13 Signs you Have Hypochlorhydria

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Dinner was great, but I was uncomfortable. About 15 minutes after my last bite, the all-too-familiar feeling of a big bloating belly started to set in. I dreaded what was next: within the hour I’d have major gas cramps and I’d probably have to lie down for a while to rest until the pain peaked and started to wane while the gas “released”. Yeah, essentially I’d need to lie down and fart for an hour before I could move on with my day.

Pleasant? Not at all. Embarrassing? Completely. And very life-interrupting.

What on earth was going on? Why was something as simple as dinner throwing me into such turmoil?

It turns out I had a very common but widely misunderstood condition called “hypochlorhydria,” which is low stomach acid production. Hypo =  low; chlorhyde = hydrochloric acid (or HCl for short).

You see, the stomach needs to be very acidic – with an optimal pH of 1.5-3 – in order to activate pepsin, among other enzymes, to break down protein. If our stomachs aren’t sufficiently acidic, we don’t digest protein properly, we don’t access many of the minerals in our food, and we don’t properly trigger vitally important digestive functions further down the process. The secretion of HCl is an absolutely essential part of the digestive puzzle. Furthermore, this highly acidic environment is our body’s first line of defense against food-borne pathogens. It’s no accident that I used to be the first to succumb to any kind of food poisoning.

But wait a second, you might be thinking. What about all the heartburn and acid reflux that is absolutely rampant these days? Don’t we all suffer from too much acidity in our stomachs, not too little?

As hard as it is to believe with the heavy promotion of antacids and acid-blockers, most people with heartburn are actually hypo-chlorhydric, not hyper-chlorhydric (too much acidity). In fact, most people who are prescribed antacids by their doctors aren’t actually tested for stomach acidity levels. And when tested, it’s actually quite rare that the levels come back high.

What’s really important to know is that if you have ANY kind of digestive dysfunction you are likely also hypochlorhydric and you won’t get anywhere with your gut healing unless you address this issue. It’s at the root of many digestive issues from parasites, to food sensitivities, to SIBO, IBS, colitis, and more.

So the question is, do you have hypochlorhydria? Here are 13 signs that you may not be producing enough stomach acidity:

  13 Signs you Have Hypochlorhydria - and what to do about it. | eatnakednow.com

1. You’ve lost the taste for meat.

I see this all the time in my practice. Clients tell me they just don’t have the taste for meat like they used to. They usually assume that this is their body guiding them to a vegetarian diet. When we get into our work, 9 times out of 10 we find that they are deeply hypochlorhydric and with a little HCl support, they regain their appetite for, and ability to digest, animal protein.

2. You have a history (current or past) of a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vegetarians don’t eat a lot of animal protein; vegans eat none. The body slows down production of HCl accordingly. This is one of the core reasons that a vegetarian diet (especially a vegan diet) can be very hard on the digestion: without that all important stomach acid, they’re not able to access the minerals from their food, properly trigger the production of pancreatic enzymes, or properly trigger the secretion of bile from the gallbladder. A whole host of trickle-down problems ensue. Remember: stomach acid has many roles above and beyond the digestion of protein, and with low stomach acidity, all of these functions will be compromised. Interestingly, it’s the secretion of HCl that triggers the release of intrinsic factor, which is essential to the absorption of vitamin B12 (yet another reason it’s so hard for vegetarians and vegans to get sufficient B12).

I was a vegetarian on and off for the better part of 12 years, so I know first hand how hard it is to introduce meat back into the diet. Without supplementing your stomach acidity, your body is going to struggle. The good news is that with a little priming, your body can produce its own HCl again.

3. You experience belching or gas about an hour after a meal.

Know anyone who immediately starts to let out some big belches after they’ve eaten? That’s often the result of hypochlorhydria. One of stomach acid’s important roles is to trigger the opening of the pyloric valve, the little valve that connects the stomach to the duodenum (the top of the small intestine). That little valve is very smart, and it knows not to open until the contents of the stomach are at the proper state of digestion. This includes a sufficiently acidic stomach environment.

If the pyloric valve is waiting and waiting for a level of stomach acidity that isn’t achievable due to low acid production, the contents of the stomach start to ferment. Fermentation, as we all know, creates gas, and gas needs to be released somehow. Whether it goes up or down depends on your constitution, but it will be released one way or the other.

4. You experience bloating or cramps within an hour after a meal.

As with #3, fermentation creates gas, and gas creates pressure. Pressure creates bloating and often significant discomfort. Your clothes don’t fit that well either. (I used to dress strategically to hide this.)

5. You get heartburn or acid reflux.

Contrary to popular opinion, acid reflux isn’t too much stomach acid. Most of the time, it’s actually too little stomach acid that leads to acid in the wrong place. Let me explain:

Your esophagus has a pH of about 7, which is very neutral. As I explained above, your stomach needs to be a pH of 1.5-3, very acidic, for optimal digestion. Now, your stomach prepares for such an acidic environment by secreting mucous to protect its lining so that you don’t literally digest yourself.

The esophagus has no such protective coating. If you’re not secreting enough acid, the pyloric valve doesn’t open, and the contents of your stomach start to ferment, this creates gas, which creates pressure. The gas has to be released one way or the other. If it goes up and leads to belching, that means the esophageal valve – the valve that connects the esophagus to the stomach – has opened and allowed that gas to travel up. Sometimes, along with the gas, a little bit of stomach juices splurge up into the esophagus. Ouch!!! The delicate lining of the esophagus is not equipped to handle such acidity.

