How to improve hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach

Updated February 21, 2017

The proper level of stomach acid, which is hydrochloric acid, or HCl, helps to destroy the bacteria found in food. A low HCl concentration can lead to a condition known as hypochlorhydria. This is prevalent in the elderly, because HCI production declines as we get older. HCI sterilises the stomach, allowing the body to absorb the nutritional in food.

HCI is also responsible for pepsin conversion, creating an enzyme that breaks down proteins that the body can absorb more easily.

When stomach acid levels are too low, the body cannot easily digest food or kill bacteria. The condition can diminish the body's ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and amino acids, leading to serious nutrient deficiencies and autoimmune diseases.

Learn how to improve proper levels of HCI in the stomach with this handy tutorial.

Make simple diet changes to improve stomach acid levels:

Eat wild-caught salmon, albacore tuna, avocados and sprouted nuts (but not peanuts) to elevate your omega-3 essential fatty acids. Increase your fibre intake with cereals such as bran. Drink at least eight glasses of filtered water a day. Eat raw, crushed garlic, which contains allicin, an antimicrobial compound that combats bacteria. If you're not lactose intolerant, consume plain, unpasteurised yoghurt with active cultures.

Some foods and beverages to reduce or avoid: Stop drinking alcoholic beverages, which can cause acid reflux. Avoid trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils), such as often used to cook fast food. Avoid refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Sugar encourages bacterial growth. Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes and chilli peppers can cause indigestion and heartburn, and may worsen arthritis. Eliminate all simple or refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, cookies and crackers. Avoid wheat and wheat protein (gluten). Avoid peanuts. Fish and shellfish are known to harbour high levels of mercury. These include mackerel, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, lobster, clams and oysters. Also, farm-raised fish may contain high levels of PCBs. Coffee, tea, sodas and other caffeinated drinks can cause insomnia and constipation, further interfering with your digestive system. Avoid sodium nitrite in foods such as bacon and hot dogs, and foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate).

Modify the way you eat:

Change your eating habits from three large daily meals to smaller meals consumed throughout the day. Don't lie down immediately after eating. Instead, sit up for an hour after eating to improve digestion. Avoid overeating. Studies show that a high-carbohydrate diet more than fatty foods can trigger a stomach-acid imbalance. Don't drink ice water, which inhibits production of stomach acid.

Consider these natural and alternative remedies to improve HCI levels: Betaine hydrochloride with pepsin in capsule formulation helps break down foods into enzymes that can be more easily digested. Consult with your physician, as betaine hydrochloride supplements can cause adverse reactions in tandem with certain medications. Take a daily multivitamin to help restore the vitamins and minerals that can be depleted by hypochlorhydria. Alternative medicine specialists also recommend taking Vitamin B complex. Drink herbal teas, especially ginger or green tea, or consume bitter herbs in liquid formulations. These are believed to promote the production of HCI. Herbs such as oregano, peppermint, garlic and the extract of grapefruit seed are believed to inhibit bacteria, while other dietary measures are used to boost HCI production in the stomach.

Always seek a doctor's advice. Hyperchlorhydria symptoms to a layman can sometimes appear identical to the symptoms of too much stomach acid. Acid reflux is a common symptom both for low HCI levels (hyperchlorhydria) and excessive stomach acid, although treatment differs for each. Additionally, scientific evidence for alternative remedies is inconclusive; the alternative remedies listed here are among the most common used in treatment of low HCI levels.

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About the Author

James Clark began his career in 1985. He has written about electronics, appliance repair and outdoor topics for a variety of publications and websites. He has more than four years of experience in appliance and electrical repairs. Clark holds a bachelor's degree in political science.