Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition

Jennifer Brand, MPH, MS, CNS Clinical Nutritionist

Testing for Low Stomach Acid



HCl (hydrochloric acid) is absolutely necessary for healthy digestion and is produced in your stomach. There are a range of reasons why your HCl production may be low or sub-optimal. Low or sub-optimal levels of HCl are referred to as hypochlorhydria.


Some of the primary reasons for hypochlorhydria include age (many people over 60 have hypochlorhydria), use of acid blocking medications, chronic bacterial infections, and autoimmune gastritis (stomach inflammation).


Without enough stomach acid, you can't digest protein and absorb minerals and certain vitamins like B12. You are also at increased risk for food poisoning and other infections.


Please Note: Administration of HCl/pepsin is contraindicated in peptic ulcer disease. HCl can irritate sensitive tissue and can be corrosive to teeth; therefore, capsules should not be emptied into food or dissolved in beverages. 


Common Symptoms of Hypochlorhydria:


●      Bloating, belching, burning and excessive gas immediately after meals

●      A sense of fullness even with even smaller meals

●      Indigestion, diarrhea or constipation

●      Food reactions

●      Weak, peeling and cracked fingernails

●      Dilated blood vessels in the cheeks and nose

●      Acne

●      Iron deficiency

●      Chronic intestinal parasites and dysbiosis (abnormal gut flora)

●      Undigested food in the stool

●      Chronic yeast infections


Self-testing for low HCl/ hypochlorhydria:


You can determine if you need HCl by a simple home test, called the bicarb test.




Mix 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in water (about 6 ounces) and drink on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking. If you have sufficient levels of stomach acid, the bicarbonate will be converted into carbon dioxide gas, which should cause belching within less than 5 minutes. If you have not belched within 5 minutes, stop timing.


If you have enough stomach acid, belching should occur within 2 - 3 minutes. Early and repeated belches might be due to excessive stomach acid, but they also could be due to swallowing air when drinking the solution (this sort of belching tends to be smaller belches). If 'normal' belching doesn't occur until after 3 minutes, stomach acid is low.




Low stomach acid → no belching

Sufficient stomach acid → belching



SCD Lifestyle, 3 Tests for Low Stomach Acid

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