This is why antacids work on symptoms but they actually exacerbate the root cause of the problem. Sure, an antacid will soothe that burning, but at the same time it’s lowering your stomach acid production, which was the root issue to begin with. You can see how this can spiral quickly downhill…

6. You have really bad breath even though you brush your teeth.

Ruling out poor dental hygiene, it makes perfect sense that halitosis (bad breath) would be the result of digestive dysfunction. If you’re not digesting the food in your stomach properly, it’s going to create toxic byproducts, which can quickly overload our body’s detoxification abilities. Let’s face it: we live in a very toxic world and our detoxification functions are massively overworked. Our livers have enough to do without having to handle the by-products of a malfunctioning digestive system. If you have really bad breath even with excellent oral hygiene, hypochlorhydria is probably the root of the problem.

7. Your sweat is stinky.

Sweat can be stinky for lots of reasons – it could be a sign of magnesium deficiency or often it’s a sign your liver and kidney (primary detoxification organs) need a little love. But, just like with bad breath, the more toxic the body, the more toxic the sweat. The question is: where are those toxins coming from?

The improperly digested protein resulting from hypochlorhydria is a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast to proliferate, and bacteria and yeast produce toxins. This is a condition we call bowel toxemia. It’s a case of endogenous toxicity or “toxicity from within”.

8. You’re not hungry for breakfast.

I see this pattern all the time in clients. They eat a really large dinner, usually late in the evening, and then they’re not hungry for breakfast. Hypochlorhydria is often at the root, leaving the food to sit in the stomach for a long time. They’re not hungry because it’s quite likely they’ve still got dinner in their belly when they wake up!

9. You’re hungry all the time, even when you feel full.

I know this one well. I was famous among my friends for eating massive amounts of food and being quite literally “full”, but still hungry. I can remember one particularly notable example of this from years ago. I was out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and ordered a huge dinner. It was rich and creamy and definitely “filling.” And yet, I finished it and was still hungry. Like, I’m-not-going-to-make-it-home-without-stopping-for-pizza hungry. And so, I ordered the dinner again. My friends and the waiter looked at me in disbelief. To their horror and amusement, I ate the entire thing a second time. How I never had a weight issue is beyond me.

All to say, I know what it is to be insatiable. If the body isn’t digesting protein or accessing minerals, it makes sense that you’d be hungry all the time – you’re not getting the nutrients you need from your meals, so your body is driving you to eat more. When I supported my body’s ability to produce stomach acid, my appetite dropped by at least half. It was shocking how little food I needed to feel full.

10. You get sleepy after meals.

Being sleepy after meals can mean a number of things: blood sugar dysregulation, improper macronutrient balance, or inadequate digestion, which leaves too much food in the digestive tract. It takes a lot of energy to digest, and more energy resources will be diverted there if your digestion is functioning less than optimally.

I have seen it time and again in my practice where clients who are sleepy after meals support their stomach acid levels and suddenly find they feel fabulous afterwards.

11. You have undigested food in your stools.

Low stomach acidity affects the digestion of everything you eat – not just proteins. You see, in addition to supporting the breakdown of protein, HCl triggers the release of pancreatic enzymes that essentially finish the breakdown of your dinner once it gets into the small intestine. If you don’t secrete enough pancreatic enzymes, you won’t finish breaking down your food and will see undigested food in your stool.

12. Your fingernails chip, peel, or break easily.

If you’re fingernails chip, peel, or break easily, it’s a clear sign of deficiencies in protein, minerals, and often also essential fatty acids. By now you’re well aware that deficiencies in protein and minerals are often due, at least in part, to low stomach acid production.

13. You have anemia that doesn’t respond to iron supplementation.

Here’s a very specific example of a mineral deficiency that is exacerbated by low stomach acid. If you’ve been diagnosed as anemic, given an iron supplement, and there was no change, there’s a good chance hypochlorhyria is the root of the problem. Sufficient HCl is a co-factor for iron absorption. This is an example of why it’s critical to have optimal digestion even to access the nutrients in your supplements.

Now you have a sense of whether you have hypochlorhydria or not. If you do, what next?

For some people, a few minor tweaks are all that’s needed to boost HCl levels naturally. For others, more targeted support is required. You can supplement with HCl, but I strongly recommend doing so only under the supervision of a health practitioner as it is a fine balance figuring out your specific dosage and there are some contra-indications.

Here are some starting points that you can easily do at home:

13 Signs you Have Hypochlorhydria - and what to do about it | eatnakednow.com

1. Drink a small glass of room temperature water with 1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar before meals. This stimulates the digestive process and encourages your stomach to secrete stomach acid.

2. Take some Swedish Bitters before meals, just like your great grandma did. This works along the same lines as the apple cider vinegar – the bitter taste stimulates the digestive process.

