How can I tell if I have too much or too little stomach acid? rop

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by shelbo, Oct 14, 2008.

  1. shelbo

    shelbo New Member

    I have been getting a lot of stomach burning! Ugh! Is there a test that I can try to find out whether I have low or too high stomach acid...preferably a home-made knd of test? I want to know which I have so I can take action! My rosacea is flaring too! Thanks! Shelbo :)
  2. Catseye

    Catseye Member

    Rich Van K posted this easy test for somebody once:

    If you want to test to see if your stomach acid is low, you can try this simple test at home: On an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning, drink an 8-ounce glass of water into which you have mixed one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Using a clock or watch, measure how long it is before you burp. If you have enough stomach acid, you should burp within two minutes. If you haven't burped within 5 minutes, you can stop timing.

    I haven't tried it but I already knew I had none from my CDSA test. I take lots of betaine hcl with every meal.

    best wishes

    karen[This Message was Edited on 10/14/2008]
  3. shelbo

    shelbo New Member

    Hi there! Well, I did the sodium bicarbonate test you rec'd and am confused by the results!

    I followed the instructions (I drank the solution in a few gulps cos it tasted nasty - hope that was OK) and set the stopwatch. Something really odd happened.

    I felt like I wanted to burp basically after 30 secs or so and at 1 min 50 secs I did this slight, tiny sort-of burp that I forced. I did another small burp that, again, I think I kind of forced at about 4 mins 50 secs.

    I stopped the timer at 5 mins. Anyhow, about 5 or 10 mins after that I started to burp quite a lot involuntarily.

    I have no idea how to read the outcome. Would you know what this means?

    I am thinking of starting Betaine HCI with pepsin to see if I feel better on them. I read somewhere to take digestive enzymes too but am confused about why I might need these in addition to Betaine HCI with pepsin? Do you take both and do you take them at the same time?

    Thanks so much, Shell :)
  4. Catseye

    Catseye Member

    Hi shelbo, I found this description of the stomach acid test which said a little more about the outcomes:

    Baking Soda Test for Stomach Acidity
    This is a fairly simple test to get an approximation of your stomach’s acidity so
    that it can be best treated.
    Often heartburn is treated as a condition of high stomach acidity
    (hyperchlorhydria), but it can also result when the stomach does not produce enough acid
    (hypochlorhydria). Improperly treated, generally by medication that lessens acid
    production in the stomach, the cause of the problem worsens, and the stomach produces
    even less acid.
    Stomach acid production commonly decreases with age, and can lead to many
    problems other than heartburn. Hypochlorhydria can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea,
    malabsorption of nutrients, iron-deficiency anemia, dry and thin skin and hair, acne,
    dysbiosis (the improper balance of gut bacteria), allergies, chronic fatigue, a weakened
    immune system and can aggravate arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
    Your stomach produces hydrochloric acid, which is involved in digesting your
    food. The baking soda solution you will be drinking reacts with the acid to produce
    carbon dioxide gas. The amount of gas produced depends upon the quantity of acid
    contained in your stomach.
    Carry out the following steps to determine your stomach’s acidity:
    1. Perform this test first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (before
    eating or drinking)
    2. Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of baking soda into an 8 oz glass of cold water
    3. Drink the solution and start timing
    4. Record the time until you first burp up gas
    5. Perform this test for 5 consecutive days (or longer) at the same time each day
    to give a better estimation of your stomach’s acidity
    Time Until First Burp
    < 2 min: indicates normal acidity
    2-5 min: low-normal acidity
    > 5 min: possible hypochlorhydria

    I guess yours is probably low. And I know the pepsin is activated by acid, that's why it's included with betaine hcl. My doc says I'm taking more betaine hcl than anyone else. I'm taking three 700 mg pills with every meal - they also contain pepsin. And I also take tons of digestive enzymes. I don't take them at different times of the meal, just everything right after. I guess I'll ask my doc if I should be taking some at the beginning of the meal and some at the end. Because I read something once about that. There's several different enzymes and you need the acid, too. I think we're all low on acid and enzymes and that's the main reason we can't digest properly. We can't digest properly and so we get low on nutrients because we can't absorb and use them if they aren't digested. They just go right through you. Then we get all the cfs symptoms which are basically just nutritional deficiencies. That's why it helps to take tons of supplements.

