Susan's Blog

6 Ways to Increase Stomach Acid (HCl) Naturally

If you’ve determined that you have low stomach acid and you want to increase it, you’ll need to figure out the root cause (why it started in the first place) and do the remedy for it (a.k.a. take care of it).

Root causes of low HCl:

  • food sensitivities
  • stress
  • diet high in processed foods
  • smoking
  • excessive caffeine
  • excessive alcohol
  • chlorine or fluoride in drinking water
  • some medications
  • underactive thyroid
  • age (over 50)

It takes time to remedy some of these situations.  You have to test for food sensitivities and follow the proper protocol (the P-Q-R Formula) based on your test results.  Developing a less stressful lifestyle takes a lot of doing!  Learning to cook whole unprocessed foods and having the discipline to stick to it takes some time.  And many people struggle with how to stop smoking cigarettes.

It’s a little easier to get a water filter (check out the Berkey) and get some labs done to see how well your thyroid is working.  But a little harder to reverse aging!

So while you are figuring out the root cause and making any needed changes or changes that you can make, there are some things you can do right away which can provide relief in the meantime:

Ways to increase stomach acid (HCL) naturally:

  • Take herbal bitters to stimulate your body’s own production of HCL.  Bitters also stimulate your body to produce more saliva, digestive enzymes, pepsin, and bile, which get your body ready to digest a meal. Swedish (or sweetish) bitters can be found at a health food store. Compari bitters, found where alcohol is sold, are also effective.
  • Dilute apple cider vinegar in water and drink it right before a meal. Start with 1 teaspoon ACV in ½ cup water and gradually increase to 1-2 Tablespoons or   until you get the desired effect.
  • Try some umeboshi (salted, pickled) plums, which are found in the Asian section of grocery and health food stores.  They can relieve most indigestion and they have the added benefit of alkalizing the body. Eat them whole or pour hot water over them and use as the base for tea or to replace the salt and vinegar in salad dressing recipes. You can also fine umeboshi vinegar, ready to use in your salad dressing recipes.
  • Use protein splitting enzymes to help you digest your protein containing meals. The most common are bromelain (made from pineapple), papain (made from papaya), and mixed protease enzymes.
  • Get chiropractic adjustments (this is especially helpful for babies and children with GERD) to improve blood flow to the stomach and help normalize HCL production.
  • Take Betaine/HCL with Pepsin when you eat protein containing meals. You’ll want about 300-750 mg per capsule, depending on your weight and the amount of protein in the meal (take more with a higher protein meal).  Be cautious when taking Betaine HCL because it’s an acid and you can create a stomach ulcer by taking too much. 

One thing you need to know…

Sometimes there’s another problem at play when people have too much stomach acid in their esophagus resulting in heartburn or GERD.

Between the stomach and the esophagus there is a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (or LES for short).  It’s job is to open to allow food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach.

But sometimes the LES opens when it’s not supposed to which, even if it’s just for a brief moment, allows stomach acid to “reflux” into the esophagus.  This causes burning and maybe even tissue damage.

Why would this happen?

Some things that could cause the LES to weaken and not function properly include nicotine, caffeine, alcoholic drinks, high fat meals, orange juice, tomatoes, and spicy foods.  All of these can weaken the LES.

A GI doc can determine if your LES is functioning properly.  One way is an esophageal manometry test, which can help determine if your esophagus is able to move food to your stomach normally.

If you find that your LES isn’t functioning properly, you are not left with surgery as an only option.

Ways to strengthen your LES:

What’s wrong with antacids?

People experiencing heartburn often turn to antacids such as Tums or Rolaids to relieve the symptoms temporarily.  They may try OTC meds such as Tagamet, Zantac, and Pepcid which lessen the production of HCL to decrease their stomach acid. Or they might get a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) such as Prevacid, Nexium, or Prilosec which completely block the production of HCL.

But as you recall, we need stomach acid to begin protein digestion and provide an acidic enough environment for the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and copper.  And we need it to defend against food poisoning, H. pylori, parasites and the like.

In 2017, the FDA required new warning labels for PPIs due to the increased risk of osteoporosis and fracture with long-term use since there is less absorption of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.  Proton pump inhibitors were never meant to be used long-term. 

If you are currently taking a prescription PPI, I’m NOT telling you to get off of it.  That is a discussion for your doctor, and it’s NEVER done cold turkey.  That would be a bit mistake!

However, it is something to work towards and working with a dietitian towards that goal is a great place to start!

If you sometimes take antacids or OTC meds for heartburn, I strongly encourage you to figure out why you are needing it.  Let me know if you’d like my help and we’ll set up a time to talk just about that.  You don’t have to keep grasping at straws on your own!

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