3. Eat sitting down, slowly, in a relaxed state. It cannot be over-emphasized how important your physical and mental state is when you eat. Digestion is a parasympathetic process, meaning that it only happens when you’re in a relaxed state. If you’re under stress, your digestion is compromised. Sit down for your meals, take 10 deep belly breaths before you start eating to switch you into a relaxed state, and eat at a leisurely pace, chewing and savoring each mouthful. Digestion actually begins in our brains, and this allows our brains to initiate many important processes, including the release of HCl in the stomach.

4. Give yourself some time to digest – don’t rush right into the next activity. It’s no accident that most cultures (North America being a notable exception) structure their days such that they have some downtime after a meal. It’s important to give your body some time to get the digestive process under way. You don’t need a whole afternoon of siesta, but what about taking a nice 15 minute walk after lunch rather than diving right back into work?

5. Eat your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before you need to go to bed for the night. This gives your body a little time to digest before lying down. If you do suffer from heartburn, you’ll find that this strategy can help you reduce symptoms that are exacerbated when lying down.

Further reading:

If this topic intrigues you or if you think I’m crazy to suggest that we suffer from low rather than high levels of stomach acidity, then I highly recommend Dr. Jonathan V. Wright’s excellent book Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You.

Header photo credit: © B-d-s | Dreamstime.com



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94 Comments

  1. jm

    May 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    “when tested, it’s actually quite rare that their levels come back low”, kind of discredits everything that follows. Do you mean it’s rare acid levels are HIGH?

    • Margaret Floyd

      May 20, 2015 at 5:07 am

      Jen, than you for making that catch! Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. Editing now.

  2. josh

    May 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    This was an eye opener! Unfortunately this is a test that I did really well on. I’m going to read up more on this condition. Thanks for posting!

  3. Debra Joy

    May 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    this is a great post. I only discovered this from working with you. But it’s helped so many of my issues. Thanks for the help you gave me and for sharing this with everyone.

  4. juliana

    May 20, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Great post. Explains a lot for me… or at least how it was for me before I started working with you. It’s a amazing how much better my digestion is now that I am supplementing properly, and healing my gut issues. Thank you for helping me get to the root of some lifelong issues.

  5. Robin

    May 21, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Good info. I do have issues but when I try the ACV or even lemon water it hurts my stomach. How does that work with the other symptoms and taking digestive enzymes?
    Thank you for any insight.

    • Margaret Floyd

      May 23, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      If you find it hurts your stomach, then you might need to do some deeper healing. At this point, it would be time to work with a practitioner… There can be many different causes and you’d want to get to the bottom of that.

      • Lisa

        August 4, 2016 at 7:06 pm

        Great info.
        Thanks

  6. C

    October 10, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Can you refer me to any studies that say low stomach acid is more common than high stomach acid? My wife has many of these symptoms in addition to audible sloshing in her stomach indicating slow digestion. She did the Betaine HCL challenge and went up to 7 pills (650mg each) with no ill effects other than the pain of having to swallow 7 large horse pills at a time. She also did the morning baking soda test and didn’t burp after 5 minutes. I told her GI doctor these things and he still insists on putting her on acid-blockers because he claims “low stomach acid is very rare.” I don’t want her to have to ride out the diagnostic merry-go-round for months just to find out she has low stomach acid and that her condition was made worse by acid-blockers.

    • Margaret Floyd

      October 14, 2015 at 10:19 am

      I’d recommend you go refer to the book: “Why Stomach Acid is Good For You” by Dr. Jonathan Wright. It’s an excellent resource and sites lots of good research.

      • Margaret Floyd

        October 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

        Also, Chris, I’d highly recommend she work with a functional practitioner rather than a GI doctor for this kind of thing. GI Docs are notorious for simply putting their patients on PPIs or other acid blockers and leaving them that way for years, doing far more damage than good. My practice is filled with examples of this and while the damange is usually (mostly) reversible, it’s ideal to avoid it in the first place. Usually it’s not possible to convince the GI doctor of something that’s outside of their paradigm, so working directly with someone who’s first priority is to restore functional balance in the body rather than to just mask symptoms is the best first step.

        • C

          October 15, 2015 at 1:36 pm

          Thank you, Margaret. That’s where we’re at right now and it’s very frustrating! We have Medicaid insurance so our choices are very limited. It certainly doesn’t cover anything outside of standard medicine. I like the idea of functional medicine and it sounds like the kind of thing that she needs. I’ve looked into it a bit and found lots of practitioners in our area (The San Francisco Bay) but I’m concerned about money. They seem to charge quite a lot and if we’re going to see one, I’d want to make sure they’re very competent and trustworthy. Can you possibly recommend any specific practitioners in our area? It’s a real shame this sort of thing isn’t covered by insurance, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. Is functional medicine only for wealthy people and the poor folks get stuck with the clueless GI docs?

          • Margaret Floyd

            October 20, 2015 at 9:21 am

            I highly recommend Alysia McDonough, NTP – http://nourishingself.com/. She’s in the Bay Area and is an excellent practitioner. I don’t believe she takes insurance… unfortunately, as you’re finding out, many functional practitioners don’t — often because the work they do isn’t covered anyway. It falls outside the traditional medical model.

    • Lisa

      August 4, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Total Health Clinic… simple stool tests showed exactly what the problem was . hypochlorhydria. I have been searching for an answer for 20 years….many doctors, specialists and a lot of money.it was so simple.

      • Margaret Floyd

        August 9, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        Lisa – yes, this is so often the case! I’m so glad you found the solution at long last.

