Hypothyroidism and Low Stomach Acid

Stomach acid – let’s face it, its not really something you give much thought to. Yet stomach acid is actually one of the most important aspects of our digestive system.

Stomach acid (or gastric acid) is made by the cells that line our stomachs, on demand when we eat. Adequate levels of stomach acid are required to absorb the nutrients in the foods we eat and to protect our stomach from bad bacteria and becoming inflamed.

You know how hypothyroidism can dry out your skin, hair and nails? Well hypothyroidism can also ‘dry out’ our stomach acid.

Hypothyroidism can affect both the ability and the amount of gastric juice producing cells in our stomach. Consequently, our bodies are not able to effectively absorb all of the nutrients in our food, leading to malabsorption. In particular, low stomach acid and hypothyroidism can result in non-optimal levels of iron, vitamin D and B12.

As with all autoimmune diseases, hypothyroidism can be characterised by inflammation. Low levels of stomach acid means the body can’t protect itself against bad forms of bacteria which can cause inflammation in our stomach.

When our stomachs become inflamed from not enough stomach acid, food can just sit in there, without being digested properly. And when food isn’t digested properly we get those bloated, gassy and funny poo symptoms!

How do I know if I have low stomach acid?

Acid reflux, indigestion and heart burn – all symptoms of high levels of stomach acid right? Nope, wrong! It is actually low levels of stomach acid that cause these issues!

Unfortunately, many GPs put us on medications that further suppress stomach acid, making the condition even worse.

Ok, so how do I treat low stomach acid?

When you Google “low stomach acid and hypothyroidism” many sites say the best way to improve your levels of stomach acid is to heal your hypothyroidism – but as we know all too well, that’s easier said than done!

Correcting cortisol, aldosterone and thyroid hormone levels are important in getting stomach acid back to normal levels. However this can be a tricky process and in the interim we need to aid digestion to help heal.

Home remedies can also assist in the process of returning our stomach acid back to optimal levels. Here at Healed by Bacon we like to use apple cider vinegar – we mix one tablespoon of unfiltered, unpasteurised and unheated apple cider vinegar (we like to use Braggs) with a cup of water, about 10 minutes before a meal. We also like to use a probiotic on an empty stomach, morning or night.

But just be aware – (1) don’t drink apple cider vinegar by itself as it can burn your oesophagus, (2) if you have high levels of potassium it can be more productive to use lemon juice in water instead and (3) if you suffer from peptic ulcers it is important to treat that first.

The Baking Soda Test – A simple, homemade test for low stomach acid

This is a quick and easy test that you can do in the comfort of your own home, to see if your stomach acid levels are below optimal. But remember, it is just an indication.

  1. After you wake, before eating or drinking, mix 1/4 tsp of baking soda in a cup of water and drink.
  2. Take note to see if you burp within the next 2-3 minutes.
  3. If you don’t burp – you have low stomach acid (as optimal levels of stomach acid will react with the baking soda to form carbon dioxide gas).
  4. Repeat this for the next couple of days, to make sure your reaction was not a once off.
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