    I saw a lengthy post on another board explaining digestion and that the food is predigested by enzymes, then the acid comes into play, and then the pepsin is activated by the acid, and then the acid is neutralized and enzymes do some more work. Let me see if I can find it . . .

    Here it is, it's pretty long, but there's some interesting stuff in here:

    Something must be going on with stomach acid. We've received over 50 emails in the last 30 days on stomach acid. Yes, we get 10,000 emails a month, but getting 50 on one topic is highly unusual. The questions on stomach acid were of all kinds mind you, but surprisingly, not one on what I would consider the most important issue: low stomach acid.

    Anyway, in this newsletter, we'll cover all aspects:

    Stomach acid and digestion
    Too much stomach acid
    Too little stomach acid
    Stomach acid and proteolytic enzymes
    Stomach acid and probiotics
    Stomach acid and digestion
    Before we can even talk about stomach acid, we need to spend a little time talking about how it fits in the digestive process. Most people believe that when you eat a meal it drops into a pool of stomach acid, where it's broken down, then goes into the small intestine to have nutrients taken out, and then into the colon to be passed out of the body -- if you're lucky. Not quite.

    What nature intended is that you eat enzyme rich foods and chew your food properly. If you did that, the food would enter the stomach laced with digestive enzymes. These enzymes would then "predigest" your food for about an hour -- actually breaking down as much as 75% of your meal.

    Only after this period of "pre-digestion" are hydrochloric acid and pepsin introduced. The acid inactivates all of the food-based enzymes, but begins its own function of breaking down what is left of the meal in combination with the acid energized enzyme pepsin. Eventually, this nutrient-rich food concentrate moves on into the small intestine. Once this concentrate enters the small intestine, the acid is neutralized and the pancreas reintroduces digestive enzymes to the process. As digestion is completed, nutrients are passed through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.

    That's what nature intended. Unfortunately, most of us don't live our lives as nature intended!

    Processing and cooking destroy enzymes in food. (Any sustained heat of approximately 1180 - 1290 F destroys virtually all enzymes.) This means that, for most of us, the food entering our stomach is severely enzyme deficient. The food then sits there for an hour, like a heavy lump, with very little pre-digestion taking place. This forces the body to produce large amounts of stomach acid in an attempt to overcompensate. In addition to failing in this attempt (much of the meal still enters the small intestine largely undigested), there are two major consequences.

    Too much stomach acid.
    Too little stomach acid.
    Too much stomach acid
    This is obvious. In an attempt to overcompensate for lack of enzymes in the food, the stomach produces an inordinate amount of stomach acid to compensate, leading to acid indigestion. Taking antacids or purple pills doesn't actually solve the problem; it merely eliminates one of the symptoms. Ultimately, though, it passes even more quantities of poorly digested food into the intestinal tract where it leads to gas, bloating, bad digestion, chronic digestive disorders, in addition to blowing out your pancreas, which tries to compensate by producing huge amounts of digestive enzymes for use in the small intestine. All of this is exacerbated by foods and beverages such as alcohol (especially beer), high sugar foods, and caffeinated foods (coffee and tea, etc.) that can actually double acid production.

    The simple solution for most people with excess stomach acid is to supplement with digestive enzymes which can digest up to 70% of the meal in the pre-acid phase, thus eliminating the need for large amounts of stomach acid and also taking tremendous stress off the digestive system and the pancreas.

    One other factor which may be contributing to the problem is a hiatal hernia, in which part of the stomach can protrude through the diaphragm into the chest cavity allowing food and stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Combine a hiatal hernia with excess stomach acid and you have the potential for great distress. The standard treatment for severe hiatal hernias is laparoscopic surgery -- with mixed results. Fortunately, there are chiropractic alternatives that can be quite effective.

    In either case, dietary changes and supplemental digestive enzymes are likely to produce significant results, without creating problems further down the digestive tract.

    Drinking 2-4 ounces of organic, stabilized, aloe vera juice every day can also help soothe irritated tissue in the esophagus and help balance out digestive juices in the stomach.

    Too little stomach acid
    Follow the logic here for just a moment.

    If you spend years forcing your body to massively overproduce stomach acid to compensate for the lack of enzymes in your diet, what do you think the long-term consequences might be in terms of your ability to produce stomach acid?


