The hydrochloric acid that resides in your stomach breaks down food and aids in the absorption of nutrients by the body. It also kills harmful bacteria on your food and neutralizes enzymes.
Low levels of stomach acid can cause serious digestive problems, and it can increase your risk for several diseases and conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, leaky gut syndrome, malnutrition, diabetes, and acid reflux disease. Treating low stomach acid is mostly a matter of making some fundamental lifestyle changes. Hypochlorhydria is the medical term for low stomach acid.
Causes of Low Stomach Acid
A variety of factors can contribute to hypochlorhydria. The most common of these are chronic stress and a poor diet, both of which directly affect digestion. Other underlying causes of low stomach acid may include:
- Eating too fast
- Too much sugar in your diet
- A zinc deficiency
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- Chronic illness
- Chronic stress
- Advanced age
Aging is another culprit behind low stomach acid production. People over the age of 65 are more likely than younger people to have hypochlorhydria. Additionally, some medications, including over-the-counter and prescription antacids, can reduce acid levels in the stomach.
Symptoms of Low Stomach Acid
Since food can’t be broken down efficiently if you have low stomach acid, the symptoms of this condition are mostly digestive, including gas, bloating, cramps, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. Other symptoms may include:
- Undigested food in your stools
- Bad breath
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Weak nails and hair
How to Increase Your Stomach Acid Production
If your low stomach acid is related to another medical condition, getting that condition under control will help promote healthy acid levels. Most physicians recommend a multi-pronged approach to increase stomach acid that involves a range of dietary changes and supplements. Here are a few ways to combat low stomach acid.
Limit processed foods. Processed foods, which are high in sugar and chemicals, can inflame the stomach and reduce acid activity. They can also cause acid reflux.
Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi can increase stomach acid levels, and they’re potent probiotics that may relieve associated digestion problems.
Chew your food slowly. Chewing food stimulates digestive enzymes and can help increase acid levels in your stomach. Take small bites and chew them thoroughly.
Consume apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is rife with enzymes that help break down the bacteria in food, and it introduces more acid into the digestive system. If you don’t enjoy drinking ACV straight, Thrive Naturals Apple Cider Vinegar Complex is a supplement containing 350 mg of ACV for better digestion and a boost in metabolism and fat-burning enzymes.
Low stomach acid can put a wrench in your digestive system, prevent the absorption of nutrients, and increase your risk of infection. Addressing low stomach acid through diet and lifestyle changes can improve stomach acid levels and promote better digestion and overall health.