Are your digestive symptoms caused by low stomach acid?

I often speak to people who say they frequently suffer from indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux or embarrassing levels of burping and flatulence. Many of them chewing on Rennie’s, downing Gaviscon after most meals. Milk of Magnesia was a popular one when I was growing up. Does this sound familiar to you?

In many cases, these symptoms are commonly misunderstood and misdiagnosed, with people often told they have too much stomach acid. I’m here to tell you that this may not be the case for many people. Today, it is believed to be due to low stomach acid!

So, what is the story?

Let me explain further.

But before we begin, let me briefly explain what is happening every time you eat.

The story begins when you take that first bite…chewing tells the body to get ready to go to work and the food eventually goes to the stomach. This is where your stomach acid is produced and where the magic begins.

Stomach acid is as powerful as the battery acid in your car and has many functions.

What stomach acid does

  • it is vital in the digestion of proteins
  • kills bacteria and other bugs that enter the stomach in food
  • is vital for B12 absorption. B12 is important for keeping your blood and nerve cells healthy
  • necessary for the absorption of iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc
  • is involved in the closure of the valve at the top of the stomach, which prevents acid leaving the stomach
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So where does low stomach acid come into it?

If stomach acid secretion is insufficient or inhibited, food won’t be digested or broken down properly.

That food stays in the stomach for longer than normal.

When this happens, the food ferments and produces an increase of gas in the stomach.

This gas builds up in the stomach, like blowing air into a balloon, and pushes the valve at the top of the stomach open, allowing acid to travel back up the throat.

Other signs and symptoms of low stomach acid

  • Bloating, belching, burning sensation and flatulence after meals
  • Feeling of fullness after eating
  • Indigestion, diarrhoea and/or constipation
  • Food allergies/intolerances
  • Nausea after consuming supplements
  • Itching around the rectum
  • Weak, peeling and cracked fingernails
  • Dilated blood vessels in the cheeks and nose
  • Acne, eczema
  • Nutrient deficiencies- iron, B12
  • Chronic infections- candida, H.Pylori, parasites due to an imbalanced gut bacteria
  • Undigested food in stools
  • Gassiness in the upper digestive tract
  • Fatigue

Causes of low stomach acid

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What to expect from your GP

Acid blockers, or PPIs, are one of the most prescribed drugs in the UK for gastric conditions. Recently there has been an increase in the use of these drugs or have been taken for much longer than necessary.

These drugs are effective at reducing stomach acid production and are believed to be well tolerated. However, long-term use can lead to side effects such as low magnesium levels, increased risk of infection and a range of digestive symptoms.

How to increase stomach acid

In this busy, fast paced life, we tend to forget to make time for eating. We find ourselves preparing and eating dinner with kids either pulling at our trouser leg or getting up and down from the table. We have so many deadlines we spend our lunchtime working at the office desk. We are never far from our phones and computers, leaving us accessible 24hours a day. Loving and enjoying food has been pushed further down our priority lists.

How can I change this?

It’s this simple.

  • Mindful eating

    Try to eat in a calm, relaxed environment, free from digital stimulation and time constraints.
    Eat small mouthfuls, chewing food at least 30 times.

  • Prepare your body for the food it is about to receive

    Sight, smell and taste of food contribute to your digestion. Enjoy your food.

    Don’t eat when you’re stressed. Avoid drinking any liquids with your meals

    I’m sure, like me, you grew up being told not to eat too fast and between mouthfuls to drink some water or juice. Little did we know that drinking with our dinner actually dilutes our stomach acid, leaving it less effective in its ability to digest food.

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  • Consume bitter foods - rocket, artichoke, watercress, broccoli, brussel sprouts, coffee, dark chocolate, kale

    While you’re waiting for the beans to heat up or potatoes to boil, pop some rocket or watercress into your mouth. These foods are believed to stimulate digestion, the production of digestive enzymes and improve nutrient absorption.

  • Reduce stress

    Our brain is closely linked to our gut, so when we are stressed things like digestion are less effective. Do some deep abdominal breathing to destress.

  • Improve nutrition

    Nutrition is not one size fits all. But generally, diets high in hydrogenated fats, processed foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine will NOT help your digestion. Instead include meat, fish/seafood, beans, fruits and vegetables. These foods contain nutrients needed to produce stomach acid.

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  • Consider a stool test

    Rule out chronic infections such as H.Pylori, SIBO, Candida, parasites and to determine gut health and function.

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I can help you

Do you recognise yourself when you read this article? Have you read YOUR symptoms? Does this sound familiar?

You are not alone. I can help you understand and navigate your symptoms and together we can identify the root cause. Simple steps can have the greatest gains.

Your first simple step is booking a FREE 15 minute call to discuss how we can achieve your health goals click here.