    • Wasim

      October 5, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Hi.. Doctors are totally stupid.I am suffering the same.

  7. Jeff

    November 8, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    A lot of the time as soon as I eat I become extremely tired and need to take a nap. I have floating stools often and I can’t attain satiety even after a big meal. Does this seem like low stomach acid could be the culprit?

    I had tried the Betaine HCL in the past, but in the night I would experience horrible reflux and heartburn. So, after the night experiences I discontinued that. I don’t know if that means I don’t have low stomach acid or not.

    • Margaret Floyd

      November 13, 2015 at 9:31 am

      When working with Betaine HCL (which I strongly recommend you do only under the guidance of an experienced practitioner) any reaction that occurs within 5-10 minutes of taking the HCl usually means you’ve got too much acid. If it’s happening later, it usually means you still don’t have enough. BUT – I wouldn’t self-diagnose on this one. I’d work with a practitioner who’s got experience supporting people with this and have them look at the whole picture of your health.

      • Lisa

        June 16, 2016 at 4:17 pm

        That’s silly. It’s no big deal to experiment with hcl. Dr Wright tells you how to do this yourself if need be. And it is need be for a lot of people either because of cost or unavailability of docs like this in your area. I you just gradually increase with each meal if the previous amount didn’t bother you until you get a warm or mild burning sensation. If that happens just take a quarter tsp of baking soda which neutralizes some of the acid and you feel fine in a couple of minutes.

        There is no reason to scare folks off of this who may need it and don’t have the option of having a health practitioner to hold their hand. It’s really just not necessary.

        • Nadia

          July 29, 2016 at 6:55 am

          Bravo Lisa for telling It as it is.

        • Miss Anna

          November 27, 2016 at 12:18 pm

          It is necessary for her to cover her butt because if someone takes her advice off this site and something happens to them they can sue her. We live in a sue-happy litigious society. For example, I know a teacher who got fired for letting a child share a water bottle when the child was thirsty, and people who are afraid to take action during a situation because the person they help may turn around and be upset at the method of delivery. She’s doing a good thing by putting this information out there so I applaud her for that. Obviously people have free will and can try things on their own regardless of what anyone says. But in this day and age she must post a disclaimer, we must all post a disclaimer, for fear of retaliation if something goes wrong or someone ends up with undesired results.

        • Patrick Cashman

          April 11, 2017 at 1:38 am

          You are so right most GPS are clueless when it it comes to thinking outside the box

    • Mary

      December 5, 2015 at 12:35 am

      Hi have bloating and tightness at the top of my stomache just under my rib cage after eating food. I also have diariah with food still in it every day. I have Gerd and ha e been put on tablets to stop the acid. I am deficient in B12, vitamin D, calcium and serum iron. I am not a big meat eater and only eat chicken but mostly vegetarian food. This sounds like I am lacing in stomache acid rather than have too much?? What do you think?

      • Margaret Floyd

        December 7, 2015 at 9:38 am

        Mary, this actually sounds a lot more like a gallbladder issue than low stomach acidity, but you probably are also low in stomach acid as well. I would strongly encourage you to seek out the support of a functional health practitioner to help you sort through the issues and get to the root of the problem sooner than later. You need HCl to access B12 AND iron, so you don’t want to be on those ant-acids for any longer than absolutely necessary.

  8. Michael Anderson

    January 18, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Why does that sound like a gallbladder issue? After 3 months of PPIs at high dosages (I’m no longer taking them and I been off them for about a year now) I started getting extremely foul smelling stools with undigested food and lots of stringy stuff attached to it possibly mucous ? Also 24/7 pain inflammation in my lower right intestines where if I press on it you hear tons of wet gurgling noises. Best way to describe it. Now i also have tmj where my entire body because twisted (my muscles) if that makes any sense. So I’ve been my own detective since drs are absolutly useless. I’ve had all the tests in the world and all negative. I been trying to find a dr who does the heidleberg test because that’s the best to test for low stomach acid. So either I have very minimal stomach acid from the 3 months of PPIs at high dosages or my tmj somehow caused my illeocecal valve to malfunction causing all these digestive issues I’m having. How can the gallbladder cause digestive issues and what can be done to fix it if it were gallbladder related? One more thing soon as I eat and take the first bite of anything I get rumbling and gas instantly!!! I don’t understand how just taking a bite of anything gives me gas instantly and most of the time it’s very very foul smellling

    • Margaret Floyd

      January 21, 2016 at 10:57 am

      Your gallbladder’s secretion of bile (critical to your body’s ability to digest fats and eliminate toxins) is directly affected by your HCl levels. If your gallbladder isn’t functioning properly, it will have a significant impact on your digestion overall. I’d recommend working with a functional nutritionist who can help you get to the bottom of the issue rather than trying to self-diagnose. You’re right – the medical world has little to offer you. But someone seasoned in functional nutrition can make the world of difference. Feel free to reach out if you’d like more info on working one-on-one or look for a seasoned functional nutrition practitioner in your area.

