Low Stomach Acid – A Hidden Culprit in Indigestion

Heartburn from Low Stomach Acid

When you think of heartburn or indigestion do you associate it with excessive stomach acid?


Most of us do, and then head for the anti-acids or worse yet the acid-suppressing drugs.


But just the opposite may be causing the heartburn. Low stomach acid, medically known as hypochlorhydria, contributes to heartburn and often goes undetected as the source of that GI burning sensation.


So how can you tell the difference between heartburn due to excessive stomach acid and heartburn due to in sufficient stomach acid?


When does the heartburn occur?

Before meals, then it’s likely due to excessive stomach acid.

After meals, then it’s likely due to insufficient stomach acid.


Does low stomach acid get treated appropriately?

Not very often because health practitioners generally have not been trained to recognize it


Older folks may gradually lose their ability to produce adequate stomach acid which pitches them into a downward spiral. Stomach acid is required for:

Protein digestion

Absorption of calcium and some other minerals

Destruction of bacteria and other germs

And the stomach produces a substance that helps absorb vitamin B12. That substance may decline along with the acidity.


As you can deduce poor digestion of protein leads to weakening of the supportive structures in organs and reduced ability to absorb calcium does the same thing. Degenerative problems like osteoporosis and immune system dysfunction may ensue. On top of that B12 deficiency leads to neurological disease and anemia.


You’re beginning to get the picture – adequate stomach acid is vitally important!


So, how do we replenish it? Do we start supplementing with hydrochloric acid (HCL)? No, let’s not jump to that as our first step. For one thing the lining of the stomach becomes quite tender after prolonged low or no exposure to acid. So taking HCL capsules even with food can be painful.


Let’s see if we can help the stomach make its own acid again.


Step 1. Be sure to eat healthy choosing vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, small meat portions initially and whole grains.


Step 2. Stop eating inflammatory food like sweets and abnormal fats (fried food, processed food, margarine, etc.)


Step 3. Chew your food until it’s liquid in your mouth. That takes stress off of the stomach.


Step 4. Soothe the lining of the stomach by drinking bone broth and gelatin with meals and possibly add stomach protective herbs like DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) as described in:


https://www.drjomd.com/2014/10/soothe-gut-food-allergy-reactions-part-1/ https://www.drjomd.com/2014/10/soothe-gut-food-allergy-reactions-part-2/


Step 5. Eat adequate amounts of salt. What? I’m supposed to eat salt when everyone else says lay off salt. Well, let’s be wise about this. Folks on a salt restricted regimen may not have enough NaCl to produce HCL. Do you see the connection there?  The CL that they have in common, chloride is needed to produce HCL, hydrochloric acid.


Junk food diets provide too much salt. Eating healthy from whole foods may require some addition of salt. Always work with your health care practitioner when you’re transitioning through lifestyle changes.


Step 6. Experiment with taking “bitters” about 30 minutes before meals, an ancient custom that needs to be revived. Somehow our ancestors knew that eating or drinking bitter herbs stimulated the digestive juices. They may not have known the physiology of how that happened but they knew it worked.


Now we know that eating a bitter herb which piques the bitter taste receptors in the tongue sets off the ”bitter reflex” which stimulates all of the digestive organs, the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and intestines. Eventually all of them improve in structure and function.


The bitter reflex stimulates release of the gastrin hormone which in turn releases hydrochloric acid. Starting on a regimen of drinking bone broth and/or gelatin with meals and taking protective herbs will hopefully prevent irritation of the stomach acid and heartburn when the stomach starts producing stomach acid again. As regeneration of stomach function proceeds the stomach lining will “toughen up” and produce more mucous as a barrier between the acid in the stomach lumen and the stomach wall lessening heartburn and indigestion symptoms.


But what are bitters? Where do I find them? How do I prepare them?


Good questions. Most of us have no clue about bitters, except that when we might have occasionally eaten one, we didn’t like the taste. We’ve become so obsessed and addicted to the sweet taste that’s causing so much degeneration in our bodies that we’ve totally neglected the health benefits of the bitter taste.


Let’s discover out how to find bitters!



Dr. Jo

About Dr. Jo

Dr. JoDr. Jo delights in sharing the message of health. She believes disease is optional if you know how to take care of yourself. And she’s a great coach to help you reverse or prevent disease.

So she writes this blog to keep you up to date with information that may undermine your health if you are not aware of it. She also provides tips on healthy living, how to reverse degenerative diseases, delicious recipes, and ways to enjoyably change your habits to healthy ones.

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