Many people with Digestive issues like Heartburn and gastritis assume that they have too much acid in their stomach and so take PPIs to help reduce the amount of acid their body produces. Whilst this seems to make sense, in fact, many naturopaths agree that PPIs can make the situation worse and end up destroying your digestive system.
Most Gastritis occurs due to having too much weak/low acid in our stomachs. If we have good strong acid, it means our bodies can quickly break down the food and once that has happened the body then shuts down the production of stomach acid.
The problem with weak acid is that it stays in the stomach for too long where it tries to break down any food still there. The weak acid will often increase in volume and when all that extra acid is just sitting there for ages in your stomach it can cause issues like Gastritis and Heartburn.
So even though PPIs may make things feel better at first, in the long run, they may not help you heal from Gastritis.
Of course, some people need to be on PPIs for a variety of reasons so it’s always important to chat to your doctor before stopping any medication.
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Low Acid Stomach Symptoms
- Burping/painful wind
- Upset stomach
- Feeling very full after a meal, even just a few mouthfuls
- Hair loss (particularly in women)
- Weak fingernails
- Itchiness around the rectum
Low Stomach acid test – Baking soda test
There is a home test you can try to see if you have low/weak acid in your stomach, it’s not foolproof but it may give you an indication if this is an issue for you.
The idea is that there is a chemical reaction when bicarbonate of soda and stomach acid mix. This creates carbon dioxide gas resulting in a burp.
This needs to be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Mix 1/4 of a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of soda (Baking soda if you’re from the US) with 4 ounces of room temperature water
- Drink it and then time how long it takes till you burp. It may not be a big burp; it may just feel like a bubbly feeling coming up.
- If you don’t burp within the first 5 minutes, then this is a sign that you have low stomach acid.
For the best results, it’s best to do the test every day for 3 days. So that you have an average result.
How to increase Stomach acid naturally
First, you need to calm your stomach down.
- Eat a bland diet – Things like plain chicken, Salmon, rice, green beans – See this post for more diet plans and ideas Gastritis diet – Sample plan to help you heal
- Drink Camomile/Ginger tea – This is very soothing, and Ginger is a natural inflammatory. It also helps with any Nausea you may be having.
- Drink Bone broth – This is brilliant for soothing an inflamed stomach. You can buy it ready-made but to get the maximum benefits try and make your own. It’s easy to do and you will also know exactly what is in it. This is my method here – Heal and soothe Gastritis with this delicious Chicken Broth
- Liquid Vitamins – It’s important to get all the right nutrients into your body at this stage. Many people find liquid vitamins are gentler on the stomach.
The next stage is repairing your mucosal wall
Take Slippery elm powder – This helps coat the stomach and protects it from the acid. I would always take mine 20 minutes before a meal. If you are on any medication, make sure to take the slippery elm 2 hours apart from these, as it can stop the medication from absorbing properly.
DGL ( Deglycyrrhizinated licorice )
This is very popular with many Gastritis sufferers and is said to work by increasing mucus production. This can help protect the stomach from acid.
I used the chocolate chewable ones and they tasted lovely.
Zinc L Carnosine
A supplement that is prescribed in Japan to treat ulcers that many people get great results from.
I would take one capsule first thing in the morning a half an hour before breakfast and another one before bed.
It’s best to carry on with stage 2 for 2-4 weeks, but as you get near the end of stage 2 you can start adding a small amount of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) but only a teaspoon in a glass of water. If this burns at all then stop this until your stomach is ready.
Now you can start to increase your stomachs acid levels, (you’re aiming for a PH of below 3). Keep taking the supplements at step 2 for a little while to protect your stomach.
Many people will take ACV (Apple cider vinegar) at this stage and for many people, this will be enough, and they will start to notice an improvement in their digestion.
But for others HCL supplements are beneficial.
Taking HCL Supplements
- You start taking just 1 or 2 a day and then gradually increase the dose by 1 tablet extra every day until you notice that you are not having symptoms such as Bloating and heartburn anymore. Keep taking this dose for 1 week.
- Once the symptoms are improving then you can gradually start decreasing the dosage.
- You may experience a burning feeling in your stomach after taking the HCL tablets at a high dose, this means its time to start decreasing the amount you are taking.
- Some people stay on 1 of 2 tablets a day for a few months, some people stop taking them and have no further issues.
Betaine HCL before or after meals?
It’s best to take them in the middle of your meal. You don’t want to take them before on an empty stomach, as some people don’t tolerate them well, but you also need them to be in your stomach to work with your body to help digest your food.
Best HCL supplements
There are lots of different HCL supplements on the market but I used these ones and they worked really well for me. NOW Betaine HCL
Foods that increase Stomach acid
Fermented vegetables like Sauerkraut, Pickles and KImchi really help to increase stomach acid. They contain a lactic producing probiotic and work by filling the digestive system with good bacteria and improving digestion. If the stomach has low levels of acid, it works by strengthening the Gastric juices with more acidity.
I found using digestive bitters really useful for increasing stomach acid levels.
They help the body by stimulating the tastebuds. Sending a signal to the rest of the body, to start producing the digestive juices needed to digest food.
There are lots of types available but I use the Swedish bitters. It’s only a small bottle but it lasts ages.
Click on image to look on Amazon
Celery juice is something I have found to be amazing for lots of digestive issues. It’s also known to help the body restore its HCL levels.
For more information on how to make celery juice etc see here
It’s always a good idea to complete this process with a naturopath, chiropractic or professional as you can end up doing yourself more harm if you get the process wrong.