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Low Stomach Acid and Diet

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Low Stomach Acid and Diet
Woman eating a yogurt Photo Credit Tinatin1/iStock/Getty Images

At one time or another you've experienced that burning pain, the pain caused by the acid from your stomach refluxing up into your esophagus. No doubt, you've used a medication, such as an antacid, an H2 blocker or proton-pump inhibitor, to help improve your symptoms. These medications work by lowering the acidity of your stomach, but if you use PPIs for too long, they may affect your body's ability to absorb certain nutrients.

Stomach Acidity and Digestion

Gastric glands in your stomach produce and secrete gastric juices not only when food hits your stomach, but also when you see, smell or even think about food. These gastric juices contain pepsinogen, which is the precursor to pepsin, the enzyme that digests protein, and hydrochloric acid, or HCL. The HCL from the gastric juice keeps the pH of your stomach at around 2.0 and is necessary for converting pepsinogen to pepsin, as well as dissolving food and killing microorganisms. Gastric juices not only help you digest protein, but also play a role in the absorption of nutrients including calcium, vitamin B-12 and iron. PPIs, such as omeprazole, may raise the pH of your stomach to more than 4.0, according to an article published in 2011 in "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics."

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Calcium and Low Stomach Acid

Long-term use of PPIs may increase your risk of hip fractures, according to an article published in 2009 in the "American Journal of Gastroenterology." PPIs may limit the absorption of calcium. If your stomach acid level is low, it is even more important that you get adequate amounts of calcium in your diet to support bone health. Adults need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Milk, yogurt and cheese are the primary sources of calcium in the diet. One cup of nonfat milk contains 299 milligrams of calcium. Other nondairy sources of calcium include fortified soy milk and orange juice, tofu, turnip greens, kale and broccoli.

B-12 Needs Acid

Low stomach acid may lead to a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 is needed to make red blood cells and DNA. It also plays a role in neurological function. B-12 is naturally found in animal foods such as meat, poultry and dairy products. The HCL in your stomach, as well as the pepsin, frees the vitamin B-12 from these foods. However, foods fortified with vitamin B-12, such as breakfast cereals, are already in free form and do not require the acid or the enzyme to aid in its absorption. Adults need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 a day. Clams, salmon, tuna, top sirloin and low-fat milk are all good sources of the vitamin.

Acidity for Iron

Iron is necessary for transporting oxygen throughout your body. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in the world, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Stomach acidity is essential for iron absorption. The pH of your stomach affects the solubility and absorption of iron in your small intestines. If stomach acidity is too low, your body may not be able to absorb adequate amounts of iron. Adults over 50 need 8 milligrams of iron a day, and women between 19 and 50 need 18 milligrams of iron a day. Fortified breakfast cereals, white beans, oysters, spinach, potatoes, chicken and beef can help you meet your daily iron needs.

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