    Eventually, your body's capacity to produce stomach acid begins to fade, with a concomitant loss in your body's ability to sufficiently process food in the stomach. The health consequences can be profound. Low production of stomach acid is quite common and becomes more prevalent with age. By age forty, 40% of the population is affected, and by age sixty, 50%. A person over age 40 who visits a doctor's office has about a 90% probability of having low stomach acid. Consequences can include:

    Poor digestion. Not only is there insufficient stomach acid to break down food, there is insufficient acidity to optimize the digestive enzyme pepsin, which requires a pH of around 2.0. This results in partial digestion of food, leading to gas, bloating, belching, diarrhea/constipation, autoimmune disorders, skin diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and a host of intestinal disorders such as Crohn's and IBS.
    It is estimated that 80% of people with food allergies suffer from some degree of low acid production in the stomach.
    Many vitamins and minerals require proper stomach acid in order to be properly absorbed, including: calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid. Vitamin B12 in particular requires sufficient stomach acid for proper utilization. Without that acid, severe B12 deficiency can result. (Note: ionic delivery systems can bypass this problem.)
    With low acidity and the presence of undigested food, harmful bacteria are more likely to colonize the stomach and interfere with digestion. Normal levels of stomach acid help to keep the digestive system free of harmful bacteria and parasites.
    It's worth noting that symptoms of low acidity include:

    Bloating, belching, and flatulence immediately after meals.
    Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.
    Is it just me, or doesn't this list sound very similar to the symptoms associated with too much stomach acid? In fact, up to 95% of people who think they are suffering from too much stomach acid are actually suffering from the exact opposite condition. The use of antacids and purple pills then become exactly the wrong treatment to use since they exacerbate the underlying condition while temporarily masking the symptoms.

    Supplementing with digestive enzymes to reduce the need for stomach acid -- giving the body a chance to rest and recover its ability to produce sufficient stomach acid.
    Mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with water and a little honey and drink this with each meal. You may gradually increase the vinegar up to 3-4 tablespoons in water if needed.
    Supplementing with betaine hydrochloride (HCL) tablets can also help, but anything beyond minimal doses as found in most health food store supplements should only be administered under the supervision of a health practitioner to avoid damage to the stomach lining.
    Stomach acid and proteolytic enzymes
    As I mentioned at the top of the newsletter, we received a number of questions on stomach acid in the last 30 days. Most of them had nothing to do with high or low stomach acid, but rather with the effect of stomach acid on supplements. In fact, the bulk of the questions we received were concerned with how stomach acid affects proteolytic enzymes, and they all pretty much ran along the following lines.

    Since enzymes are made from proteins and proteolytic enzyme formulas are taken orally:

    How do they survive the digestion of proteins that takes place in the stomach? Wouldn't they be broken down by stomach acid into amino acids?
    If they do make it through the stomach, since they are so large, wouldn't they be unable to pass through the intestinal wall?
    Surviving the stomach
    Not all proteins (enzymes are proteins) are broken down by stomach acid. Rather than get technical, let me just point out pepsin. Pepsin is an enzyme secreted by the stomach to aid in digesting the proteins in your food. Not only is it NOT broken down by stomach acid, its optimum pH environment is about 2.0 (very, very acidic). Bottom line:

    Although some enzymes such as serapeptase are destroyed by stomach acid, most are not -- just temporarily rendered inactive. (Note: that's one of the reasons I do not use serapeptase in my own proteolytic enzyme formulation.)
    Different enzymes function differently in different pH environments, which is why I formulated my proteolytic enzyme formula, pHi-Zymes, to function in a wide range of pH's.
    Passing through the intestinal wall - absorption
    Enzyme absorption absolutely occurs and manifests through two main avenues:

    Pinocytosis. Enzyme molecules are bound to, and encapsulated, by other substances such as water. Since they are encapsulated, the intestinal wall cannot recognize them as enzymes and thinks they are "water," thus readily passing them through the intestinal wall. Once the enzymes are in the bloodstream they attach to lymphocytes and travel easily throughout the vascular and lymphatic systems.

    Peristalsis not only forces food (and enzymes) down through the intestinal tract, it also forces transit through the intestinal wall.

    Stomach acid and probiotics
    The questions related to probiotics are essentially the same as those for proteolytic enzymes: aren't they broken down and destroyed by stomach acid -- thus requiring special, acid-proof capsules? And the answer, for most probiotics, is absolutely not. (I think this is primarily a marketing pitch for companies selling probiotics in enteric coated capsules, but the logic is flawed.)

