If you suffer from chronic gastrointestinal symptoms, it can be challenging to identify a cause — and even harder to find a solution. Chronic GI symptoms can be caused by a wide range of conditions — everything from food intolerance to inflammatory bowel conditions to IBS to thyroid dysfunction. An increasingly common diagnosis for patients who are suffering from seemingly intractable GI conditions is low stomach acid. If you have been diagnosed with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) or achlorhydria (absent stomach acid), you can make dietary adjustments to improve your condition. Read on to learn more about the basics of low stomach acid and some nutritional strategies that can help you address the problem.
The Importance of Stomach Acid
In order for your stomach to function normally, a certain amount of hydrochloric acid (HCl), must be secreted. However, there are a wide range of factors that may cause your stomach to produce a lower amount of HCl than you need, such as autoimmune diseases, degenerative disorders, and bacterial infections. Studies also indicate that HCl secretion in your gut naturally drops as you age, and it may also be lowered if you take certain medications. If HCl levels in your cut drop below normal, you may be diagnosed with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) or achlorhydria (absent stomach acid).
Because HCl is essential for proper digestion, hypochlorhydria and achlorhydria can put you at risk for a variety of health problems. In the short term, the lack of stomach acid will prevent your body from digesting food properly, potentially leading to a whole host of GI troubles. The presence of HCl is also important for maintaining a healthy bacterial population in your gut, which in turn supports healthy digestion, immune function, and even skin health. At the same time, HCl is crucial for the absorption of key nutrients, including protein and minerals such as calcium and iron. The lack of protein can lead to the buildup of toxins in your intestines, inadequate iron absorption puts you at risk for iron-deficiency anemia, and low calcium levels can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, especially as you age. Therefore, doing what you can to increase HCl level is essential for maintaining your health over the long term.
Nutritional Strategies to Address Low Stomach Acid
One of the most effective nutritional strategies for addressing hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria is to take an HCl supplement. By directly increasing the amount of hydrochloric acid in your gut, and HCl supplement directly increases your body’s capacity to digest food and maintain a healthy gut microbial population. As a result, this nutritional supplement can help you avoid some of the most common GI symptoms associated with hypochlorhydria and achlorhydria, including:
- Bloating, belching, and/or flatulence after eating
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Undigested food in stools
At the same time, HCl supplements help guard against mineral deficiencies that have other side effects, such as fatigue due to iron deficiency anemia, slow metabolism due to lack of protein, or muscle aches and spasms due to low calcium levels
Aside from nutritional supplements, there are other dietary changes that you can make to increase the level of acid in your stomach. One option is to add apple cider vinegar to your diet. Apple cider vinegar has a very low pH, so it can help return your stomach to the optimal level of acidity. Some people with hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria find that taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a small amount of water before eating can reduce the risk of post-meal bloating. Other creative ways to use apple cider vinegar in your meals include:
- Using it to tenderize meat
- Including it in a salad dressing alongside olive oil, which is digested in the small intestine
- Adding it to a smoothie
- Mixing it into guacamole or pasta sauce to boost flavor
- Stirring it into boiling water to produce fluffier rice or quinoa
To help lessen the symptoms of low stomach acid, you can’t just think about what you eat, but also how you eat. There are a few things you can do to naturally make it easier for your stomach to digest food. That way, you can make the most of all the hydrochloric acid that you do have. For example, chewing your food thoroughly makes it easier for the stomach to break it down and absorb nutrients. Eating smaller, less frequent meals throughout the day can also reduce GI symptoms caused by low stomach acid. Instead of hitting your stomach with a large amount of food that needs to be digested, smaller meals spread out the burden into more manageable “bites.”
If you are looking to adopt dietary strategies to deal with hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria, it can be helpful to get nutritional counseling from a chiropractor at Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness. We also offer a Gastro HCl Plus nutritional supplement that can boost the level of acid in your stomach. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!