    • Homer

      July 3, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Hi Michael,

      Have you tried getting a stool sample test? Look for “E. Histolytica” or “Dientamoeba fragilis”. These bugs can cause havoc with the GI tract & some worms can infect the gall bladder or even liver. Be aware, that low stomach acid can make you susceptible to an infection by worms or parasites. Hence, the stool test. They are difficult to identify, and may require more than one stool sample. See http://www.cdd.com.au/pages/disease_info/parasites.html.

  9. Anita

    January 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Margaret,

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart! This is music to my ears (eyes lol ) Thank you for everything, I just done the lemon juice test and NO PAIN I have also been off those Acid blockers the Dr told me to take for a month now. I have booked marked this and will share with all xoxoxoxxo

  10. dd

    March 5, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    So I’m going around the internet trying to find all the places where low stomach acid is being talked about to find an answer to this problem. My wife NEEDS to take Betaine HCl pills but she has a big problem swallowing pills. I’ve gotten three different brands of pills and they are all too large for her to swallow comfortably. She will likely need to take at least five 650mg pills at first. She did the challenge and was able to take seven pills without any warmth or burning. But actually swallowing the pills was extremely difficult for her and there’s NO WAY she could do this every day. She also has a problem drinking liquids with meals which also makes taking numerous large pills very difficult. The nature of her stomach problems requires her to keep her stomach as dry as possible around the time of eating.

    So my question is, does anyone out there know which brand of Betaine HCl pills are the smallest in size and most easy to swallow? She takes a vitamin D supplement that comes in tiny pills and she’s able to handle those. Is there any form of Betaine HCl that comes in that size? I haven’t been able to find a way to figure this out and it’s driving me up the wall! There doesn’t seem to be any kind of “search engine” for Betaine HCl products where you can search by physical pill size. Her stomach problems seem to be connected to low acid so she really needs to take these pills! HELP!

    • Jess barker

      October 8, 2017 at 7:45 am

      I find it very difficult to take pills as well and what has helped me is eating raw unprocessed sauerkraut twice a day. I also take the juice of half a lemon in warm water before meals

  11. LS

    March 8, 2016 at 6:54 am

    If you are currently on a vegan diet would introducing animal by products (cheese, yogurt and eggs) help with low stomach acid? I cant bring myself to eat meat again but would be open to switching to a vegetarian diet. I’ve been having major problems over the past few years that I thought it was my gallbladder but I had an ultrasound and it’s super clean. My doctor wanted me to take prilosec but it just didn’t make sense to me. I’m always in fear of eating because I don’t know if I’m going to be ok or in pain afterwards so I tend to skip meals. Any insight would be really helpful. Thank you.

    • Margaret Floyd

      March 16, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      If you’re on a vegan diet, then you’ll quite likely need some digestive support to add in those animal foods. The foods alone don’t increase HCl. It’s a vicious cycle – you need HCl to break down protein into amino acids to create the HCl…

      I would highly recommend working with a practitioner on this. A medical doctor (as you’ve already seen) is just going to recommend more acid suppression and that’s only exacerbating the issue. If you’re willing to eat some animal foods, that’s a great start, but you will likely still need further support.

      • Patrick Cashman

        April 11, 2017 at 2:30 am

        Hi Margaret Ive read some of the replys from people and unfortunately none of them include all of the symptoms I experience after eating generally I feel miserable I just want to curl up and die right now I’m in bed I have pains under my shoulder blades pain out through my side electric shocks Which could accur any where twitching muscles at the back of my legs constantly cold even in the hight of summer bloated feeling.gas cramps and last but not least if I eat to be full I throw up everything and here is the strange bit this could happen up to three hours after eating and tastes the same as it did before I swallowed it I could go on with other symptoms but I don’t want to bore you and your viewers Please help and don’t recommend these mainstream medical idiots as I’ve been foolish enough dealing with them for years and for the record I eat healthy I’m 54 years old I have a thin body.

        • Margaret Floyd

          April 12, 2017 at 9:39 am

          Patrick, I’m so sorry about what you’ve been dealing with. Sounds really uncomfortable. With symptoms like that I’d need to do a thorough health history with you. Please reach out to [email protected] if you’d like to set something up.

  12. Erbua

    March 17, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Any recommendations for functional health practitioner in the Dallas area? Thanks!

  13. Kate jackson

    April 2, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Hi,
    I have been taking betaine for about 2 years since being diagnosed with low stomach acid. Is there any hope of ever repairing my stomach to not need betaine? Although extremely excited my nutritionist found my problem I’m tired of trying to remember to take these pills before eating. Do you have any alternatives to betaine. I’ve used apple cider vinegar.

    Thanks Kate

    • Margaret Floyd

      April 27, 2016 at 9:53 am

      It’s important that you’re taking sufficient HCl to actually have it decrease. Sometimes it’s a case that you haven’t titrated high enough with your dose to be truly sufficient – so you are in a holding pattern, but not actually resolving the problem. This is something you need to work with your practitioner on. Also, take the Betaine mid-meal towards the end of the meal> That gives your body the greatest chance of using its own HCl before relying on the supplement.

      If you’ve done all this, then it could be that you’re low in zinc, which is an important co-factor for creating HCl. There’s a simple test for this that you can do with a practitioner to find out if that’s the case. Lastly, if you tend to be a high stress person and live in “overdrive”, that has a huge impact on the body’s ability to produce sufficient HCl.

