagus and the stomach. Proper stomach acid levels signal the LES to close tightly, so that food digestion can take place. However, low stomach acid levels don’t give off the closing signal, and cause the sphincter to loosen. Once loose, acidic stomach fluid comes back up into the lower part of the esophagus causing a burning sensation. This is why a large meal will give you heartburn. There’s not enough acid in your stomach to saturate the heavy meal, so the LES doesn’t close. Furthermore, there is also a pyloric sphincter that separates the stomach from the small intestine. The body will not open this second sphincter if the contents of the stomach are not properly acidified. Instead of moving through the pyloric sphincter, food sits in the stomach and ferments, producing gas and pressure (also making the LES leak open).

How to Fix It

Cleansing microbes will increase your stomach acid, and likewise, increasing your stomach acid will naturally create an environment where these microbes can’t survive. It’s a great idea to eat anti-parasitic/anti-candida foods (garlic, carrots, pumpkin seeds, wild yam, etc.) and to do parasite/liver cleanses to get the bad guys out. And it’s an even better idea to incorporate practices into your daily regimen that will increase your stomach acid so that you have an environment where microbes can’t survive!

1. Immediate, but not permanent (lifestyle) solution: Supplement HCL.

Did you know that doctors used to prescribe HCL replacement therapy for many symptoms and clinical conditions for over 100 years? Before the 1920s, doctors knew that a myriad of symptoms could be traced back to the microbes and poor environment that resulted from insufficient stomach acid. But guess what? The Rockefellers, who controlled the information going into medical schools, knew they could make a huge profit off of misinforming medical students and crafting a lie about overproduction of stomach acid instead.

“Encouraged by the legal drug industry, medical students are not taught that hypochlorhydria (inadequate stomach acid production) is treatable only with unpatentable, natural replacement therapies. Instead, their education concentrates on hyperchlorhydria (excess stomach acid production) and its treatment with patentable acid blocker drugs and highly profitable over-the-counter antacids.” Jonathan Wright, MD, The Digestive Theory of Aging

acid reflux big pharmaSee what they did there? They knew the root problem: insufficient stomach acid causes the lower esophageal sphincter to malfunction and open loosely, sending acid back up. Instead of treating the cause for good, they realized they could sell pharmaceutical acid blocking drugs and over-the-counter antacids that cover up a symptom OF the root cause. Over time, these antacid drugs make the real root problem worse so you’ll be a customer for life, getting sicker with each pill you take. Less stomach acid —> more food putrefaction —> more symptoms —> more medication!

How to take HCL supplementation: I use Thorne Research HCL & Pepsin and only with a meal containing protein. Take one HCL capsule at the beginning of your meal (after a few bites). Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. If you have no discomfort or burning in your stomach, you can graduate to 2 HCL capsules at lunch. If there is no warming sensation once again, move up to 3 for dinner. Continue to slowly increase until you feel a warming sensation. As soon as you feel that warming sensation, you know your sweet spot is the dosage right before that. If you got a warming sensation at 4 pills, your dosage is 3. If your stomach has a burning sensation immediately upon the first capsule, your stomach lining may be too fragile at the moment to introduce HCL. Heal your leaky gut first with plenty of aloe vera, bone broth, and gelatinous foods. Caution: Do NOT use HCL supplementation while on prescription medications similar or identical to corticosteroids/anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Tylenol etc. NSAIDs eat away at the GI lining and there is a risk of a stomach ulcer if HCL is introduced while the gut is so weak. That being said, do not use HCL if you have stomach ulcers!

2.REDUCE STRESS and change your eating environment!

This seems like a no-brainer, but so many people forget this or don’t think it’s important. But yes, it’s #2 on my list! You absolutely cannot eat a meal while running out the door or on the go. Relax and only eat while sitting. Take 3-5 deep breaths before you begin and let them out slowly. Chew each bite until it’s the consistency of applesauce before swallowing. Your stomach does not have the ability to chew your food for you, so you cannot skip this step if you want optimal digestion and nutrient uptake. Eat around candles and flowers – make your eating environment as beautiful and relaxing as humanly possible! Do not drink more than 4 ounces of water with meals and within 1 hour of eating. This dilutes the stomach acid.

3. Eat a small amount of fermented food with every meal: kimchi, sauerkraut, organic unpasteurized pickles, kombucha, etc. Cook your vegetables on moderate heat VERY QUICKLY so that they still contain live enzymes. In the summer (or if you live in a hot climate) eating raw vegetables with each meal is wonderful for the same reason: enzyme content. I don’t recommend constant raw foods to those in cold climates as they are too cooling energetically.

