In my last article, I went broke down the epidemic that’s plaguing us all—hypochloridia, which is a fancy way to say “low-stomach acid.” This article is going to be a little more fun because I’m going to give you some tools you can do yourself to test your own stomach acid status as well as teach you how to reverse the issue. I also want to throw in a couple other suggestions, mainly things I like to recommend to my clients to better improve their overall digestive health.
Let’s get into it…
How To Self-Test For Low Stomach Acid
In my last article, I talk about the confusing issue that most people who think they have too much stomach acid, actually aren’t producing enough. What’s worse is that these people will often take antacids or prescribed proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). This is terrible because if someone is having issues with low stomach acid, but thinking they are having issues with too much stomach acid, they are medicating themselves using a drug that decreases their stomach acid. Bad news because now they have even lower stomach acid.
Luckily there’s a couple of easy ways to self-test at home to know for sure if you have low or high stomach acid.
Test #1 – The Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test
This one is the safest place to start. Here’s what you need to do:
- When you first wake up, before eating or drinking anything, mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into 4-6 ounces of cold water.
- Drink the baking soda solution.
- Time how long it takes you to belch. Time up to five minutes.
- If you have not belched within five minutes, stop timing.
The idea is that if you have enough stomach acid, you’ll belch within 2-3 minutes. This is because the baking soda and stomach acid creates a chemical reaction resulting in NaCl (table salt), H2O (water), and CO2 (carbon dioxide). The CO2 bubbles up and you burp it out. If you don’t have enough stomach acid, you aren’t going to be burping up a significant amount of CO2.
This is obviously a crude test and isn’t super accurate, but some people are still able to gain some useful information without having to purchase anything special to self-test.
Test #2 – Betaine HCL Challenge Test
This is my go-to test. This test has a higher level of accuracy in determining if you are not producing enough stomach acid. In addition, you can easily figure out what your dosage for betaine hydrochloride (HCl) supplementation needs to be.
Warning: NSAIDs and Corticosteroids increase the chances of ulcers in the stomach and together with Betaine HCL increase the risk of gastritis. Consult a physician before trying this test or supplement protocol.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Buy some Betaine HCl
- Eat a high protein meal of at least 6 ounces of meat
- In the middle of the meal take 1 Betaine HCL pill. Do not bite or chew capsule. Swallow only.
- Finish your meal as normal and pay attention to your body
If after the meal you don’t notice anything, that’s a fairly strong indicator you have low stomach acid. It is possible to receive a false-negative doing this test, depending on how much protein you eat, etc., so retest at least one more time if unsure.
If after taking one Betaine HCl capsule you still do not feel anything, repeat the above instructions with your next meal but increase the Betaine HCl supplementation by 1 additional capsule. Continue this process until you begin to feel any sign of stomach distress — that can look/feel like heaviness, burning, or hotness; this is an indicator that you have too much stomach acid. Do not exceed 5 capsules per meal; even if you do not notice a change.
If for example you took 3 Betaine HCl capsules with a meal and felt any of the sensations above, your dosage is 2.
Continue taking your ideal dosage until you begin feeling that sensation again and decrease again by 1 capsule. The cool thing is the body will begin to retrain its stomach acid production and the need to take these pills should decrease over time.
Other Ways To Boost Stomach Acid
If popping pills isn’t your thing, you can increase your HCl status using bitter/sour foods. My only issues with only doing this and not using the Betaine HCl method is that you won’t know if you are improving and you won’t know if you are producing the proper amount of HCl for the food you are eating…
Here’s are a few ways to increase HCl via food:
- Take a tsp or 2 of apple cider vinegar/lemon juice before a meal. As an alternative, you can add it into ¼ cup of water, but doing this without water will yield better results.
- Eat bitter greens
- Arugula, dandelion, beet greens, etc. are all great ways to increase HCl levels naturally.
- Bitters – yes the stuff you put in your Manhattan cocktail is great for boosting HCl status.
- Spicy or heating herbs can also increase HCl
A Great Supplement To Add
Now that you have a good handle on how to boost your stomach acid, I always recommend adding some digestive enzymes into your protocol. Since HCl primarily breaks down protein, it’s wise to add in some other helpers for those fats and carbohydrates as well; this is where digestive enzymes come into play.
I think that wraps it up. I hope you found all that information useful. I’ve been wanting to put this article together for a while to act as an all-encompassing reference guide to get your HCl status on point. Because if you aren’t producing enough HCl, you’re not digesting your food. Super important if you ask me. 🙂
Thanks for reading!