Low stomach acid happens for a variety of reasons including long-term use of certain medications, a vitamin deficiency or chronic health conditions such as lupus.
In addition to medical interventions recommended by your doctor, you may also want to consider eating foods that increase stomach acid.
If you have low stomach acid, fermented foods and foods rich in zinc seem to help low stomach acid levels.
Role of Stomach Acid
Hydrochloric acid, which is a primary component of your stomach acid, is needed to break down proteins in the stomach, help absorb certain nutrients and keep infection and disease away, according to Nutrition Review. When this acid is low, it can cause hypochlorhydria, which is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
Stomach acid also plays a role in heartburn, which is felt by some people after eating a large meal. While occasional heartburn is not cause for alarm, frequent symptoms may be signs of a more serious condition.
Under normal conditions, your stomach acid stays in your stomach and does its job. However, unlike hypochlorhydria, this can happen when you have too much acid in the stomach. Harvard Health Publishing says three conditions cause gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD: poor clearance of food or acid from the esophagus, too much acid in the stomach and delayed stomach emptying.
Read more: Role of Hydrochloric Acid in the Stomach
When you have acid reflux, or GERD, stomach acid that is supposed to stay in your stomach refluxes and flows backward into the esophagus. This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes too frequently rather than contracting to keep the acid out of the esophagus, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Reflux can cause a number of discomforts such as heartburn or a burning sensation in your chest that commonly happens after eating a big meal or drinking coffee or alcohol, says the Mayo Clinic.
Foods That Increase Stomach Acid
Just like there are lifestyle modifications for GERD and acid reflux, there are steps you can take to help increase stomach acid. In addition to medical interventions such as medications and herbal supplements, you can also make dietary adjustments to help increase stomach acid.
Dr. Tsvetelina Velikova, a gastroenterologist and expert at DisturbMeNot.co, tells LIVESTRONG that "yes," there are foods that increase stomach acid. More specifically, she says foods that increase hydrochloric stomach acid are ones that are rich in zinc. "The most zinc-rich foods are meat, nuts, seeds, eggs, shellfish, whole grains, and legumes," she explains.
Read more: Foods to Reduce Stomach Acid
It's difficult to discuss being proactive about the foods you should eat without mentioning the ones you should stay away from. When it comes to the foods to steer clear of when trying to increase stomach acid, the first group you should consider getting rid of are processed foods and sugars. Also, fatty or fried foods should be limited. Instead, fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Other than foods that increase stomach acid, some people may consider taking a supplement such as betaine hydrochloride HCL to help increase stomach acid. However, it should be noted that the majority of the information available about the role this supplement plays comes from supplement companies and other entities that are not medical sources.
- Nutrition Review: "Gastric Balance: Heartburn Not Always Caused by Excess Acid"
- American College of Gastroenterology: "Acid Reflux"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Acid Reflux and GERD: The Same Thing?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "9 Ways to Relieve Acid Reflux Without Medication"
- Dr. Tsvetelina Velikova, Gastroenterologist: Persoanl Interview