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Do I Need to Test My Stomach Acid?

Welcome to the Gut Honest Truth blog where a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner gives you digestible information to tackle your chronic health concerns.

That’s me, Katie Morra;

As always, working one-on-one for your specific needs is always our top recommendation, check out our appointment options to get started with one of our licensed health care professionals today.

If you want to learn more about supporting your gut conditions, I highly recommend checking out my eBook- How to Get Rid of Your $?@#*!% Acid Reflux.

On to the post...

What is the job of the stomach?

The stomach is a large, muscular, and hollow organ allowing for a capacity to hold food. It is comprised of 4 main regions, the cardia, fundus, body, and pylorus.

Primary job:

The primary function of the stomach is temporary food holding and the partial chemical and mechanical digestion of food.

The upper portions of the stomach relax as food enters to allow for the stomach to hold increasing quantities of food.

The lower portion of the stomach contracts rhythmically to aid with the breaking down of food and mixes it with stomach juices to prepare chyme for further digestion.

What Are Signs Something May Be Off in the Stomach?

  • Excessive burping

  • Bloating

  • Excessive gas

  • Indigestion

  • Heartburn

  • Undigested food in stool

  • Food allergies/ sensitivities

  • Stomach pain / cramping

  • Anal itching

  • Avoidance of meat

  • Weak/brittle hair, nails & bones

  • Neurological issues

  • Diarrhea

  • Fatigue, ESP. AFTER MEALS

  • Bad breath

  • Chronic dysbiosis or parasites

I Have Many of These Signs, What is Contributing to it?

  • Medications & Supplements

  • Stress

  • Age

  • Atrophic Gastritis

  • H pylori

  • Surgery

  • Diet

  • Hiatal Hernia

  • Poor Chewing

  • Poor Digestion & Absorption

  • Low Stomach Acid

  • Motility

Why is Stomach Acid so Important?

Stomach acid is the conductor of all digestion, as well as your first line of defense towards everything you put into your mouth all day, every day. Without enough stomach acid, you can’t properly digest and absorb protein. Similarly, you may poorly digest carbohydrates and fats due to the downstream effect that acid production has on stimulating your digestive enzymes and bile production. Without these digestive processes working like a well-oiled machine, I often find a patient has nutrient malabsorption and gut overgrowths due to large chunks of food sitting in the intestines.

How Can I Test if I Have Enough Stomach Acid?

  • Baking Soda Test: The idea is that baking soda combined with stomach acid produces CO2 to cause burping. Mix 1/4 teaspoon FRESH baking soda in 4 ounces of room temp warm water & drink on an empty stomach. Time how long it takes to burp. If it takes longer than 3-5 minutes, it is likely the individual does not have enough stomach acid.

  • Betaine HCl Challenge: I highly recommend doing this under the supervision of a health care practitioner. It is recommend to start by taking one (300-600mg) capsule of HCl 5 minutes BEFORE protein-containing meals for 2 consecutive meals in a row. If no signs of acid reflux/GI discomfort, increased belching, or abdominal pain following that meal, increase to 2 capsules before meals. Continue the process of increasing betaine HCl capsules until you get acid reflux OR up to 5 capsules per meal (do not exceed 6 capsules), whichever comes first. Once you get signs of discomfort, stop and go back down to the pill count without discomfort. Continue here until this amount eventually gives you discomfort and then decrease by 1 pill. Continue the reassess-decrease by 1 pill strategy until the you no longer needs the supplement.

  • Heidelberg Test: this is a physician order only test. The test begins by swallowing a small capsule which has a high-frequency transmitter. The transmitter shows the pH levels of the gastrointestinal tract. It often has a thin thread attached to the capsule and the patient can choose to have it removed through the mouth or swallow the capsule and discard it through the stool.

  • SmartPill Test: this is a physician order only test. The SmartPill capsule measures pressure, pH and temperature throughout the gastrointestinal tract. It is primarily used to determine gastric emptying time and transit time but pH can also be measured.

Do I Need to Supplement with Betaine HCl forever?

This is almost never the goal of a supplement. It can be supportive in reducing your symptoms and enhancing the healing process. However, it is exactly that, a supplement. It should be supplement you and your provider finding the root cause(s) to why you have low stomach acid in the first place. There are two main exceptions as to why someone may need more long term support: atrophic gastritis and being above the age of 60 years old.

One study found that over 30 percent of women and men over the age of 60 have atrophic gastritis. This means that they are making little to no acid secretions in their stomach. This next study blows my mind, are you ready? It found that 40% of women over the age of 80 produce no stomach acid at all.

Please work with your health care providers to ensure safety of any supplementation as well as when it is appropriate to continue or discontinue. If you need more support getting to the root cause of your low stomach acid, schedule a consultation today with our Institute for Functional Medicine trained and certified health care practitioners.

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