Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Stomach acid production plays a crucial role in the bigger picture of health.
Some symptoms of having low stomach acid may include gas, bloating, belching and early feelings of fullness, but for others, there may be no digestive symptoms at all.
It's important to note that the symptoms of low stomach acid are the same for high stomach acid, but having a low level of stomach acid is far more common. Our stomach acid can become reduced if we’re stressed, low on zinc, as we age and also if we have any gut infections such as H.Pylori. There are many factors that may play a role in the development of low stomach acid levels.
Why is stomach acid so important?
Some functions of stomach acid:
✔ Initiates protein digestion
✔ Triggers digestive enzyme production
✔ Enables Vitamin B12 and folate absorption
✔ Prepares minerals for absorption
✔ Prevents bacterial overgrowths
A healthy level of stomach acid is a vital part of the early stages of digestion, particularly for protein breakdown and vitamin and mineral absorption; it also triggers essential digestive processes further down the line such as the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
I regularly see clients who have been taking acid-blocking medications (PPI’s) such as omeprazole, this is a medication that can reduce your stomach acid levels by as much as 90%! Commonly, these medications will be prescribed to people who report that they are struggling with symptoms of acid reflux or dyspepsia.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for these medications, but they’re not meant for long-term use. Yet, I often see clients who have been on them for years. Then when I get a chance to look at some blood results, it’s no surprise for me to find them to be low in several key nutrients, particularly B12. B12 requires healthy stomach acid levels in order for us to absorb it properly. B12 is vital for optimal energy production, among many other things,so if your feeling shattered all the time and have been taking a PPI medication for a long time... it’s definitely worth checking in on your B12 levels!
Supporting your stomach acid levels...
It’s important to get some ‘basics’ in place when it comes to supporting your stomach acid levels.
The first stage of digestion is called the cephalic phase, and is triggered before food even enters your mouth. The cephalic phase is initiated by the sight, smell, thought or taste of food. This stage is crucial and gets the stomach ready to receive food. Amongst other essential processes, one crucial change that happens in the cephalic phase is the upregulation of stomach acid production.
Eating on the run, whilst stressed or in a rush, or whilst doing other things (like watching TV or working) can compromise this cephalic phase, leading to suboptimal stomach acid levels. Before the brain has even registered that food is on the way, it enters an unprepared stomach!
5 tips to support stomach acid production-
1. Get involved in the food preparation stage of a meal; take time to smell and savour food as it is being cooked.
2. Sit down to eat, at a table, not on the run
3. Keep meal times stress-free, relaxed and free from other distractions
4. Pause before you start to eat. Take time to notice any aromas, and the different colours and textures on your plate. Notice how your mouth starts to produce saliva in response.
5. Take 5 deep abdominal breaths before you pick up your knife and fork