By RoseMarie Pierce B.Sc.Pharm, Holistic Pharmacist
This is a simple at-home test to help you determine if you produce adequate stomach acid.
Heartburn is often treated as high stomach acid, even in the absence of a test to confirm this suspicion. Low stomach acid can prevent the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) from closing. This allows stomach contents to flow into the esophagus producing a burning sensation.
Often times, this is treated with drugs to lower stomach acid and though it may make the symptoms disappear, it seriously impairs proper digestion.
Stomach acid production commonly decreases with age, and can lead to many problems other than heartburn. Hypochlorhydria can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, iron-deficiency anemia, dry and thin skin and hair, acne, dysbiosis (the improper balance of gut bacteria), allergies, chronic fatigue, a weakened immune system and can aggravate arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
The stomach produces hydrochloric acid, with sufficient amounts being crucial to proper food digestion. The baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) solution reacts with the acid in the stomach to produce carbon dioxide.
HCl + NaHCO3 (baking soda) → NaCl + H20 + CO2 (carbon dioxide gas)
The amount of gas produced depends upon the quantity of acid contained in the stomach.
Carry out the following steps to determine your stomach’s acidity:
1. Perform this test first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, before eating or drinking (Before taking medications for heartburn)
2. Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of baking soda into an 8 oz glass of cold water
3. Drink the solution and start timing
4. Record the time until you first burp up gas
5. Perform this test for 5 consecutive days (or longer) at the same time each day, in order to give a better estimation of your stomach’s acidity
Day Time until First Burp
< 2 min: indicates normal acidity
2-5 min: low-normal acidity
> 5 min: probable hypochlorhydria
RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc.Pharm, earned her degree in Pharmacy from Dalhousie University in 1972. After extensive studies in herbal and nutritional medicine, RoseMarie integrated these disciplinary practices with her pharmacy education to become Canada’s first Holistic Pharmacist.