Balancing Stomach Acid

 Creating and maintaining the appropriate acid balance in the stomach is a hugely important yet challenging task. When acid imbalance is prolonged it may result in unhealthy absorption and digestion within the GI tract. It's important for stomach acid to be in balance not only because it help us breakdown and absorb nutrients, but it creates a much needed and important barrier to invading organisms.


Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is naturally secreted in the stomach in order to digest food in order to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Many people have a deficiency of this acid, which can lead to other vitamin deficiencies and chronic imbalances. After the age of 50, the body's ability to produce HCL begins to decline. Chronic stress also tends to deplete HCL, characterized by consistent indigestion, and resulting nutritional deficiencies.


Stomach acid is secreted from parietal cells, which are in charge of making HCL. This highly acidic environment helps to breakdown proteins, activate digestive enzymes, and facilitate in absorption. Parietal cells are hugely important because of the role they play in making the HCL. Normal function of parietal cells can be affected by different factors such as chronic inflammation, stress, or free radical activity. They can also be damaged by the overuse of antacids. When HCL is low, the food in the stomach is not digested quickly, and therefore the food lingers longer than it is suppose to, resulting in fermentation, and the increase of the wrong type of acid.


Balanced HCL levels also help to destroy organisms swallowed in food (preventing parasitic infection). Therefore low stomach acid carries an increased risk of yeast, mold and bacterial infections - invaders that don't belong in the GI tract and otherwise would be relegated out of it with proper biochemical balance. In extreme cases, low HCL, also known as achlorhydria, can lead to stomach cancer if left untreated.

Fortunately, there are many natural ways to increase HCL in the stomach. Adding a natural version of hydrochloric acid in supplement form can help improve absorption of nutrients and aid in digestion. However, when it comes to digestive enzymes it's important to remember that when used in excess, the body begins to rely on them therefore creating less on its own. Digestive enzymes can be a useful approach for a short period of time, or can be used with foods that are difficult to digest.


We like to use Trikatu, an Ayuverdic herbal blend of herbs and spices that acts almost like an adaptogen. It helps the body produce more of its own HCL and digestive enzymes, thereby increasing nutrient absorption. Or infrequently, we introduce clients to what is called the HCL challenge. In the HCL challenge, we supplement with HCL to the point of burning, and then back off by 1. By repeating this process, one can challenge the body to begin to produce its own natural amounts of HCL again. 


Other strategies to support stomach health:


  1. 16 oz of room temperature (mineralized) water with 2 teaspoons of raw organic apple cider vinegar upon waking.

  2. Stress management such as breath work, yin yoga, or meditation.

  3. Test pH levels in the urine and saliva. Ideal pH is between 6.8-7.2.

  4. HCL supplements or digestive enzymes (to be used temporarily), or the use of Trikatu with meals (helps with B12 absorption and to offset gluten and dairy intolerances).

  5. Increase dietary antioxidants (especially turmeric!).

  6. Chew your food!

  7. Drink ginger tea. This will aid in digestion and reduce bloating. Ginger is considered a digestive tonic in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and stimulates the bodies own HCL production.

  8. Increase consumption of garlic. Allium, a substance that occurs naturally in garlic, helps prevent ulcers caused by the Helicobacter pylori (h. pylori) bacteria.

  9. Decrease consumption of coffee, tea, tobacco, sugar, alcohol, spices from hot peppers/hot sauce, and fried foods - all deplete HCL and thin the gut lining. 

  10. Give your body time to digest. Try to go to bed before 10pm when digestion becomes active again.

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irmansyah • Wed March 27, 2013
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chuck • Wed June 05, 2013
Wow! This information is a surprise and informative! thanks. This is the best explaination i have ever heard. great job.
Cristina • Tue June 25, 2013
Thank you so much my boyfriend has an imbalance of acids in his stomach and this explained the whole process of acids in the stomach very well. And the tips given at the end are extremely helpful!
Trudy • Tue July 02, 2013
Thank you for explaining the importance of helping our body produce its own acid. After dealing with the death of my father in April, I found my stomach was out of whack. I thought about taking HCL supplements but was quite nervous. I would rather introduce foods or herbs. I'm going to a naturopathic doctor on Friday and will show her this page :)
Ramya Sadasivam • Thu September 12, 2013
Stomach acid is something that is curable. Digestion problems such as regurgitation, stomach gas and constipation are easily curable. Banana is a good cure for stomach acid and heartburn.

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Amy • Tue September 17, 2013
So tea is not good for you stomach???
Theresa Fairbanks • Wed September 18, 2013
So I use Cheyenne Pepper in my morning smoothie along with Ginger and Cinnamon sometimes, so is that not a good thing? I heard that eating more peppers aids in weight loss..
Michelle Fletcher • Fri February 21, 2014
How do you recommend taking Trikatu? Before every meal? Thanks for the great info!
Tanya • Fri February 21, 2014
This is great!! But I have a hiatal hernia and GERD and have been taking Prevacid/Omeprazole for years. Had Bravo test done which confirmed GERD. Should I continue taking antiacid? Is there a remedy for hiatal hernia? Thank you very much for all you do, Christa!!
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