We’ve all experienced it. That unfortunate ‘food baby’ that comes after a meal. Your stomach puffs out, you feel tired and sluggish, and there’s usually gas pains as the poorly digested food makes it way through your system.

It is estimated that approximately 3/4 of Americans struggle with LOW stomach acid. This can show up as GERD, indigestion, bloated, gas, heart-burn, and other digestive discomfort. Unfortunately most people suffering with these digestive issues are thought to have HIGH stomach acid and given antacids to bring the stomach acid down.

In actuality most cases of GERD, indigestion, and heartburn are indicative of LOW stomach acid (aka hypochlorhydria). Having low stomach acid can cause a lot of problems for the body. Common concerns include constipation, diarrhea, undigested food in stool, acid reflux, gas, bloating, indigestion, belching, skin problems or acne, chronic nutrient * mineral deficiencies, brittle hair & nails, dry skin & adrenal fatigue . In extreme cases low stomach acid can even result in autoimmune conditions.

How do you know if you have low stomach acid?

Not all of us will experience the severe indigestion or heart burn that typically indicates this condition. The best way to determine your levels is by doing a 1 – 2 week HCL Challenge to see if your body responds well to adding Hydrocholoric Acid at meal time.

Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is our naturally occurring stomach acid. It is produced in our stomach and is essential for proper digestive function. HCL activates the pepsin enzymes required for protein digestion, and kills harmful bacteria & parasites ingested with our food. HCL also activates the release of enzymes, bicarbonate and bile that is essential for proper digestion and elimination. When one is lacking in stomach acid, the whole digestive system suffers and eventually leads to many other complications or diseases.

Low stomach acid is often misdiagnosed as “too much stomach acid” because the symptoms are the same. Heartburn, indigestion, gas, and reflux are most often treated with acid blockers, however are often cause by having low hydrochloric acid and these acid blockers are then worsening the underlying cause of discomfort.

Low stomach acid can also lead to Candida, Leaky Gut, SIBO and other bacterial infections as your stomach acid isn’t present to make sure foreign invaders aren’t allowed to pass into the digestive tract.

Take the 7-Day Betaine HCL Challenge!

After you have completed the 7-Day HCL Challenge you will have determined your level of deficiency. It is recommended that you continue dosing (holding the dosage determined during the challenge) until you start to sense a mild burning sensation at this dosage. As your body begins to restore its stomach acid levels you will sense a burning feeling, which is a good indication that it’s time to decrease the supplemental quantity. You should decrease the dose by one capsule and hold there until you feel the mild burning sensation again, then continue decreasing the dose by one capsule each time the burning sensation returns until you no longer need to supplement.

At Home Test Instructions:

Day One: Take one capsule of Betaine Hydrochloride in the early part of your 2-3 largest meals of the day.

Day Two & Day Three: Take 2 capsules of Betaine Hydrochloride in the early part of your 2-3 largest meals of the day.

Day Four & Day Five: Take 3 capsules of Betaine Hydrochloride in the early part of your 2-3 largest meals of the day.

Day Six: Take 4 capsules of Betaine Hydrochloride in the early part of your 2-3 largest meals of the day.

Day Seven: Take 5 capsules of Betaine Hydrochloride in the early part of your 2-3 largest meals of the day.

Important Note About Determining Your Dosage: If at any point during the HCL 7-Day Challenge you feel a warm or burning ‘heart-burn’ sensation it is an indication that you have reached your maximum intake of HCL and should resume the previous days dosage. If you do not have this reaction before day 7 of the challenge, you may want to continue increasing dosage until this maximum intake is reached.You may wish to perform higher doses of the HCL challenge (7+ per meal) under the care of your naturopathic physician. An effective dose of HCL typically builds to between 1 – 7 of the 650 mg capsules per meal. You will gradually increase to this amount over the 7-day testing period.

Our favorite products for the 7-Day HCL Challenge are Pure Betaine HCL by Douglas Laboratories and Body Ecology Assist Dairy & Protein. (Don’t let the name fool you, there is no dairy or protein in this product … but it will certainly help you digest those foods if you eat them).

This process allows for you to have the right amount of HCL at all times to ensure proper digestion for better health, all while aiding your body to restore its own production of stomach acid through the stimulating effect of the Betaine HCL and the better digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Keep in mind that larger meals may require larger dosages of HCL. Some people prefer to have 2-3 pills with each meal and increase to 4-5 when consuming a larger meal.

By aiding your body with HCL during your meals, you are retraining the natural release of HCL at mealtime as well as helping your body to digest important minerals that are needed for the production of HCL.

Having low stomach acid can affect the body in many ways. If you think you may suffer from this we recommend you try this 7-Day Challenge as soon as possible.

NOTE: Do not take this test if you have ulcers, h.pylori, or are taking anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids (eg. Prednisone), aspirin, Indocin, ibuprofen (eg. Motrin, Advil). You may want to consult with a health-care practitioner before starting the HCL Challenge.

Have a friend or family member that you think may suffer with LOW stomach acid? Share this with them! I’m also happy to answer any questions below 🙂