Stomach acid is a subject that is becoming more widely discussed recently. We have all heard of acid reflux and most people presume, somewhat logically that it is caused by excess stomach acid and while sometimes this is the case, it is often actually low stomach acid. This can be confusing as the symptoms for both are very similar; heartburn sensation, burping, bloating and feeling full even after eating a small amount.
Our stomach acid declines with age and is also diminished during stress as higher levels of our stress hormone cortisol can result in lowered stomach acid. It can also be caused by a diet high in refined carbohydrates, coffee and alcohol.
Stomach acid has a very important role in our digestion, breaking down food for further transport round the body. It also helps break down many nutrients for absorption and helps protect us from bacteria as the acidity kills off some nasty pathogens.
It makes sense then, that if we have too little stomach acid, a lot of these functions will be affected which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and possible imbalance in our gut bacteria and overgrowth by the wrong kind of bacteria.
I have learnt a lot about this over the last few years but it all took on a more personal note for me when my partner recently started experiencing symptoms associated with both high and low stomach acid and was told that his oesophagus may be being irritated by his stomach acid.
He took a simple home test involving drinking bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water which, while not 100% guaranteed is a good indicator when taken over a few days. By drinking the mixture and observing how long it takes you to belch (the longer before you belch, the lower your stomach acid) he established that his stomach acid levels were not high at all but slightly low.
I wanted to be able to restore his levels naturally using diet wherever possible and I’m pleased to say that so far his symptoms have improved.
Top dietary tips for balancing stomach acid levels
Start the day with lemon juice in warm water. Although acidic, lemon juice helps establish the correct pH in the stomach. This can also be taken with meals.
Apple cider vinegar is also good in water; 1 teaspoon in a glass of water. Try this with your meal and also use it in salad dressings.
Bitter herbs such as milk thistle and even salad leaves like rocket help get the bile flowing which contributes to stomach acid production.
Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are great for the digestion as they are full of enzymes which help break down food in the stomach.
Spices such as ginger, cardamom, fennel, cloves and caraway
Leafy green veg are great as they are an alkaline food and while that sounds strange, you need to increase your alkaline food intake to balance your stomach acid.
I managed to create a smoothie that covered many of these bases and was still tasty enough for my partner to drink without complaining! For this you will need a juicer as well as blender but it’s worth it for the extra fresh nutrients you’re packing in
Soothing Breakfast Smoothie
Quarter of a pineapple
Quarter of a courgette
1 inch piece of root ginger
A few cabbage leaves (the outer ones from a savoy are great) or kale
Half a papaya
Half a banana
Half an avocado
Tablespoon of flaxseeds
Top up with coconut, almond or rice milk to your desired consistency
Juice the veg and pour into a blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.