4. Manuka Honey

Manuka Honey is absolutely incredible. It comes from New Zealand/Australia from bees who pollinate the manuka tree. It contains naturally occurring peroxide, which kills a wide array of pathogens and bacteria without harming your stomach lining. It is incredibly effective against h. pylori overgrowth, which causes ulcers.

How to take: 1 tsp. twice a day on an empty stomach to heal your stomach lining and encourage your body to naturally produce gastric juices.

5. Digestive Bitters

Bitters not only stimulate HCl secretion, they also stimulate pancreatic enzymes and increase bile from the gallbladder. On top of that, they are antibacterial as well and will help to kill the invaders inhabiting your stomach lining. I use Urban Moonshine Organic Bitters due to the fact that it has INCREDIBLE liver tonic ingredients: burdock root, dandelion root, ginger, and more. It basically doubles as a daily gentle liver detox!

How to take: Bitters should be taken 15-20 minutes prior to meals with a glass of water. (If you are not taking bitters, don’t drink water close to your meals). A small pinch of a sea salt can also be put on the tip of the tongue at the same time, as this also helps stimulate HCl production (thanks to the chloride!)

6. Vitamin U… huh?!

Have you heard of Vitamin U? Probably not, but that’s because it’s not actually a vitamin at all. It’s a name used to describe the healing enzyme found in cabbage. It soothes the inflamed stomach lining and corrects low stomach acid, and is absolutely phenomenal for quickly healing stomach ulcers.

How to take: Juice raw cabbage and consume daily on an empty stomach. You can also take a Vitamin U supplement if you don’t have access to a juicer.

7. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

How to take: As soon as you wake up, drink 1 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar in warm water. You can absolutely add lemon, which I love. Take apple cider vinegar in 4 oz. warm water 30 minutes before each meal and after meals to stop heartburn if you need. (This and digestive bitters is the only way you should be drinking water near a meal!)

xoxo, Organic Olivia

Sources

(1) Takumi K, de Jonge R, Havelaar A. Modeling inactivation of Escherichia coli by low pH: application to passage through the stomach of young and elderly people. J. Appl Microbiol 2000 Dec;89(6):935-43.

(2) Wright JV. Treatment of childhood asthma with parenteral vitamin B12, gastric re-acidification, and attention to food allergy, magnesium and pyridoxine. Three case reports with background and an integrated hypothesis. J Nutr Med 1990;1:277-282.

http://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/gastric-balance-heartburn-caused-excess-acid/

http://www.sott.net/article/265343-The-truth-about-stomach-acid-Why-low-stomach-acid-is-jeopardizing-your-health

http://chriskresser.com/what-everybody-ought-to-know-but-doesnt-about-heartburn-gerd

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19 Comments

Sharon Lamb

Reply
Olivia- are ACV pills as effective as the actual vinegar?

dana

Reply

Hi Sharon – Olivia believes they aren’t. Dana @ Team Organic Olivia

Connor

Reply
I just started taking the Parapro formula along with fresh garlic. I noticed the garlic and sometimes other foods are not fully digested. If this is due to low stomach acid, should I take apple cider vinegar before my meals along with the parapro formula? Or is it recommended to do apple cider vinegar separately from the Parapro formula detox? Thanks!

dana

Reply

Hi Connor – Olivia suggests taking ACV right before/with ParaPro Formula dose & meal. You can also use digestive bitters in tincture or spray form directly on the tongue to promote HCL/bile production – @ Team Organic Olivia

Thomas

Reply
Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 ji270

Vicky

Reply
HI, Can you tell me- Is Kombucha ok to drink with meals?? If it’s an acid liquid it won’t dilute stomach acid like water does. Thanks- I have low stomach acid but HAVE to drink with meals- I just can’t swallow properly without something to wash it down with so am now looking for an acid drink that will HELP (or at least not hinder) stomach acid. I LOVED your post- the best I’ve read on this subject and I’ve read a LOT 🙂

dana

Reply

Hi Vicky, yes you can -the probiotics/enzymes will aid digestion! – Team Organic Olivia

Muna

Reply
Thank you for sharing this information and truth! I recently started suffering acid reflux symptoms and it got so bad I felt hopeless and didn’t know what to do. I have bad digestion issues and diet habits so I understand that if I don’t change there’s no quick fixes. I will need to tell my mother and grandmother who also suffer from this. So much info I think they’ll be so fascinated and angry that doctors don’t tell us these things.

