Stomach acid, or hydrochloric acid (HCl), is essential for healthy digestion. It’s responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins in the stomach. Without enough stomach acid, we cannot break down our food properly. This can leave us feeling bloated or full very quickly, and the ability to absorb essential nutrients such as iron, zinc and calcium and vitamin B12 is significantly reduced.
Low stomach acid increases your risk of food poisoning, infections, food intolerances and allergies, as well as more complex digestive disorders and autoimmune conditions. Because we need stomach acid for nutrient absorption, low stomach acid can also cause iron deficiency and anaemia, osteoporosis, and neurological conditions associated with low vitamin B12 such as depression, anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease (a good reason to not taking stomach acid blockers such as proton pump inhibitors!).
How to test your stomach acid:
Please do this test first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.
- Mix 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate/baking soda (not baking powder) in a half glass of water
- Drink the solution and time how long it takes you to belch
- If you have not belched within five minutes, you can stop timing
If you have sufficient levels of stomach acid, the bicarbonate will convert into carbon dioxide gas, which will cause belching within 2-3 minutes. Early or repeated belches can be due to excess stomach acid (hyperchlorhydria), but can also be due to the swallowing of air when drinking the solution. If you do not belch after 5 minutes, you can stop timing.
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