Phone: 01564 33 99 55 Email:
Andrea Bayles Nutritional Therapist
ND, Dip Nutr, Dip Herb, MBANT, MURHP, MCNHC

Indigestion or is it low stomach acid?

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More and more people are coming to see me in the clinic complaining of acid indigestion and excess acid production. This is something that is often misinterpreted for low stomach acid or Hypochlorhydria. Interestingly, over 44% of adults self-medicate for heartburn with antacids or other medications. These drugs work by decreasing or neutralising the level of stomach acid which may in turn, hinder the adequate digestion of proteins and key nutrients such as Vitamin B12. Additionally, low stomach acidity (Hypochlorhydria) can also predispose an individual to an increase in bacterial and parasitic infections. Another example is the use of NSAID's (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), both by prescription and over-the-counter whcih cna lead to the damage of the gut mucosa. Most people take NSAID's for pain control to manage arthritis and inflammatory conditions, also some people take an aspirin a day to help prevent blood clots. However, the consumption of NSAID's has been associated with a higher incidence of upper GI complications, including gastric and duodenal ulcers.

As we age, stomach acid levels decrease leading to hypochlorhydria, this means that we no longer absorb sufficient nutrients for good health especially protein foods such as meat, which are harder to digest. When we eat, our stomachs produce a lot of gastric juices in response to food. This juice is a combination of mucous which protects the lining of the stomach, and hydrochloric acid. High levels of acid are needed to properly break down foods before it moves into the small intestine where the nutrients are absorbed. Modern lifestyles, eating in a hurry, eating too many fried foods, stress and not chewing our food sufficiently all contribute to declining levels of stomach acid.

Many people might take low stomach acidity for food allergies or intolerances and often feel like they are over-producing stomach acid whereas in reality they are making too little. So, for example, when we eat a cheese sandwich, we chew it thoroughly and it moves down into the stomach where the digestion process begins. If the stomach doesn't produce enough stomach acid, the valve that shuts off the oesophagus from the stomach doesn't close properly, because it will only respond to higher levels of hydrochloric acid. If this happens then a little acid can leak up and cause a burning sensation in teh chest that we refer to as heartburn. At this point, most people take an antacid which neutralises what little acid there was and makes digestion of the cheese sandwich even harder.

When foods are undigested or not digested well, then bloating and discomfort often occurs, along with wind and flatulence. If the acid levels are correct than overgrowths of bacteria can occur, particualrly Helicobacter Pylori. H.Pylori infection is known for causing Peptic and Duodenal ulcers. It is important to get tested for this bacteria. Your GP can carry out a breath test to assess levels of H.Pylori if you are worried or concerned you may be infected.

So, what should we do to improve our levels of stomach acidity?

  • cut down on sugar, alcohol, cow's milk and dairy produce
  • don't eat in a rush and reduce heavy, rich meals
  • avoid eating fried foods, especially melted cheese which is hard to digest
  • stop chewing gum - this trick the stomach into thinking food is about to arrive an so it begins to produce acid
  • don't eat a large amount of fruit after a heavy meal, as it can get stuck and ferment creating wind and bloating

Test your levels of stomach acidity by carrying out this simple test - take 1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and dissolve in a glass of warm water. Drink the glass on an empty stomach. If you have sufficient levels of acid present then you will covert the mixture into gas which in turn produces burping and belching within 5 minutes of drinking. If little or no burping occurs then this denotes low levels of acid.

Useful remedies:-

  • Dissolve 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 1tsp manuka honey in a glass of warm water before each meals helps to improve acid levels and digestion
  • chew your food more thoroughly and eat slowly
  • eat papaya and pineapple - these fruits contain the enzymes papain and bromelain
  • manuka honey can help to heal the stomach and discourage the growth of H.Pylori
  • take a probiotic containing acidophilus and bifidus to ensure you have sufficient levels of healthy bacteria

If you have vertical ridges in your nails, this is often a sign of low stomach acidity.

If you would like to find out more about good digestion and ways in which nutritional therapy can help, or if you are concerned that you may be suffering from Hypochlorhydria, please do get in touch.


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  • "Andrea has changed my life!! I feel better than I have for a very long time. Easy to follow dietary changes have given a whole new approach to healthy eating with the added advantage of oodles of energy! "D S