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How I found out my stomach acid was too low

In 2009, a couple of years after I’d eradicated H. pylori, I decided to get my nutrient levels properly tested as a general check up.

I was testing a lot of clients and seeing really low vitamin and mineral levels, so I wanted to make sure I was walking my talk.

I’d also noticed my fingernail quality deteriorating and wanted to know why, so I performed the following tests:

  • Urinary organic acids
  • Standard blood chemistry and complete blood count
  • Whole blood and red blood cell minerals
  • Hair tissue mineral analysis
  • Gastro-test
  • Zinc tally test

I’ll tell you more about these tests in a separate email, but for now, let’s focus on what I found when I did these tests.

Why I did the tests

I wasn’t happy with the quality of my fingernails, which is a warning sign for low stomach acid and poor mineral absorption.

Obviously poor mineral absorption isn’t ideal by any means – it can lead to a whole host of problems related to mood, energy, skin health, immune function and other areas of health.

I already knew H. pylori infection can reduce stomach acid levels and cause conditions called hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) and achlorhydria (no stomach acid).

So I figured that it would be a good idea to make sure my stomach acid level was optimal.

I was shocked to find it wasn’t.

Some of the test results

My organic acids test showed that I had very low levels of vitamin B6. This is relevant because B6 is needed for zinc absorption, and zinc is needed for stomach acid production.

The standard blood test – which I did through a private lab and ran through a functional blood chemistry analysis – showed I had very low alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels.

When ALP is low, it indicates zinc deficiency, and as you know zinc is needed for stomach acid production!

I couldn’t taste the zinc liquid used in the zinc tally test, which indicated I was probably low in zinc, which could cause low stomach acid.

The mineral tests showed I actually had quite depleted mineral levels across the board, which is a feature of low stomach acid because the acid is needed for optimal mineral absorption (this explained my fingernail deterioration).

The nail in the coffin was my gastro-test. As I say above, I’ll explain these tests in more detail in separate articles.

The gastro-test showed my stomach acid levels to be very low (I did this as part of a training course, and every other person also had low stomach acid).

The testing summary:

  • Low B6 (needed for zinc absorption)
  • Low zinc indicated in blood test and zinc tally test
  • Low general mineral levels
  • Low gastro-test score – the nail in the coffin for low stomach acid

All these tests made perfect sense – I had my explanation for deteriorating fingernail quality, which on its own was practically diagnostic of hypochlorhydria anyway.

What’s all the fuss about?

You may wonder what the problem is – why does it matter if stomach acid levels are low?

Again, we’ll discuss this in detail within a separate article, but the three main problems with low stomach acid are:

  1. You simply cannot digest your food properly, leading to subtle or even obvious malnutrition – the most obvious problems are iron deficiency anaemia and vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, headaches, depression, poor memory, pins and needles, sleep problems and more serious neurological problems).
  2. Poor protein digestion is a consequence of low stomach acid, and it leads to food intolerances, allergies and possibly even asthma. The food allergies themselves can cause dozens of symptoms.
  3. Stomach acid is like an furnace that burns up bad bugs like bacteria, Candida and parasites. Low stomach acid has been shown categorically to encourage Candida overgrowth, lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), both of which are extremely common, and Clostridium difficile. It’s the low stomach acid that enables these bad bugs to get a foothold in the first place.

Low stomach acid is a vicious cycle

One of the main problems with low stomach acid is the fact that it creates a vicious cycle.

Your body needs plenty of energy and nutrients (B6, zinc, iron) to make stomach acid in the first place, but if stomach acid is low, you can’t absorb these nutrients properly.

So in order to get your stomach acid levels back up to an ideal level, you really need to do two things.

First, you have to get rid of anything that’s damaging your stomach and intestine.

This means getting rid of H. pylori, SIBO, Candida and possibly any parasites that might be lurking in your tummy and intestines.

You won’t actually know what’s in there without running a stool test.

Once the bad bugs are gone, you can heal your intestinal lining to absorb your nutrients better.

Second, while you’re removing the bad bugs, it’s important to focus on eating high quality foods and eating in a relaxed state.

Chewing your food properly enhances stomach acid production.

Chilling out and relaxing when you’re eating ensures your digestive juices are flowing.

You can take supplemental zinc in liquid or lozenge form to bring your levels up (remember you need zinc to make stomach acid).

While you heal your gut and bring your zinc levels up, to help  digest your food you can also take apple cider vinegar, which is weakly acidic – take some near the start of your meal.

Finally, you can use betaine HCL supplements, which is basically acid in a capsule!

You have to be really careful with this, but it can really help you digest food more effectively.

How I restored my stomach acid

I maintained a really healthy eating pattern and made sure I chewed my food thoroughly.

I took zinc lozenges (60-75mg daily) and vitamin B6.

At most meals I took 1-2 spoons of apple cider vinegar and 2-3 capsules of betaine HCL.

These were the basics, anyway.

In the next article we’ll discuss some simple home tests you can do to check your stomach acid level.

In the meantime, if you’re fed up of wondering why you’re not feeling well I always maintain that a home stool test is the best option to begin unraveling the reasons why.

Learn more about the stool testing here.