      In most cases, you can wean down to a very low dose or even off it completely, but these factors need to be taken into consideration and for some people, unfortunately it’s just what they need to do to digest fully. All of this is stuff you can work on with your practitioner, though. I would highly recommend working with someone very experienced in this work so they can guide you and customize recommendations to your specific situation.

  14. Jenna

    April 25, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Margaret!

    I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your blog. I am serious need of advice, as my nutritionist is on maternity leave and I don’t have anyone to turn to.

    I was recently put on Betaine HCL (about a week and a half ago) alongside two heavy probiotics to treat dysbiosis, and what my nutritionist believes is Hypochloridria (I have literally every symptom and a stool test showed results that led her to believe so). I am only taking 1 pill with my larger meals once a day (twice at the most) and my acid reflux symptoms have become so much worse. I don’t feel the warmth or burning sensation upon taking the pill, but an hour or two after eating everything in side me feels like it’s on fire. I can’t find any information on this whatsoever. Do you think it’s a bad idea for me to take these supplements? I don’t want to end up burning my esophagus.

    Thanks so much!!

    • Margaret Floyd

      April 27, 2016 at 9:45 am

      Jenna, I strongly encourage you to continue working with your practitioner on this. Usually it’s a case of needing to titrate up SLOWLY, but you need to do so with the support of a practitioner, not alone. Please reach out to whomever recommended this and work with them. It sure sounds like you need it, but you want to proceed cautiously.

      • Lisa

        June 16, 2016 at 6:59 pm

        You’ve only added enough extra hcl to increase what refluxes but not enough to close off the lower esophageal sphincter. What I did was every few minutes keep adding a capsule til the reflux stopped. It works. But remember if you really did get too much baking soda works quickly to back down the amount and stop discomfort.

  15. William

    May 4, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Thank you for this very informative article. My HCL is low, and it effects my protein digestion. I’ve been a Vegan/Veget. for 5 years. I’m now having to start eating fish again to help increase my protein intake (I cant do chicken or turkey, I just can’t). If protein can’t be digested well, would that effect ones blood sugar? Secondly, why does the body stop or significantly producing HCL, wouldnt a vegan/veget get another source of protein, perhaps like beans?

    • Margaret Floyd

      May 22, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      If you’re not digesting protein properly, it will absolutely affect your blood sugar. This is one of the first things I look at when someone has serious blood sugar handling issues – that and fat digestion. A vegan/veg diet doesn’t have nearly the same amounts of protein in it — if you do a comparison of how many chickpeas you’d have to eat to get the equivalent protein from a small serving of meat or fish, you’ll soon see what I mean. And thus the body doesn’t produce it in as high amounts – you only produce it in response to the protein present in your stomach needing to be digested. This is a catch-22 of vegan diets: not enough protein to warrant sufficient secretion of HCl, and then not enough amino acids (what proteins break down into) to create the HCl to begin with.

  16. Marcy Marcy

    May 24, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I have always had low stomach acid, extremely low. It’s one of the reasons I have never had a cavity or any kind of tooth issue at 50 years old. About two months ago though i went completely vegan and the low acid problem is bothering me. I am looking into food combining and will try your tip on using raw apple cider, but are there any other tips for someone that refuses to ever take part in supporting the catastrophic suffering of commercial farm animals. I have found that giving up dairy was really good for me and it would seem had been masking some issues, but even though i don’t believe meat or eggs were giving me any problems I still will not eat them. I have friends that thrive on a vegan diet and I am determined to be one of them. Thanks for any advise.

    • May

      April 13, 2017 at 5:41 am

      Marcy Marcy ! Thank You! For speaking out ! Murdering Animals to eat is plain immoral and wrong! This site does not address the heath and moral issues of killing animals and putting torture and craziness into one’s body and mind.
      I believe this is a universal Truth and harm will come to anyone who partakes in this murderous tone and action.
      Really, Margret, you can do better then recommending killing animals to better ones health can ‘t you? This seems completely offensive to all Life.

  17. Liz

    September 28, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, such great information. I’ve had undigested food in my stools for quite some time, and I’m always hungry. Not right after meals though, but, for instance, I wake up in the night feeling starved, even with having protein before bed.
    Does this sound at all like it could be related to stomach acid levels?

  18. Wasim

    October 5, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Hiii
    Lovely article. I am suffering from indigestion after excessive use of antibiotics.I am feeling that I hot inadequate stomach acidity to absorb my nutrients. I’ve trued ACV and lemon but not much improvement. I need to try beatine hcl. Do you recommend? I lost weight by the way.
    Thank you

  19. Lindsay Price

    December 8, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Thanks for this site. I have been having on-going digestive challenges for several years, had 2 endoscopes and 2 years ago revealed a v small area of reflux around LOS. I have refused PPI’s as I believe it is not hyperacidity and they are more harmful and not curative. I have tried several of the suggestions which people have suggested on this site with some varied success but continue to be up and down and struggle with a predominant symptom of nausea. Do you know of any functional practitioners here in the U.K? Thank you

    • Margaret Floyd

      December 8, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Lindsay – unfortunately I don’t have any contacts for you in the UK. I wish I did… I’ll keep my ears peeled and post here if I learn of someone.

    • D

      December 9, 2016 at 7:52 am

      I can recommend 2 in the UK that do Skype consults. Let me know how to get this info to you. I have used both myself.