    The reason we're supposed to take probiotic supplements is to replace the probiotics that we used to get in a wide range of unprocessed fermented foods such as homemade yogurt, sauerkraut, buttermilk, pickled foods, kimchi, real soy sauce, raw vinegar, tempeh, etc. -- foods that are no longer a significant part of our diet. But think about this for a moment. These foods are not enteric coated. How could these foods provide probiotic value if the beneficial bacteria were destroyed by stomach acid? The simple truth is that beneficial bacteria, for the most part, easily survive stomach acid. Also, if you take your probiotic supplements with water on an empty stomach (as we've already discussed), they encounter almost no stomach acid anyway.

    The bottom line here is that most people are very confused about the role stomach acid plays in health. Most people:

    Think they have too much, when in fact they have too little.
    Treat the symptom and suppress stomach acid production, ultimately leading to long-term health problems.
    Ultimately lose the capacity to produce sufficient stomach acid as a result of dietary abuse and continual use of medications to suppress the body's ability to produce it.
    Don't get into that trap.

    Use digestive enzymes with all your meals.
    Drink aloe vera juice.
    Use probiotic supplements with confidence.
    Use proteolytic enzyme supplements with confidence.
    And, if needed, use apple cider vinegar or betaine hydrochloride supplements to make up for stomach acid insufficiency.

    Told you it was long! Hope it helps


  5. dannybex

    dannybex Member

    That's interesting Karen that your doctor said you're taking the most HCL than any of his patients.

    Several years ago I had to take NINE HCL capsules with a meal before I felt any warmth in my stomach. I gradually reduced that down to 3-4, but am now thinking I need to go back up to 5.

    Thanks for posting the info about the baking soda test. I use that occasionally to help me kind of force the food to leave my stomach if it still feels 'full' a couple hours after I've eaten...but will try it in the morning as you described.

  6. joanierav

    joanierav Member

    hi karen. i tried the betaine hcl after a meal like the bottle said. it gave me stomack cramps and i had soft bowel movements. i got scared and stopped it. what do you think? im so nervous about new supplements, cause i get so many bad side effects. thank you. joanierav
  7. shelbo

    shelbo New Member

    That's a lot to digest if you'll pardon the pun! ;D
    That is so so helpful to me!

    I did a test online which determind through my answers that I had a 50% possiblity of having low stomach acid.
    The reason why I was exploring this at all is because my rosacea has gotten a lot worse recently and is very painful, and when I did a search on rosacea the possibility of low stomach acid came up. When I read the list of other possible symptoms of low stomach acid I was amazed to see fatigue, headaches, flatulence, allergies etc.. It did go on to say that a lof of these symptoms could be attributable to other causes ie. ME but I thought....what the heck, it's worth a try!

    I am so glad you posted that info! I'd never hav found it myself! :) Having read that Betaine HCL should only be taken under a doctor's supervision (cos it can rot the stomach lining if taken at any more than the minimum dose! Yikes) As I'm not sure what the minimum dose is, I am thinking, at this stage, of just incorporating digestive enzymes and maybe the apple cider vinegar that was suggested in your post... I figure this would be a safer bet at this stage... Maybe if I get some relief I can then talk to my doc about investigations!

    As I once said, I do recall when I was about 20 being given an endoscopy and being told I had maybe too much stomach acid - but I now learn that the stomach can then overproduce when you not producing enough acid in the first instance...interesting...I'm hoping there is maybe something in this... I'm not getting my hopes up but my internet searches over the last day or two has thrown up several stories of allergies/ rosacea completely reversing when the acid situation is resolved!

    My period (or the run-up to it) also bothers my skin so it may not be the entire story but here's hoping for some relief!

    Thanks so much for all your help! I'll be sure to keep you updated! I really appreciate it!

    :D Shell
  8. dannybex

    dannybex Member

    I'm not sure what brand of HCL you have, but it's my understanding that HCL should be taken after a few bites of your meal, or perhaps 1/3 of the way into your meal, not at the end.

    That's what would happen if you were producing enough acid yourself. Your stomach wouldn't wait until you're finished eating, it would produce the acid as your stomach is filling with food.

    At least that's what I've always read and heard. :)


  9. dannybex

    dannybex Member

    I did the baking soda test this morning. I felt like burping almost immediately, but didn't want to force it. Finally, after about 7-8 minutes I did slightly force it for a decent (loud!) burp.

