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Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test: Your Complete At-Home Guide

Do you have enough stomach acid? Why should you care? In this post I will explain in detail why you need it, and how to check it at home with the baking soda stomach acid test. 

If you have bloating, gas or indigestion, low stomach acid might be a culprit. It might also be causing trouble in parts of your body besides your digestive system.

Stick with me, and learn why stomach acid is such an important part of digestion.

If you test low, don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Learn some ways to naturally increase your stomach acid with diet and lifestyle. 

Let’s get started.

Or read on to learn more about stomach acid, why it is so important, and why yours might be low in the first place.

What is Stomach Acid?

A glass beaker filled with clear liquid and labeled HCL.

When food hits the stomach, cells in the stomach lining produce a liquid called gastric acid. This liquid contains stomach acid. The technical name is hydrochloric acid, which is HCL for short. 

If that name sounds familiar, hydrochloric acid is the same highly corrosive substance that is used in things like toilet cleaner or batteries. However, a layer of mucus coats the inner wall of your stomach and shields it from contact with the acid.

Stomach acid production is an important part of gut health. Read why gut health matters so much to your overall health.

Why is Stomach Acid Important?

Destroys harmful bacteria

Hydrochloric acid kills harmful microbes that happen to be attached to food (1). When you eat in a questionable restaurant, or leave food out on the counter for too long, this is when your stomach acid goes into action.

Keeps Good Bacteria Under Control

Even the beneficial bacteria can sometimes get out of hand. If you have ever had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, you know that too much bacteria in the wrong places can create a lot of discomfort.

You should not have a ton of bacteria living in your small intestine. The place where they belong is further down in the large intestine. Stomach acid keeps the population of bacteria from growing out of control in either the stomach or the small intestine.

Activates Digestive Enzymes

The enzymes that break down protein are squirted into the stomach in an inactive form. Otherwise, they would start breaking down the tissues of the stomach.

Once digestion begins, stomach acid changes the inactive enzymes into the active form. Now they can go to work on the proteins in your food. Without stomach acid on the scene, protein digestion is a lot less efficient.

Begins B12 digestion

Vitamin B12 is a special nutrient. It has its own complicated pathway to digestion that is different from other vitamins. The first step in this pathway requires stomach acid. 

Animal proteins contain vitamin B12, and acid breaks down those proteins. It liberates the B12 so that it can attach onto other molecules that digest it further.

Low stomach acid is one of the things that puts people at a risk for deficiency of B12. This can have some serious health consequences.

Several super important processes in your body use B12. It is used in the methylation process that you need in order to make genetic material (like DNA). B12 also helps to metabolize proteins and fats.

Begins to Digest Fats, Proteins and some Minerals

Stomach acid denatures proteins. This is the same thing that happens when you marinate a steak or roast, only on a much larger scale. Acid also goes to work on large food particles and fats to make them easier to digest.

Many minerals are absorbed in an acidic environment. For example, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, and iron can be deficient if you do not have adequate stomach acid.

Symptoms of Low Stomach Acid

The medical name for low stomach acid is hypochlorhydria. Hypochlorhydria symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Gas
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • Heartburn

Many symptoms of low stomach acid happen outside of the digestive system. Here are some things you might be experiencing:

  • Fatigue
  • Weak hair and nails
  • Brain fog
  • Acne
  • Skin conditions
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Autoimmune disorders

Low Stomach Acid Vs High Stomach Acid

When the pH (acidity) in your stomach reaches a certain level, it triggers the valve in between your esophagus and stomach to close. 

If there is less acid in your stomach, this valve can stay open. The digestive juices that get into your esophagus still have enough acid in them to burn those delicate tissues.

This is why people often mistake low stomach acid symptoms for too much stomach acid.

Why is Your Stomach Acid Even Low?

Acid-Blocking Medications 

The biggest culprits here are antacids and proton pump inhibitors, but there are others as well. Make sure you know the side effects of any medications you are taking.

Deficiencies of Certain Nutrients

You need certain nutrients like zinc to make stomach acid. Water is also a crucial ingredient, since this is a water-based liquid. Finally, you need to be eating enough calories to support this high-energy process. You can read about these nutrients in more detail further on in this article.

Age

You might just be an older adult. Half of people over sixty and 80% of those over 85 years are going to test low for stomach acid (2). This is because as you get older, the cells in the stomach that make acid become less efficient.

Chronic Stress

Your nervous system shifts back and forth between two different states: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. 

The sympathetic state is also called fight or flight. The body goes into this state when it senses danger. This can be a real danger, or just long-term, chronic stress.

In the sympathetic state the body sends energy to systems that can help get it out of trouble, like the major muscle groups and the cardiovascular system.  

The parasympathetic state is called rest and digest. In this state the body feels safe. Resources go to systems that take care of building up and healing. One of these is the digestive system. 

When you are stressed, you shift into the sympathetic state of the nervous system. Digestive function is not a priority (3)(4). Your body puts the production of stomach acid on hold until it feels safe again.

Read more about being in Rest and Digest while you eat.

Other Ways to Test Stomach Acid

There are a few other ways to test your stomach acid level. The Heidelberg is the gold standard test. The Gastric Acid Secretion Test will also tell you exactly how much acid you are producing.

However, both of these tests need to be done in a doctor’s office. They are costly, and might not be covered by insurance. And they can be uncomfortable. You will need to swallow a tiny radio transmitter and keep it in your stomach, or have a tube inserted down your throat into your stomach. No thank you!

