Excess Stomach Acid

Help for reducing excess stomach acids to help neutralize high levels of gastric acid.

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  1. Symptoms of Excess Stomach Acid
  2. Causes of Excess Stomach Acid
  3. Excessive Stomach Acid During Pregnancy
  4. Excessive Stomach Acid in Children
  5. How to Avoid Excess Stomach Acid

What is Excess Stomach Acid?

During digestion, the stomach secretes an acid that helps break down food so our bodies can absorb vitamins and nutrients. Stomach acid is critical for healthy digestion and also kills harmful bacteria. Usually, protective mechanisms in the stomach and intestine make sure the pH levels stay in balance. Sometimes, though, too much stomach acid is produced. When the digestive system creates excessive production of stomach acid, pH levels drop and problems can develop. 

Excess stomach acid levels can contribute to:

  • Heartburn, a burning feeling in the throat or chest caused by acid reflux
  • Stomach pain
  • Dyspepsia (often described as a feeling of indigestion, fullness, bloating, flatulence or nausea)
  • Duodenal ulcer
  • Gastric ulcer
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Non-ulcer dyspepsia
  • Acid Reflux
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain

What Causes Excess Stomach Acid:

Diet and lifestyle are the main factors that contribute to excess stomach acid, although several medical conditions can play a role. 

  • Eating a diet rich in spicy foods, greasy foods, citrus fruits and high fiber foods. All these can trigger acid production in the stomach.
  • Drinking alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages, which can irritate the stomach lining and trigger stomach acid production.
  • Meal timing (eating meals too far apart boots stomach acid production)
  • Bacterial infection, including the very common bacteria H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori)
  • Smoking, which relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter that allows acid into the throat.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Eating disorders (for example, bulimia and anorexia)
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • Stomach cancer

Symptoms of Excess Stomach Acid:

Too much stomach acid can result in symptoms that range from mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful:

  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Belching
  • Burning sensation in the throat or chest
  • Acid reflux symptoms, including trouble swallowing, bitter taste in mouth, throat pain and dry cough
  • Nasal congestion and phlegm
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Stomach pain

Stomach Acid Overproduction During Pregnancy

Pregnant women often experience excess stomach acid production. One culprit is hormone levels. Pregnancy hormones affect muscles in the digestive tract and esophagus, allowing the muscles to relax more often. A relaxed esophageal sphincter allows stomach acid to sneak back up into the esophagus, causing discomfort. Plus, the growing baby crowds the abdomen, pushing acid upwards. During later stages of pregnancy, the expanding uterus puts pressure on the stomach and forces acid back into the esophagus.

To relieve heartburn and other symptoms of too much stomach acid during pregnancy, try the following:

  • Eat slowly, chewing every bit thoroughly.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Drink water between meals rather than drinking while you’re eating.
  • Avoid eating right before lying down. Stay upright for an hour after a meal.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that trigger discomfort: fatty foods, spicy foods, acidic foods, coffee and other caffeinated beverages, and carbonated drinks.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • If symptoms start, drink a glass of milk or eat yogurt.
  • Chew gum, which promotes saliva production that helps neutralize acids sneaking back up into the esophagus.
  • Sleep on your left side. This keeps your stomach lower than your esophagus, which helps keep acid out of the esophagus.
  • Elevate your upper body during sleep.

Excess Stomach Acid in Babies and Children

Babies and children can suffer from excess stomach acid. Older children may complain of an “upset stomach” when the cause is too much acid. In babies, an immature gastrointestinal tract can lead to problems with acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Most babies outgrow this as their digestive systems mature, at around a year of age. In older children, excess stomach acid is typically caused by the same diet and lifestyle factors as in adults. Overeating, eating spicy or fried foods, drinking carbonated beverages and consuming caffeine can all raise acid levels in the stomach.

How to Help Symptoms of Too much Stomach Acid

If you experience symptoms of excess stomach acid, first examine lifestyle factors. Try to identify and reduce foods that contribute to excess stomach acid, such as spicy, salty and acidic foods. Other lifestyle factors that can help reduce stomach acid include:

  • Stop smoking and consuming alcohol, to help keep stomach acid levels in the stomach and esophagus in balance.
  • Avoid stress and moderate your lifestyle, including relaxation techniques, can help prevent excess stomach acid and ulcers. Nervous or emotional people can especially benefit from this approach.
  • Try to eat regular meals and follow a healthy diet.
  • Avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which may increase the risk of excess stomach acid and contribute to peptic ulcers.
  • Take extra caution when lifting weights, since this puts the abdominal area under added strain and may result in digestive problems.
  • Try drinking a glass of organic fat-free or low-fat milk to help normalize the pH in your stomach.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, since being overweight can make stomach acid symptoms worse.

There are over-the-counter antacids and medications like proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to help with excess stomach acid, but these drugs have potential side effects. The FDA issued a safety alert about antacids like Alka-Seltzer that contain aspirin, because of reports of serious bleeding.

Targeting the diet and lifestyle causes of stomach acid overproduction is the best path to balancing acid levels and feeling better. Holistic and alternative medicine approaches such as acupuncture, yoga and relaxation techniques may help promote balanced stomach acid. Dietary supplements and homeopathic remedies are available for symptom relief. Acid Free-Flux™ is a homeopathic remedy that reduces digestive discomfort and soothes the lining of the stomach and esophagus. Gastronic Dr. for Healthy Digestion™ is a dietary supplement that supports healthy levels of digestive acids in the stomach.

 
The content provided is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have a health condition, please consult a medical professional and do not use this information to self-diagnose or self-treat.
Reviewed by Master Herbalist, Mary Ellen Kosanke
References:
  1.  “FDA warns about serious bleeding risk with over-the-counter antacid products containing aspirin.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Accessed February 23, 2019. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm504328.htm
  2. “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).” Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20361959
  3. “Gastroesophageal Reflx Disease (GERD) in Infants and Children.” WedMD. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/infants-children#1
  4. Haskins, Julia. “Antacids.” Healthline. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/antacids
  5. “Heartburn.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/symptoms-causes/syc-20373223
  6. Story, Colleen M. “Heartburn, Acid Reflux and GERD During Pregnancy.” Healthline. Accessed February 23, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/pregnancy
  7.  “Peptic Ulcers (Stomach Ulcers)”. National Institutes of Health. Accessed February 23, 2019. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/peptic-ulcers-stomach-ulcers/all-content
  8. “Too Much Acid in Stomach: 8 Causes and Treatments.” Doctors Health Press. Accessed February 22, 2019. https://www.doctorshealthpress.com/general-health-articles/too-much-acid-in-stomach-8-causes-and-treatments/