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I often get asked about how to test for stomach acid levels. Not enough stomach acid is called hypochlorhydria. The complete lack of stomach acid is called achlorhydria, which can be a problem in older people. Hypochlorhydria has very significant, negative impacts on your health.
Dr. Jonathan Wright is an incredible doctor who wrote a whole book on low stomach acid. Dr. Wright is a very big fan of gastric function testing for everyone to determine stomach acid levels.
The pH of your stomach should be between 2 and 4. If you don’t have an acid-forming stomach, you are not able to break down food properly. Everything downstream from the stomach is affected by the low acid levels. You will end up fatigued and with huge health problems.
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Here are four ways you can test your level of stomach acid:
1. The Heidelberg Test: This test is the most expensive of the four tests but also the most accurate. The test involves swallowing a capsule that contains a very tiny radio transmitter. You drink four to six ounces of water with some baking soda in it. The radio transmitter will assess what is happening to the pH in your stomach as the baking soda arrives. When you eventually pass the capsule, it is collected, and the pH readings are downloaded.
2. The baking soda test: This is a very cheap, easy test that can be done at home. Put one quarter to one half a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water and drink it on an empty stomach, the first thing in the morning. You’re going to belch, or you’re not going to belch. Either way, it is going to give me a lot of useful information. Healthy people belch quickly because their stomach has converted the baking soda into carbon dioxide. If you don’t belch for three to five minutes, you have low stomach acid.
3. Betaine Hydrochloride (HCL) Test: Have a meal that contains about six ounces of good quality meat. Half-way through the meal, you need to swallow a capsule of betaine HCL. There are two outcomes: you are either going to feel nothing at all, or you’re going to feel a bit of heaviness, burning, or pain. The latter means that you have a good level of stomach acid. If you feel nothing at all, you have low stomach acid.
4. The Challenge Test: I do this regularly on people to assess what level of hypochlorhydria they have. Take one betaine HCL capsule with breakfast, take two capsules with lunch, and take three capsules with your evening meal. The following day with breakfast, take four capsules. With each successive meal, you are going to increase your dose by one capsule until you feel a heaviness, pain, or heartburn behind your sternum. I’ve seen some people who had to take ten to twenty capsules to elicit that sensation. You shouldn’t need any more than one capsule per meal.