Another method that you can do at home is Betaine HCL. This test involves actually swallowing a capsule of hydrochloric acid and observing whether you can feel the effects in your stomach.

I don’t recommend doing the Betaine HCL test unless you are being guided by a Health Care Practitioner. This is because in some cases you can actually damage your stomach or esophagus while doing the test.

How reliable is the baking soda stomach acid test? Admittedly it is not as reliable as one of the tests I mentioned above, done in a doctor’s office. If you have a serious condition like an ulcer, your doctor will use one of the tests listed above.

However, the baking soda test will give you an idea of your stomach acid levels. If it looks like you are low, use the gentle methods I talk about later in this article to help increase production.

So let’s move on to the simple, safe and inexpensive process that you can do at home. You may have heard this method called the burp test.

Instructions for Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test

Time needed: 6 minutes

Do the stomach acid test first thing in the morning, before you have eaten or even had your coffee or tea. Make sure you have some fresh baking soda in your cupboard. (not past the expiration date).

  1. Prepare the Baking Soda Solution.

    Stir ¼ teaspoon baking soda into 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of water.
    Glass of water, baking soda and measuring spoon.

  2. Prepare your timer.

    Start a timer for five minutes, or note the time that you begin.
    Hand holding stop watch.

  3. Drink the Baking Soda.

    Drink the whole glass of liquid at once.
    Woman drinking glass of water.

  4. Observe your Results.

    Make observations over the next 5 minutes. If you burp, note the time.
    Text reads "That's It."

If you do not burp within five minutes, it is an indication that your stomach acid may be low. Try to distinguish between the little burps that happen when you swallow air, and a real burp of gas erupting out of your stomach.

Do this test for at least 3 days in a row, and preferably 5 days. This will give you the best data. For each day, write down the date, time you took the test, and how long it took you to burp.

Download and print these instructions.

Why does it work?

When you were a kid, did you ever do the volcano science project? You mixed vinegar and baking soda inside a paper mache volcano, and watched all the bubbles pour out of it. 

The stomach acid baking soda test follows the same principle. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, mixes with stomach acid to form carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Carbon dioxide is light, and naturally rises up out of your stomach and esophagus in the form of a burp.

HCl + sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) = CO2 gas = burping 

How To Increase Stomach Acid Naturally

Stop Self-treating With Antacids.

If you are on a prescription antacid or it has been recommended by your doctor, do not stop taking it! If you are just popping antacids on your own, try to cut back on these and find other less harmful methods of managing your heartburn.

Manage Stress at Mealtimes

In the parasympathetic state which I described above, more blood flows to the digestive organs, more enzymes are produced, and your stomach is able to produce plenty of acid. Your digestion runs more efficiently when you are relaxed at mealtimes.

Try Apple Cider Vinegar

A tiny amount of vinegar may trigger taste receptors that stimulate digestive juices, including stomach acid. Mix 1 tsp apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces water and drink it 10-20 minutes before you begin your meal.

Umeboshi plums and umeboshi vinegar are also great for jump-starting your digestive system.

The evidence for vinegars helping digestion seems to be mostly anecdotal, but give it a try and see if it helps your symptoms.

Eat Bitter Foods

Bitter foods can stimulate production of stomach acid and bile (5), particularly if you eat them at the beginning of a meal. Not everyone loves bitter food, but it is worth it to develop a taste for this range of flavor. 

You might make bitter foods into a salad to start a meal off. Try things like arugula, dandelion greens, radish, endive, radicchio, escarole, watercress, romaine, broccoli rabe, and mustard or turnip greens.

Turmeric, lemon and orange peel, grapefruit, fenugreek seeds or umeboshi plum vinegar can be added to a salad dressing. You can start your meal off with a bitter beverage like chamomile or green tea, dandelion tea, chicory, coffee or bitter chocolate.

Get the Nutrients you Need

There are some nutrients that are crucial for production of stomach acid.

Gastric juices are water based, and you need to be properly hydrated. Make sure you are drinking at least 8 or more cups of water each day.

It takes a lot of energy to concentrate such a strong acid. If you are on a calorie restricted diet, your body won’t send many resources in that direction. 

Zinc is a vital part of the process of making stomach acid. The foods that come from animals are absorbed more easily than plant sources. Here is a list of foods that are high in zinc, with best sources at the top of the list.

  • Shellfish like crabs and oysters
  • Red meats, especially organ meats
  • Dark chicken meat 
  • Pork
  • Milk
  • Cheeses
  • Yogurt
  • kefir (milk based)
  • Hemp seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Oats
  • Tofu 

Final Wrap-up

Stomach acid is the liquid that is produced in your stomach when you begin to digest food.

It is super important for your health because it kills harmful bacteria, keeps all bacteria populations under control, and helps to digest proteins, fats and minerals.

You can get uncomfortable digestive symptoms if you have low stomach acid. You might also develop conditions in other body systems besides the digestive tract.

Your stomach acid might be low because of acid-blocking medications, older age, chronic stress or nutrient deficiencies.

There are several ways this can be tested, but the safest and least expensive method, and one you can do at home, is the stomach acid baking soda test.

If you do test low for stomach acid, there are some simple and natural methods that might help you to fix this condition and improve your digestion.

Want a printable copy of the instructions for the test?

Just click the button below.

2 thoughts on “Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test: Your Complete At-Home Guide”

  1. Pingback: Fodmap Diet For SIBO: Find Out Everything - The Whole Story LLC

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