Daniel Flood

Reply
Excellent post, thanks for the quality life changing information.

Diana

Reply
Hi Olivia, lovee the amazing information you always share, Thank you so much. Please can you make an article about SIBO and oxalates? Nowadays, all the recipes include lots of vegetables, but what about people who does not do good on most veggies? I personally get brain fog and cramps, but I thnik it is due to the SIBO and Candida. BTW, I’m from Ecuador, South America. XOXO.

Maria

Reply
Hi Olivia, what’s good for bad breath ?? My 11 year old has really bad breath. His teeth and gums are clean. I don’t think that’s the problem.

Jessica

Reply
Such a great informative post! What would you recommend to help a 3 year old and 11 month old who suffer from acid reflux? I just read this post and can’t wait to try several of these to help alleviate my reflux but am in retested in knowing how to relieve my children’s

Ragda

Reply
Hello Olivia, I really love all your posts and I too am into healthy eating, and have been doing a lot of research on primal/paleo eating. Im also a nursing student and hope to one day learn a lot more about holistic medicine and hopefully practice as a holistic nurse practitioner. I am currently suffering from horrible reflux and have been weaning of the Prilosec which I have been on for two years, and now only take them twice a week. My goal is to heal my gut and completely get off the pills. I have been trying the apple cider vinegar, taking probiotics, and digestive enzymes by enzymatic. Do you think the reflux is just a small rebound. Please give me advice on what you think I should do….I want to start taking HCL and DGL but Im nervous. Please get back to me and maybe your advice could give me courage to start something that could heal me, so that I could help heal people in the future. too. Thank you!! Ps. I put my email down, so hopefully you could see it.

Olivia

Reply

Hey! 🙂 I would definitely suggest going with manuka honey! It has peroxide which will help to kill the candida and pathogens that are overgrowing and diluting the stomach acid. On top of that, it will heal the lining of the gut, which you definitely need in order to heal in the long term. Look up copper toxicity / zinc deficiency. A huge reason we don’t have enough stomach acid is zinc deficiency, that was part of my puzzle as well.

Lisa

Reply
Im taking the same HCL & pepsin as you but I dont really know if I felt the burnig sensation. I do know after working my way up to 3 I took 3 with lunch then 4 with supper and then I didn’t have regular bm . Is that a sign to cut back. One , more question hopefully you see this, do you actually take it with every meal once youve found your dose or just once a day with the protein. Thanks for sharing- brilliant!

gabby b

Reply
hi Olivia, love reading your posts on here and Instagram. I have a question on this particular post. would you recommend taking both the Aplle cider vinegar in the same mixture as the Manuka Honey? or should they be taken separately? and if so, which one should be taken first? or how much time in between should one wait to take the other? thanks! 🙂

Olivia

Reply

Take them separately – Take ACV as I directed before meals, and take the honey on an empty stomach between your meals 🙂 xox

Eli

Reply
Hi Olivia! I love coming to your site! You’re so knowledgeable and inspiring. I recently discovered you via your most recent youtube video, which is so informational! I’m writing to ask for your advice-I’ve had chronic stomach pain for a year and have seen numerous doctors-including 2 GI specialists and a number of naturopathic doctors. Some of the naturopathic drs have helped but I’m still in pain. I’m currently receiving TCM acupuncture once a week now. I am on the thin side already, eat super healthy, recently did a 3 day organic juice fast and 7 day herbal liver detox but I’m still in the same boat! Pain in my stomach and left side by rib cage, accompanied by severe bloating and acid reflux (I drink ginger tea 1-2 times a day and take digestive enzymes and vitamins). I’ve lost faith in medical doctors! And although the naturopathics have been slightly helpful, I find I’m losing some faith in them as well. What do you recommend? I don’t normally comment or write on anyone’s blog, but thought I’d give it a try! Help please 🙂 Thx !

Megan Green

Reply
Thank you so much for this post! I have struggled with GERD for the last 5 years with severe throat congestion. Doctors have always prescribed pepcid and prilosec and even allergy medications which never helped the problem. I have taken bragg’s apple cider vinegar for the last 6 months or so and it definitely helps but it’s taking time for my throat congestion to go away. I saw a lot of posts on curezone about HCL but I never knew which one to try so I think that’s my next step!

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