Hydrochloric Acid

Do you have enough of it? Many people don’t.

Hydrochloric acid is produced in the stomach and is critical in the digestion of food, primarily protein and fat. It prepares food for digestive enzymes. Enzymes are needed to break food down into basic nutrients so they can be absorbed into our cells. Stomach acid is also our first line of defense against foreign substances entering our body, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites.

When we are eating too many processed foods, taking a lot of medication, consistently stressed, or aging, the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes in our stomach experience decreased production (called hypochlorhydria). Food is not broken down properly before being sent to our intestines. This can lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating, or general stomach discomfort after meals. Long-term, it can lead to iron deficiencies from iron malabsorption; osteoporosis from calcium deficiencies; food allergies and sensitivities; gallstones; irritable bowel syndrome; B-vitamin deficiency which can lead to anxiety and depression; chronic fatigue; and an increase of bacteria and yeast within the intestines.

All of these symptoms are representative of a body out of balance and more susceptible to disease. Remember, sickness and disease can only form in a body out of balance.

What can you do about it?

The symptoms of someone with too much hydrochloric acid can be extremely similar to those of someone with not enough. Therefore, doctors will often hear these symptoms and suggest antacids (which neutralize stomach acid). If that person really has a hydrochloric acid deficiency, which is more often than not the case, the antacids will lead to further problems. Some MDs and most natural health doctors can test your hydrochloric acid levels and identify whether or not you are deficient.

A simple home test: Gently push on your lowest rib, about 1 inch out from your midline. If it is sensitive to the touch, you may be low in hydrochloric acid.

If you suspect you may be low in hydrochloric acid, you can increase it in the following ways:

• Maintain a diet of mostly fresh, whole foods and try to avoid processed foods

• Reduce stress level (I will elaborate on this next week…)

• Digestive enzymes can help if you are not breaking down food properly

• Drink warm water with lemon juice 30 minutes before a meal to help stimulate hydrochloric acid production

Thanks for all your great questions and comments this week. They help me come up with ideas for the blog, so keep them coming! Next week I will talk about Fight or Flight and will also show you how to make your own nut butter at home - much healthier and can save you tons of money!!!


  1. Awesome post Ann, HCL is so important! I've always wondered if I'm absorbing all of the foods I'm eating so I'll give the rib test a try :)

  2. I was excited to see this, because I've been researching HCL! I was planning to test with an HCL pill, but your rib poke sounds less invasive (and doesnt involve waiting for a "burning, peppery feeling in the stomach"...)

    In addition to what you mentioned, I've heard the following things can help build up your HCL:
    Raw apple cider vinegar, black olives, ginger.
    Drinking a lot of water during a meal also can dilute HCL, so best to stick with beer(kidding) (sort of). Great post Ann!

  3. Thanks Jess! Yes, drinking water during a meal should be kept to a minimum for this reason, and also because it dilutes digestive enzymes. If you can hold off on drinking water for 2 hours after a meal, that is ideal. If you must drink something, try to drink warm water or hot tea to minimize these effects.


  4. Hello Ann - i'm currently studying to be a nutritional therapist myself and have been researching all about hydrochloric acid for my course when i stumbled upon your very informative post! Thank you for putting it in such a way that is very easy to understand!

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