Too Much Stomach Acid or Too Little: What Symptoms Occur and What Helps?
Stomach acid is actually a very useful fluid that kills pathogens and plays an essential role in the digestive process. However, if too much or too little of it is produced, problems such as stomach ulcers or indigestion can occur. Stomach acid in the wrong place, for example in the oesophagus, can also cause discomfort because of its aggressiveness. Read now how you can recognise an overproduction or underproduction of stomach acid and what treatment options there are.
Too Much Stomach Acid or Too Little: What Symptoms Occur and What Helps?
- Too much stomach acid
- Treatment for too much stomach acid
- Too little stomach acid
- Treatment for too little stomach acid
What is stomach acid anyway and why do we need it?
Certain cells in the stomach produce around two to three litres of gastric acid every day. In addition to water, mucous substances, a buffer system and the so-called intrinsic factor (which enables the absorption of vitamin B12), it also consists of hydrochloric acid - gastric acid.
Stomach acid is produced by cells in the stomach mucosa whenever certain stimuli occur: The ingestion of food itself is of course one of them, but the sight and smell of a delicious meal are also enough.
As soon as the ingested food arrives in the stomach, the gastric acid takes care of preparing it for digestion. It attacks the structure of the proteins and kills viruses and bacteria that have entered the stomach with the food.
The stomach acid is so aggressive that it could actually digest the stomach. However, this is prevented by the protective mucous membrane that completely covers the stomach wall and thus safely shields the stomach from the acid.
Symptoms of too much stomach acid:
- Heartburn when stomach acid enters the oesophagus
- Stomach pain or burning in the stomach
- Acid regurgitation
- Bad breath
- Cough and sore throat
- Damage to the lining of the stomach, such as inflammation and ulcers
- Stomach pressure and/or nausea
Symptoms of too little stomach acid
- Non-specific digestive disorders such as flatulence or diarrhoea
- Feeling of fullness and stomach pressure
- Increased infections
- Deficiency symptoms (for example, vitamin B12 and the resulting iron deficiency and/or anaemia)
- Disturbed intestinal flora (because microorganisms are not sufficiently killed off)
What happens when too much stomach acid is produced?
If the responsible cells produce too much gastric acid, the protection of the gastric mucosa is no longer guaranteed - the stomach overacidifies (so-called hyperacidity).
The following triggers may be responsible for this:
- Excessive consumption of stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and/or nicotine
- Extreme stress
- A very unhealthy, high-fat diet
- Certain medicines, for example painkillers
- Inflammation of the stomach mucosa caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori
- Less frequently, illnesses such as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, in which stomach acid production is abnormally stimulated
If the stomach is only acidic for a short time, this is usually not a problem. However, if this situation persists for a longer period of time, it can have consequences such as gastritis, gastric ulcer or duodenal ulcer. In addition, it is possible that the stomach acid does not stay in the stomach but comes up and causes unpleasant heartburn.
Treatment for too much stomach acid
The treatment options for too much stomach acid - and heartburn associated with it:
- Avoiding stimulants: Try to give up smoking; alcohol and coffee should also only be consumed in moderation.
- Reduce stress: Try to find a balance to your stressful everyday life. Some people swear by sports, others prefer to relax with a good book. Try out what does you good.
- Change your eating habits: Avoid foods that are too fatty, spicy or sweet. Instead, go for meals that are easier on your stomach.
- Taking medicines: Acid blockers reduce acid production, while antacids neutralise stomach acid. And certain herbal medicines can also relieve your symptoms. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out which medicine is right for you.
- If your symptoms persist or get worse, you should have a thorough check-up with your doctor. Examination methods such as gastroscopy can help him or her get to the bottom of your symptoms - and adjust the therapy accordingly.
What happens when too little gastric acid is produced?
If the gastric mucosal cells produce too little gastric acid, this is called gastric acid deficiency. The factors that influence this reduced production are just as varied as the causes of increased production.
Possible triggers include
- Long-term use of medicines that inhibit gastric acidity
- Chronic type A gastritis, in which the immune system identifies the stomach's stomach cells as the enemy and attacks them.
- Ageing - which can also weaken the sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus and increase reflux.
- Stress (when the release of stress hormones causes activities in the digestive tract to shut down)
- Surgery in the area of the stomach
Typically, too little stomach acid leads to digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and/or diarrhoea.
The lack of stomach acid means that the food pulp cannot be broken down properly in the stomach: As a result, the food either remains in the stomach for a very long time or much too large components enter the intestine, both of which cause the characteristic complaints.
In many cases, a lack of stomach acid is also accompanied by anaemia with vitamin B12 deficiency. In order for the vitamin to be absorbed in sufficient quantities, an acidic environment is needed in the stomach - if this is not present because too little stomach acid is produced, the body's supply of vitamin B12 also suffers.
Ultimately, this deficiency can lead to anaemia because the formation of red blood cells is impaired.
Treatment of too little stomach acid
Medications can also be used to treat low stomach acid, but only those that stimulate stomach acid production. In addition, it is advisable to include bitter foods such as broccoli or spinach in the diet - they stimulate digestion and can thus help to compensate for the lack of stomach acid.
In addition, it is also advisable to reconsider your lifestyle habits a little and adjust them if necessary. Try to banish stress from your everyday life as much as possible.
Special stress management programmes can help, as can courses on yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and the like. If you are taking medication that interferes with the production of gastric acid, your doctor can help you find alternatives that are easier on your stomach.
If you suspect that you have too little stomach acid, it is best to see a doctor anyway: He or she can confirm or refute your suspicions and initiate appropriate therapy. Once he or she has made a definite diagnosis, special acid capsules can be used for treatment.
They are taken with food and release the missing hydrochloric acid in the stomach. In this way, the ingested food can be digested without impairment - and those affected no longer suffer from agonising gastrointestinal complaints.
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