Commonly known as stomach acid, hydrochloric acid (HCL) is essential for proper functioning of your digestive system because it activates digestive enzymes that break down your food for absorption. Many vitamins and minerals need stomach acid for optimal absorption, including magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, biotin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Proper absorption of vitamins and minerals indirectly influences your hormonal balance because these nutrients are necessary for the manufacture of your hormones and for the elimination of hormonal waste with the help of the liver. Normal stomach acid also works to keep your digestive system free of bacteria, yeasts and parasites.
An estimated 30% of North Americans have low stomach acidity. Natural aging, a poor diet and chronic use of certain medications such as corticosteroids, antibiotics and antacids can impair your stomach’s ability to produce acid. Certain medical conditions are also commonly associated with low stomach acid, including hypothyroidism, asthma, eczema, allergies, acne rosacea, adrenal dysfunction, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, psoriasis and chronic hives.
The signs and symptoms of low acidity in the stomach include:
Bloating, belching and gas, especially after meals
Heartburn or reflux
Multiple food allergies
Feeling nauseous after taking supplements
Weak, peeling and cracked fingernails
Redness or dilated blood vessels in the cheeks and nose
Hair loss in women
Undigested food in the stools
Chronic yeast infections
Is your HCL Low?
One simple way to check for low HCL is to look at your fingernails. If you see length-wise (not sideways) ridges, chance are your stomach acid levels are low. However, I recommend a more specific test that’s easy to use at home: the HCL challenge using Betaine HCL. The great thing about this test is that it identifies and also fixes the problem. Please see the pdf below with challenge explanation. Purchase a product with betaine, Clear Medicine has this one: Clear HCL challenge. Another option is to take two capsules of a digestive enzyme that includes pancreatic enzymes and betaine with meals.