  20. Jayme M

    January 16, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Is it possible to have all these symptoms EXCEPT ” acid reflux” ? I’ve never really had any burning but I do have all the other symptoms and I’m really trying to figure out what is going on!
    Thanks !

    • Margaret Floyd

      January 16, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      Absolutely, Jayme. Many people have lots of these symptoms but have never had acid reflux or any kind of heartburn in their life!

  21. Jodie

    January 26, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Hi, I am struggling with persistent bloating (all day) and I even wake up in the morning slightly bloated and I hadn’t eaten in 14 hours!! Am taking hcl and am currently up to 6. It seems to be controlling the heartburn but not the bloating and tightness which is far worse after a meal. I am light weight and don’t eat huge amounts! My doctor said I could have candida also which he has given me antifungal meds as I seem to have all ththe symptoms.
    Haven’t had it tested though as it costs a fortune in NZ. I also have low B12, sins levels. The constant bloating is really getting to me…..any advice?

    • Jodie

      January 26, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      I meant zinc levels

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 7, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Jodie, it’s very likely that there’s more going on here than just Hypochlorhydria. I’d recommend working with a functional practitioner to do some testing and get at the root of the issue. I know of a couple of good practitioners in NZ if you’d like some recommendations. Why don’t you write in to [email protected] and we’ll get you that info?

  22. Somarie

    February 10, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Hi
    My doctor and dietician keep insisting that I have a stomach ulcer caused by excess acid and that I should avoid any foods that trigger acid production. I was prescribed PPIs but after taking them for a few weeks I got so bloated that I could barely move and none of my clohes fit. When I stopped taking them and started taking a probiotic, the bloating got better but my upper stomach still burns. It gets really bad when I’m hungry, almost like a low blood sugar feeling. The burning pain gets really bad and I get shaky and nauseous. I have to eat every three hours and if it gets delayed only a little, this happens. After eating I dont feel as anxious and shaky anymore and the burning gets better, but rather than going away the pain changes to sharp stinging pain… I suffer from heartburn after most meals. I also get extremely constipated if I eat any form of insoluble fibre. Another doctor said that pain after eating cant be caused by an ulcer and that I have IBS. I had tests done about 7 years ago. The acid study came back normal but the xray test showed that my stomach takes a bit longer than normal to empty. So my question is: can delayed emptying of the stomach cause damage to the stomach lining that causes the burning feeling and can it be caused by too little stomach acid? Or can it really be too much acid? And what should I do?

    • Margaret Floyd

      February 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      I would expect that yes, it is most likely due to low stomach acidity — in fact delayed emptying of the stomach is often due to low HCl because what triggers the pyloric valve to open is sufficiently acidic stomach contents. BUT (very very important caveat) I wouldn’t in this case go and supplement with HCL directly. You’ll want to do some upper GI healing first, and also rule out H-Pylori which causes low HCl. In your case I would absolutely recommend working with a practitioner.

  23. Nala

    February 22, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Hello…
    Thank you so much for this article….i have been suffering for almost 2 years…
    Lately, I am always bloated….have really bad breath constantly even though U brush my teeth more than 5 times a day…im tired….have constipation and bleeding piles….
    My dr told me I have IBS which i refuse to believe as they use that term to diagnose everything they know nothing about.
    I am just so frustrated that i even follow a strict candida diet with very little succuess and trying to be vegan makes thr problem worse…
    Pls help…im desperate and suffered for a long time.

    • Nala

      February 22, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      I also have anemia….can this be a case of candida in my system or is it def low stomach acid…?

    • Margaret Floyd

      March 15, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      In a situation like this, Nala, I strongly encourage you to work with a practitioner seasoned in addressing complex digestive issues. IBS is a “something’s off and we don’t know what it is” kind of diagnosis – there’s always a root cause, but the traditional medical model doesn’t have much to help you figure that out. A practitioner who works with functional tools can help you tremendously. The root cause is different from person to person, and it’s a safe bet that low HCl is a part of the picture, but it’s likely more complex than that.

  24. Jan Janssend

    February 28, 2017 at 4:53 am

    I think low stomach acid is difficult to find. On internet you can find test with soda bicarbonate which is very unreliable. I did a test with whole my family in the morning and everybody was positive, so everyone had low stomach acid. Impossible ! Right? Here in the university of Ghent that say low stomach is very rare and you must be very ill to have it. There is a blood test call gastrin blood test . If this blood values are within range you don’t have any problems with stomach acid. The only problem you can have if this gastrin levels are within range that your mucus lining of your stomach can be damaged which results in stomach problems after eating some food. Don’t force your stomach with extra HCL and pepsin without to know if your digest problem is caused by an acid problem!

    • Margaret Floyd

      March 15, 2017 at 10:11 pm

      With all due respect, Jan, this is simply not the case. Almost every client I see has low stomach acid and benefits tremendously from boosting their HCl levels. The only test that can confirm stomach acid levels (and it’s still an imperfect test) is the Heidelburg test. I’ve been working clinically with this for over 9 years and I can tell you that it has profound benefits and almost everyone I work with starts out low.

