Stomach Acid Imbalance

The digestive system is responsible for providing the body with energy and nutrients. The digestive organs break down food into small nutrient molecules that are used to supply the body’s energy needs, and also absorb the raw materials that are required for growth and repair. Mechanical digestion, such as chewing, breaks down food by physical action; chemical digestion uses digesting agents called enzymes to break down food particles even further, which occurs throughout the system – even in the mouth.

Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCl), is a very powerful digestive agent, and much more important than you realize.

HCl’s important functions include –

  • Breaking down proteins into the essential amino acids and nutrients your body needs in order to stay healthy.
  • Stimulating your pancreas and small intestines to produce the digestive enzymes and bile necessary to further breakdown the carbohydrates, proteins and fats you eat.
  • Preventing disease by killing pathogenic bacteria and yeast normally present in food.
  • As you age, your stomach acid tends to decrease anyway. Add a poor diet of processed foods and you may find that you have both digestive and immune problems.

The condition of both low and excess stomach acid is highly uncomfortable and irritating.

The digestive system secretes enzymes, intrinsic factors and gastric acids – necessary for proper digestion of food in the stomach to break down and digest the food we consume. Gastric acids consist of hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride, potassium chloride and protein-digesting enzyme pepsin, with a pH of 1-2 in the lumen of the stomach. Secretion is induced by the smell, sight or the feel of food in the mouth. The stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas work together as a team to perform the majority of the digestion of food.

When the secretion of gastric acid increases or decreases in the stomach it leads to various stomach-related problems – resulting in discomfort, burning sensation, gastric ulcers and basic gastritis. Only about 1 in 10 people with acid problems actually do have too much stomach acid – the rest actually has insufficient stomach acids (hypochlorydia) or a different problem altogether such as a food intolerance.


Several factors can cause stomach acid imbalance –

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause a vicious cycle of low stomach acid and malnutrition because they are all needed for stomach acid production. If any of these are lacking in the diet, hypochlorhydria can develop. In turn, hypochlorhydria affects the body’s ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals it needs to produce the proper levels of HCl. The lack of proper nutrient absorption sets the stage for the vicious cycle of low stomach acid output and chronic nutrient deficiencies.
  • Chronic stress can impair the body’s ability to produce the proper amount of HCl.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the cells that produce HCl in the stomach.
  • The presence in the stomach of a common bacteria, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), can impair the body’s ability to produce the proper amount of HCl.
  • HCl production decreases with age. The average 60-year-old produces only one-fourth as much HCl as a 20-year-old.
  • Insufficiency of stomach acid leads to indigestion, leaving food undigested in the stomach, where bacteria and other micro-organisms start to grow. This imbalance can hinder your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, even if you eating healthy foods.
  • Long-term deficiency of nutrients can cause more serious health issues, mostly arising from weak immune system. All other symptoms that are associated with low stomach acid arise due to the presence of undigested foods in the stomach.


There are a number of symptoms that can be apparent with a stomach acid imbalance. Some of the symptoms of stomach acid imbalance are provided below –

  • Bloating
  • Belchin
  • Pain or tenderness in the middle of the abdomen
  • Excessive feeling of fullness
  • Fungal infections, such as, candida
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Food allergies
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Undigested foods in stools
  • Heartburn
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Fatigue
  • Autoimmune disorders


  • Obesity, slow metabolism and inability to lose weight
  • Chronic inflammation
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain, obesity and diabetes
  • Bladder and kidney conditions, including kidney stones
  • Weakened immunity
  • Premature aging
  • Osteoporosis, weak or brittle bones, fractures and bone spurs.
  • Joint pain, aching muscles and lactic-acid buildup
  • Low energy and chronic fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Slow digestion and elimination
  • Yeast/fungal overgrowth


Conventional and prescription medications used to treat stomach acid imbalance may deplete nutrients or interfere with nutrient absorption. Following is a list of conventional medicines that may be used and the nutrients they may deplete:

  • Antacids – Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, Amphojel, Tums, Mylanta, Maalox. Products used to neutralize stomach acid.
  • Histamine H2 antagonists – Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid. A group of medications that block H2 receptors to control stomach acid production.
  • Products to relieve indigestion, gas, and bloating – CharcoCaps, Gas-X, Mylicon, Phazyme, Pepto-Bismol.
  • Proton pump inhibitors – Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Aciphex. A group of medications that stop stomach acid production by shutting down a system in the stomach known as the proton pump.

Alternative Treatment

Protein – HCI initiates the digestion of protein in the stomach by converting pepsinogen into the proteolytic enzyme, pepsin. Once formed, pepsin acts to break proteins into smaller peptides that can be absorbed by the small intestine. Without adequate gastric secretions, incompletely digested macromolecules can be absorbed into the systemic circulation.

Carbohydrates and Fats – HCl supports the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins A and E by stimulating the release of pancreatic enzymes and bile into the small intestine.

Vitamins and Minerals – HCl also aids in the absorption and assimilation of vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene and iron, by increasing their bioavailability and effecting their release from food.

Betaine Hydrochloric Acid is a nutritional supplement that is used to restore normal gastric acid.

Pepsin helps to assist digestion.

Peppermint is used to aid the various processes of digestion due to its antibacterial and gastric-acid-promoting effects. Peppermint also aids digestive function by combating gas, increasing the flow of bile, and healing the stomach and liver.

Gentian (Gentiana lutea) – The bitter principles of the dried root of Gentiana lutea have been used in Europe as a digestive aid for centuries, especially in Swedish bitters. Gentian roots were historically used topically to treat skin tumors, and internally to treat fever and diarrhea.

Digestive Enzymes helps to break down hard-to-digest foods and eases indigestion, bloating, and gas.

Probiotics – Helps bring balance to your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. Promote regularity, enhance your immune system, support healthy intestinal flora, and soothe stomach upset.

Basil- Can be made into a tea by mixing one ounce basil leaves with a pint of water and simmering for twenty minutes.

Ginger– Can be made into a tea by grating one ounce of fresh ginger and simmering ten minutes in a pint of water. Ginger should always be added to meat since it aids digestion of the meat.

Dill– An infusion of dill can be taken three times a day for upset stomach. An infusion can be made by placing one ounce of dill in a pint of boiling water and steeping in an air tight container.

Aromatherapy – Essential oils are the distilled essence of plants and herbs. They are very potent and provide many therapeutic benefits. Various essential oils may be applied to acupressure points on the feet or back to support your gastrointestinal system.

Stress Reduction Techniques – Chronic stress can have a negative impact on our overall health. In relation to our gastrointestinal system, it can put our sympathetic nervous system into overdrive. This causes our digestion to be sluggish. Stress management is the key to feeling better and staying healthy.


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