The symptoms of an underactive stomach closely match those of an overactive stomach, and therefore care must be taken to choose the correct treatment. Low levels of hydrochloric acid (HCL) are associated with a number of disorders such as anemia, allergies, hives, acne, osteoporosis and skin problems.
Underactive Stomach Test
Here's a way to determine if you need more stomach acid:
When you have indigestion, drink water with 1 tsp cider vinegar in it. If it makes the indigestion go away, you are likely not producing sufficient stomach acid (hydrochloric acid -- HCL).
An underactive stomach is the result of a shortage of HCL in the digestive chamber, which causes proteins or fat to digest too slowly and remain in the stomach too long. This causes discomfort from the fermentation and gas that is created. These symptoms will be even worse if sugars are trapped in the stomach at the same time. Making the mistake of taking an antacid neutralizes and further reduces the already inadequate amount of stomach acid and causes the contents of the stomach to be dropped into the small intestine, where it continues to ferment, generating intestinal gas. Nothing is improved -- stomach gas has been turned into intestinal gas.
A better long-term solution for low stomach acid is to strengthen the stomach's natural HCL production capability as much as possible. This can be achieved by cautiously using supplements such as vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes, and learning how to combine foods for effective digestion and maximum nutritional benefit.
Underactive Stomach Recommendations:
Many people who have bloating, gas and/or indigestion assume that they have too much stomach acid when they probably have too little. The symptoms of an underactive stomach are very similar to those of an overactive stomach.
A symptom of an UNDERactive stomach is discomfort (bloating, burping, gas and burning) IMMEDIATELY after meals, whereas if you have an OVERactive stomach the discomfort usually begins anywhere from 45 minutes to 5 to 6 hours after the meal, or even in the middle of the night, whenever hunger strikes. Discomfort caused by and OVERactive stomach may be relieved by a snack or by drinking a bit of milk, while symptoms of an underactive stomach will not.
Other possible symptoms of underactive stomach (low HCL) are a full, heavy feeling after meals, rectal itch, constipation or diarrhea, food allergies and nausea after taking vitamin or mineral supplements. You may be able to clear up your problem simply by making some dietary changes.
We usually secrete less HCL as we age. Most young people can eat just about any combination of food without suffering digestive discomfort, but as we age most of us need to be more careful of how we combine foods. Proteins and fats are much harder to digest when eaten in the same meal with sugars. A small amount of meat eaten at a meal that ends with cake, pie, ice cream or fruit might digest reasonably well, while the same meal with a larger amount of meat (a steak or hamburger, for instance) may create an uncomfortable digestive problem for you.
Protein and fats stay in the stomach up to four hours, while carbs are digested in the intestines and should pass through the stomach in only minutes, which they do, if eaten independent of proteins and fats. However, eaten together, proteins, fats and sugars stay in the stomach too long, causing gas to form, which results in intestinal discomfort.
If you want to eat fruit or a dessert, or drink fruit juice you should do so at least ½ hour before your main meal, or wait at least one hour (preferably two to 3 hours) after you've finished your meal. This keeps the sugars from being trapped in your stomach with the slower digesting proteins and fat, and thus avoids the cause of gas formation. (Note: this does not include most non-starchy vegetables or more astringent fruit like apples, which actually aid digestion.)
If you have digestive difficulties, it can be both instructive and interesting to carefully observe your body's responses to food, because your body will tell you when you've exceeded your power of digestion. For instance, combining eggs (protein) with orange juice (fruit) for many people is a sure formula for digestive discomfort. Simply taking more care with your combinations of food or eating less may solve your digestive problems. Always eat food slowly and chew thoroughly.
If you continue to have digestive problems, take a good enzyme supplement after your biggest meal. A broad spectrum digestive enzyme (one that includes fruit enzymes) will help in digestion of carbohydrates as well as digestion of proteins and fat. People who suffer from diabetes or hypoglycemia often need to supplement with digestive enzymes, since both involve the pancreas.
If you don't think you need digestive enzymes, you can buy a betaine HCL supplement separately. You can take one or more at each meal, but as you pay closer attention to your body's responses you will discover which meals (and which types of meals) require the digestive supplements. You may only need a digestive supplement with a meal that is high in protein and/or fat.
Too much HCL Betaine will give you a warm, burning feeling in your stomach, and you will know to cut back. If you take more than one capsule, take them throughout your meal.
After taking the digestive supplements for a few months, you will likely notice you are secreting more digestive juice on your own, and you can then cut back.
As an alternative to a digestive enzyme supplement, try drinking a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice just before a meal. Do not take a digestive enzyme supplement and do not drink vinegar if you have any inflammation of the stomach lining.
Being low in stomach acids means you’re not likely to absorb vitamin B12 from non-meat sources, and this can cause major problems further on. So be sure to eat good sources of B12 (eggs, liver) and consider supplementing for a short time. A spectrum of all the B’s will also help the body produce stomach acid.