  25. Pavel

    March 9, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Hi,thank you so much for an amazing article 👍.
    Me vegetarian for over 3 years (last 6 months vegan) and now back to eat fish.I can see myself in couple of the points..😃.
    Prior to acid reflux I had 2 months strong gas(maybe over 50-100 times a day) blaming the legumes..Than I tried to realease the gas (first forcelingly) by burping.The trigger of terrible (never felt that feeling) was that I overate and lie down and fall asleep when I woke up that was it!Now I’ve been having permanent (24h-to nostrils and throat,like a fountain) acid reflux for about 2 months..Dr gave me gaviscon-not big effect(although help me sleeping before and caused bleeding from nose).Today I took 4 tablets of multi enzyme with HCl and it seems my stomach start working and gassing possitively again..😃 want to get rid of the pump like feeling.. Overall good feeling so far..

  26. Marc

    March 19, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Im sorry to say but you got it all wrong regarding protein digestion and mineral absobtion. Its the bacteria in your gut that make the minerals bioavailable in your system, not the acidity in your stomach! Eating too much meat is going to make your body very acidic and the overly complex protein will most likely not going to be fully breaken down and result in putrefaction in the body which is even more acidity. Now some people are more geared than others to deal with meat digestion, but if you have low stomach acid i assure you the answer is not eat more meat!… you are most likely designed to live off mainly vegetal source, the answer lies in you microbiome. The bacteria in your gut that constitute 90% of gene material in your body and are the builder of your immune system! Eat fermented food like your ancestor did and eat lots of soluble fiber like acacia fiber. This will allalize body and increase electricity. It will reduce inflamation and build immunity. Now if any animal product you may need you should consume grass fed bone broth and liver once in a while, and probably some grass fed ghee and jome made kefirs.

  27. Caitlin

    March 24, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    That’s interesting. I’m vegan and I’m in the best health of my life despite all of the (false) negative consequences listed here. I am so happy about the fact that I will never die of a heart attack since my arteries will be 100% clear for life because I don’t eat meat! And I will also avoid the boat load of other unthinkable terminal illnesses that animal products are directly linked to, since the World Health Organization now lists processed meat as being AS carcinogenic as formaldehyde! 🙂

  28. Amber

    April 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Hi, have read the article and had a quick read through the comments and see no reference to fermenting and probiotics.
    I’ve been making milk Kefir for 8 weeks now and no longer suffer from bloating or reflux along with other noticeable benefits!

  29. Phillip Taylor

    May 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    You people are so fortunate. I don’t have low stomach acid. I have NO STOMACH ACID. I have to pop at least 12 Betaine HCL 650 mg capsules just to get the pain and bloating under reasonable control. But it only lasts 4-5 hours and then I need some more. I’ve taken as many as 27 capsules in a single day. Bacterial Overgrowth is often present and I use an antibiotic for 24 hrs ONLY just to get the bacteria under control. I don’t want to become immune to the antibiotics, especially since I know bacterial overgrowth is going to come back any day because of the lack of stomach acid. Best just to try and control the overgrowth and limit it. One strategy I’m thinking about instituting is rotating 3-4 different antibiotics on a weekly basis. For instance, take antibiotic #1 in week 1 on Monday only. Then in week 2 take antibiotic #2 on Monday for 1 day only. Do the same with antibiotics 3 and 4. I have had 2 primary care doctors who have no clue about Hypoclorhydria. The first Gastroenterologist I saw misdiagnosed it as Gastroparesis and gave me Metamucil (fiber notoriously hard to digest) and Famotidine which eliminates stomach acid. Are you freaking kidding me?? That combination of course is the worse prescription ever prescribed by a doctor. I knew immediately fastroparesis wasn’t it anyway because the symptoms don’t fit. I then tested myself with the baking soda and found I was basically running on acid vapors. No belch for 5-6 hours and only then the tiniest hint of of a belch that was barely perceptible. I’ve tested myself 3 times with the same result except the last time there was no belch period no matter how many hours. The second Gastroenterologist I saw seemed more interested in making money off of doing an endoscopy ( I already had one) than listening to what I was telling him. He did so much talking I did not even get the chance to tell him all the symptoms. I also found him to be dishonest. He claimed my baking soda test “was not very scientific” Last time I checked Chemistry was a science. You mix Sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid and you must get carbon dioxide and you MUST then belch end of story. Like I said, more interested in making a buck by performing unnecessary procedures. Right now I’m pretty desperate because of the fight with the bacterial overgrowth. I might give one more GE doctor a try. If that don’t work I will probably implement my own treatment plan in full. I have no other recourse.

  30. Georgia

    May 6, 2017 at 3:53 am

    Hi Margaret ! Thanks for your article! I will take it on board. So glad I found this!

    I’ve been vegan for over six years now and suddenly a few months ago my bowel movements changed completely. From regular and healthy bowel movements I now pass very hard stools once per day if that. I get gas and bloating after almost every meal and constant stomach pains after I’v eaten. The weird thing is, I haven’t changed my eating habits at all and it just seems that suddenly I’ve had these effects with no reasoning as to why.
    Sometimes I skip meals altogether when I’m at work because I know it will just be too uncomfortable for me to remain in this condition in the workplace. I’ve been to a doctor with no success for diagnosis apart from IBS which I don’t feel is a very accurate statement. I’m hoping it’s hypochlorhydria. Will try these tips to see what happens.

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