A little weekend overindulgence.
A little weekday stress.

It happens to the best of us – and it can cause a low burn and churn in your belly.

Those Tums seems like a lifesaver. There’s just one thing:

Using antacids could cause (or mask) other issues.

And what if your tummy woes are actually from LOW stomach acid? 🤔

Let’s investigate!

What We Know

You need acid in your stomach.

Gastric acid helps digest your food and provides a first line of defense against germs and viruses.1,2

True, when it sneaks up into your esophagus (causing reflux) it’s no fun!

But when you take antacids to calm that burn, you’re neutralizing the acid everywhere else, too…

Doing this regularly can lead to:

digestive distress
constipation
fatigue
muscle aches
increased susceptibility to illness

 

Most of these issues are a result of nutritional deficiency, because without stomach acid, your body can’t absorb the vitamins and minerals in your food.1,2

Studies have also shown that using antacids regularly can put you at risk for developing food sensitivities.3

Even worse, they can cause rebound hyperacidity (when the stomach produces even more acid after eating or drinking).4

They might help relieve the burn, but antacids do NOT treat the underlying cause of your reflux (which can include peptic ulcer, gallstones, dietary imbalances, etc).5

What We’re Still Learning

Most people think acid reflux is caused by too much stomach acid.

But recent science shows we can get the same exact symptoms when our stomach acid is too low.6 🤯

So how do you know if you’re low?

We’ve got a super-simple test:

 

The Burp Test

1. In the morning, before eating or drinking, mix 1/4 tsp of baking soda in 4oz cold water

2. Drink the solution (all at once) and start a timer as soon as you’ve swallowed it

3. Wait for the burp

If you have enough stomach acid, you should burp within 2-3 minutes. Burping in 3-5 minutes, or not at all, may mean your stomach acid is too low.

🔁   Re-test for 5 mornings in a row for most accurate results. Also, it’s not 100% accurate, so if you’re having issues, ask your doctor about an acid test.

The Bottom Line

For most of us, using antacids can help with occasional acid reflux and heartburn.

BUT there are potential side effects with regular use.

Also, it helps to know if your symptoms are because your stomach acid is too high, or too low (easy test above!).

For ANY reflux (whether stomach acid is high or low)  

🚫   Immediately cut these:
processed foods
alcohol
caffeine
sugar
stress eating

🍽️  Slow down your meals and make sure you are chewing thoroughly. It’s the first step of digestion!

💊  Add a probiotic to your daily routine. We love fermented tea or a capsule with a variety of live and viable strains, like this one.

For LOW stomach acid (per the burp test)  

✅  Try adding these to your diet:

fermented vegetables
papaya enzymes
ACV diluted in water every morning
ginger
zinc
HCL supplements, but only if you’ve confirmed with your doctor your acid is low

For HIGH stomach acid
(I.e. your burp test says you’re not low, but you still have reflux symptoms)
 

🚫   Cut back on these:

carbonated beverages
spicy foods
citrus and tomatoes
caffeine and alcohol
raw onions

✅   Add these to your routine:

don’t eat within 3hrs of bedtime
sleep on your left side (keeps your stomach below your esophagus)
chew fennel seeds
try drinking/eating aloe vera  

 

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Jessica Ederer, JD, CPT, FNS, RYT
Pique's Head of Content & Wellness Education, is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, RYT, and holds a JD from UC Berkeley. After 10 years as a practicing trial lawyer, she shifted gears and has spent the past 9 years as a health coach, educator and writer. It's her passion to help people learn sustainable, effective ways to unlock their full wellness potential. When she's not teaching or writing, you can find her hiking, mountain biking, cycling, backcountry skiing, camping and drinking anywhere from 5-7 cups of tea per day.
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Jessica Ederer, JD, CPT, FNS, RYT
Jessica Ederer, JD, CPT, FNS, RYT
View author
Pique's Head of Content & Wellness Education, is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, RYT, and holds a JD...