How to Fix Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

It is not uncommon for HCL and poor digestion to be low since childhood. Regardless of when it began, poor digestion is the start and underlying cause of most chronic illnesses. Basically what happens is that you begin to break down food inefficiently and as a result you don’t actually get enough nutrition in your body (amino acids, lipids, sugars, vitamins, and minerals).

To make matters worse this undigested food matter can escape into your blood stream from your intestines (leaky gut). This creates an immune response, taxes the immune system and creates imbalances in the nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems. Plus, the liver the gets congested by having to deal with filtering all the toxins floating around in the blood.

All of this leads to a systemic breakdown of body and mind’s health. Ayurveda knew this 10,000 years ago and called these undigested food toxins, AMA. AMA is the root cause of most disease. It weakens the terrain or environment, which leaves you open to predisposed genetic weaknesses.

So to get digestion working lets first look at Betaine HCL supplementation, which stands for hydrochloride. HCL is made up of the H part, which is Hydrogen and the CL portion which stands for chloride. If you are lacking either hydrogen or chloride you will suffer from a lack of hydrochloric acid in your stomach.

This acid is vital to breaking down foods, especially protein. Without it, your food will move through your stomach only partially digested and there will be no acidity, which is needed to react with the alkaline bile in your small intestine. Without the acid-alkaline reaction the food molecule bonds do not properly get exposed or broken down.

So how can you go about reviving your own hydrochloride acid?

First I would start with supplemental Betaine HCL (or an Ayurvedic Herbal Formula) by taking 1 cap 10 minutes before each meal. If you do not feel a slight “burning” or “warming” in your stomach then you can add 1 additional cap before the next meal until you get a slight warming in your stomach. The maximum you should ever take is 3000mg, but I would start with no more than 500-1000mg (most capsules contain 500mg each).

The reason why supplemental Betaine HCL is so crucial is because if you ever hope to build back up your digestive system you will need the raw materials such as hydrogen and chloride. And, you won’t be able to begin to stock up your body’s reserves until you can actually break down your food to get the minerals out!

It’s a viscous cycle… You need the minerals to get your digestion up and running, but you can’t actually get them into your cells because you can’t break down your foods properly to absorb them.

So the 3 main ways to get HCL acid going is to first supplement with, and then the second way would be to increase your Celtic or Himalayan sea salt intake (as long as you do not have high blood pressure or have been told not to).

The sea salt contains chloride, which is one half of the hydrochloride needed to get your stomach acid going again. In time, your body should begin to rebuild its stores and begin to use its chloride to help with digestion. If you currently have low pressure (112/78 or lower), you will need to use much more sea salt throughout the day to get your levels up.

The 3rd way is to increase the hydrogen part of HCL. However, typically the reason for low hydrogen is an h. pylori infection. H. pylori actually feed off hydrogen, so if you do have this hidden stressor in your gut then you are going to need to get rid of it first. Have your Doctor of Naturopathy or Functional Medicine Practitioner give you a at-home simple stool test to check for H. pylori as well as other parasites in your gut.

If it turns out you do have an H. pylori infection you can then treat it with specifics herbal supplements.

Once you implement these 3 phases you should begin to see an improvement within a few weeks or months. You will begin to feel less bloating, belching, burping, reflux, and fatigue at meals.

Eventually you’ll start to feel a little burning in the stomach after a few minutes of taking the supplemental HCL. That’s a good thing and means your body is beginning to produce more acid on its own. At this point you can decrease your dosage by 1 capsule and repeat the process until you are only taking the amount needed to get a slight burning or warmth. You may be able to get off them completely, or you may always need to take 1-2 before each meal since as we age digestion does become weaker.

Keep in mind that taking a digestive aid is done in almost all ancient cultures and its wisdom is carried on today still in many parts of the world. For example, think of the hot spices added to Indian food, the wasabi used in Asian dishes, or ginger used in many parts of the world. Take a cue from these ancient traditions and don’t view supplemental digestive aids as a sign of weakness because in the end you’ll be stronger for adding them to your meals!


Committed to your success,

Stephen Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Voted “2011 Personal Trainer of the Year”
Author of Fatlossity, Lose5in7 Weight Loss System
Health Consultant for MTV, Men’s Health, Women’s Day, MAXIM, NutritionData, Dietcom, SELF


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