    ANOTHER EASY TEST that was given to me from Bastyr is to take 1 HCL cap with a meal, then increase by 1 capsule with each meal after that, until you feel a warming sensation. Once that happens, then you back off by one capsule, and take that amount until your acid production improves.

    As I mentioned above, several years ago I had to take NINE caps with each regular-sized meal. Now I'm taking 4-5, depending on the size of the meal.

    Also, if I'm taking calcium/magnesium with milk, then I'll take 4, because calcium and magnesium are very alkaline and require more stomach acid to digest them. That's why calcium is used as an antacid.

    Just my two cents...

  10. joanierav

    joanierav Member

    for answering. the brand i took was twinlabs. i will try it your way, taken during a meal, i will try it again. but first i want to do the baking soda test for at least 3 or 4 days.

    i have another question for you or anyone. should i stop the nexium when i take the baking soda test? (1/4 tsp in a glass of water) do you think it will be a more accurate reading then? the first test i took i didnt stop the nexium, and i didnt burp. but like i said i want to do it again for a few days in a row. thank you for all your help. joanierav
  11. dannybex

    dannybex Member

    I would think the nexium would completely interfere with baking soda or any other type of test for stomach acid. But...I'm not sure if it's okay to stop that cold turkey, or taper off of it, so you might check that out online, or call your doctor or nurse.

    I did the baking soda test again this morning, and again, while I felt like I might be able to burp a little within a minute or so, I took deep breaths, and didn't force it -- and ended up not burping at all, until I forced it about 15 minutes later! argh.

  12. Juloo

    Juloo Member

    My laptop battery is getting low -- off to recharge. Thanks Barrowinnovations for all the info.

    Incidentally, I tried the test one morning w/fresh baking soda and everything and never did burp!
  13. Catseye

    Catseye Member

    I think danny has answered for me - I would have said the same things. I've been offline for a couple of days, sorry. The main thing is to try to determine if you are low on acid. If you get tired after eating a meal high in fat or protein, that could be an indication. Because if partially digested fats and proteins make their way to the liver, it is very hard for the liver to deal with them.

    Why did the doctor prescribe nexium? Did he do it based on any tests, or did he diagnose you with acid reflux because you experienced burning or something? Burning after eating can also mean you are low on acid. This is one area where doctors are able to easily diagnose you with the opposite problem you are having. Is there any chance you have an ulcer? Then the betaine hcl would be a bad idea, of course. Also, one more thing, the burning could be caused by inflammation in your body, which would affect the gallbladder and everything. Then you would need enzymes to take care of that first before you moved on to the betaine hcl. The enzymes I took were Beta TCP and Bromelain Plus by Biotics Research. I took 15 Beta TCP and 9 Bromelains with meals, 5 Betas 3x per day, and 3 Bromelains 3x per day, for 2 weeks before I started with the increased betaine hcl.

    You only want to take the betaine hcl with fats and proteins like chicken, beef, fish, eggs, or raw nuts. What was in the meal you had and about how much? I mean if it was a large meal and just one capsule burned, then you either have enough acid or you have inflammation. But if you didn't eat any meat or eggs or fish, then you probably would have burned normally. I can't take betaine hcl with just vegetables or a salad, for example. I take one pill if I eat a bunch of raw nuts or nut and veggie crackers, but I'll take 3 pills if I eat a whole chicken leg and some other stuff.

    I would think you have inflammation because you have fibro. But the best way to find out is the stool test. Have you seen my thread "toxic guts, toxic body, why do a comprehensive stool analysis"? It goes into more of this in detail. If you're on nexium, you're definitely having digestive problems and that's responsible for many of our nasty symptoms.

    And are you taking pain meds like NSAIDs? These will interfere with the prostaglandins that are responsible for the stomach lining that protect you from the acid. That's why they are said to cause ulcers. It's not the irritation from the pills themselves, but the inhibiting effect on the prostaglandins that cause your stomach to build up the protective lining.

    I won't be back for a day or two, but I'll check back when I can.

    danny, shelbo, juloo

    Sure is a pain having to diagnose and treat yourself, huh? Danny, is that 700 mg pills you were taking? That's what I'm using. And thanks for answering for me! Sound like you know your stomach!

    see ya