The stomach is meant to be a very acidic place when it is at work. Indeed, if you have ever see the cartoon kid’s show “The Magic School Bus” know that the stomach was one of the more dangerous on-location episodes. High acidity is extremely important for proper stomach functioning as it helps to break down foods and prep them for absorption. Proteins, vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium, and iron are especially dependent on optimum levels of hydrochloric acid to make them absorbable. The hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the stomach also kills many parasites and other harmful microorganisms.
A low level of HCl is not uncommon and can contribute to a number of well known symptoms (that are of course not always caused by a low level of HCl).
Possible symptoms of low stomach acid include:
- Bloating, belching, and gas after meals
- Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation
- Rectal itching
- Peeling or cracking fingernails
- Undigested food in stool
How can low hydrochloric acid (HCl) production be improved?
1. Make meal times non-stressful periods of your day as HCl production is reduced by stress. Take a mental break from work. Read or watch something neutral, relaxing, or funny. (See my post on Adrenal Fatigue to learn how stress can mess up more than digestion).
2. Get enough zinc. Zinc is necessary for HCl production and low HCl can actually be indicative of a zinc deficiency. Other signs of zinc deficiency include loss of smell and loss of taste. The optimum daily intake of zinc is 22.5 to 50 mg and it can be found in highest quantities in meats, poultry (dark meat), eggs, fish, and other seafood.
3. Take a hydrochloric acid (HCl) supplement with meals. Each capsule should contain at least 600mg of betaine HCl. To find out how many capsules your body needs per meal, start with 1 capsule and add an additional capsule (up to 5 capsules max) with each subsequent meal until you have a warm feeling in your stomach. The warm feeling means that you require just one less capsule than what you last took with a similar sized meal. Note that the number needed may change over time and depending on meal size.
Digestive issues can also be due to a food intolerance. More on that in a future post.
You might also be interested in:
- Adrenal fatigue: Get your energy back
- Probiotics and biological warfare in your gut
- Vitamin D: Why it matters and how to get enough of it
Chek, P. (2006). How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy. Chek Institute: San Diego.
Jones, D. S. (2010). Textbook of functional medicine. Institute for Functional Medicine: Gig Harbor.
Lieberman, S., & Bruning, N. (2007). The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book. Penguin Group: New York.