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  • Dr. Allison Wills

Low Stomach Acid: Fatigue, Ravenous Hunger & More

Low stomach acid is a very common, but often misunderstood condition. The stomach needs adequate amounts of acid to digest, break down and absorb the nutrients of our food. Low stomach acid is often the root cause of various digestive issues including SIBO, parasites, food sensitivities, gas and bloating.

1. Fatigue

Feeling tired or nauseous after eating often indicates a problem with digestion, which is likely due to the levels of stomach acid available. Some obvious signs of malnourishment include fatigue, hair loss, and difficulty maintaining muscle mass.

With cases of low stomach acid, it's not enough to have a perfect diet or even add in supplements– the nutrients in your food and supplements won't be fully absorbed in the absence of stomach acid. You can have the best diet on the planet, but if your digestive tract is not able to absorb these nutrients from your food, you may be nutritionally starving your cells.

Strong stomach acid helps us absorb vitamins and minerals like calcium, zinc, iron, folate, and B12. Iron, folate and B12 are three nutrients crucial in preventing anemia. Zinc is necessary for thyroid function and skin health. In addition, the body attempts to find these nutrients by leaching minerals from bones and other cells, which can potentially lead to osteoporosis and other associated conditions.It is possible to have deficiencies that are not severe enough to cause thyroid disorders or anemia but may still cause symptoms such as chronic fatigue.

2. Ravenous Hunger

This was 100% me before discovering I had low stomach acid. I regularly would go out to eat, eat a full meal only to go home and need more food to feel satiated. If the body isn’t digesting nutrients or accessing minerals, it makes sense that you’d be hungry all the time. You are feeding yourself calories but you’re not getting the nutrients you need from food, so your body is driving you to eat more to fill those voids. I was essentially eating tons but on a cellular level, I was starving. Proper stomach acid levels help to break down food so that it is accessible to digest and absorb, giving cells the nutrients they need.

3. Bloating and Gas

Gas and bloating after eating – especially after a protein or fat rich meal can be a sign of low stomach acid. This can occur because without proper acid levels, food sits in the stomach, allowing bacteria to ferment it, producing gas.

4. Food Sensitivities

If you have diagnosed or suspected sensitivities to one or more foods, low stomach acid may be a contributing factor. Without proper acid levels, individuals are more susceptible to leaky gut and food intolerance.

5. Bacterial Imbalance, Parasites, and Fungal Overgrowth

Stomach acid is our natural defense against microbes we are exposed to. The acidity in a stomach that’s not producing enough hydrochloric acid becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and parasites.

6. Acid Reflux or Heartburn After Meals

Proper levels of stomach acid signal to the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve which separates the esophagus and the stomach) to open and close properly, keeping stomach acid where it should be in the stomach. Low stomach acid levels disrupts normal functioning of the sphincter, and acid rises into the esophagus causing the familiar burning sensation associated with heartburn.

What Causes Low Stomach Acid?

Aging is one of the primary causes of low stomach acid. However, adrenal fatigue (the result of being under constant stress), alcohol consumption, and chronic are also associated with this condition.

Treating Low Stomach Acid

Talk to your healthcare provider about testing and the following options:

  • Betaine HCL supplements

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Ginger

  • Zinc

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