By Ally Milligan, MS, FNTP, RWP
Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner
One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to gain insight as to whether or not you have high enough stomach acid is to take the baking soda stomach acid test. This post will teach you how to take this test at home.
Why Stomach Acid Is Important
Digestion is the golden child when it comes to health. It’s so important for tackling any health issue (even those seemingly unrelated ones like acne or hormonal imbalances).
Addressing digestion is the first place we usually start because… without good digestion, food and lifestyle changes won’t make much of an impact (learn all about how to improve your digestion naturally here).
While many people think they have too much stomach acid, here’s the reality: most people don’t have enough. Jonathan Wright, MD estimates that about 90% of Americans produce too little stomach acid.
Stomach acid (aka hydrochloric acid or HCl) production can be inhibited by stress, eating too many processed carbs, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, and/or excess alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of Low Stomach Acid
Very low stomach acid, called hypochlorhydria, can lead to many health problems. Without adequate HCl, your body can’t properly defend against pathogenic microorganisms, foods do not get fully broken down (which can actually cause acid reflux), and partially digested food stays in the stomach longer than it should.
This causes food to ferment, putrefy, and rancidify, which can cause a host of symptoms and health problems such as:
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Bloating, cramping, and/or gas
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Food sensitivities and/or allergies
- Dry skin or hair and/or brittle nails
- Hair loss in women
- Chronic fatigue
- Gut issues like IBS
How the Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test Works
The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) create a chemical reaction in your stomach. The result of this reaction is carbon dioxide gas, which causes burping.
So a burp within three minutes of drinking the baking soda solution may indicate an adequate level of stomach acid. A burp after three minutes (or not at all) may indicate a low level of stomach acid.
Is the Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test Accurate?
While this test is great for gaining insight into stomach acid levels, it is not the most scientific method and cannot be accurate enough to rule out low stomach acid completely.
Since there are many variables to control, it is important to take the test as soon as you wake up in the morning and for at least three (ideally five) consecutive mornings to get the most accurate data possible.
How to Take the Baking Soda Stomach Acid Test
- First thing in the morning (before eating or drinking), mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 4 ounces of cold water.
- Drink the baking soda solution.
Set a timer and see how long it takes you to burp. If you have not burped within five minutes, stop timing.
In theory, if your stomach is producing adequate amounts of stomach acid you’ll likely burp within two to three minutes. Any burping after three minutes may indicate a low acid level.
To make the process easy, we created a little printable timing sheet for you, which you can download below.
Think You Have Low Stomach Acid? Here’s What To Do
There are a few ways to increase stomach acid naturally.
- The gentlest way that may help stimulate acid production is to drink a glass of warm or room temperature lemon water upon waking (squeeze 1/2-1 organic lemon into a glass of water). Alternatively, use a capful of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in the same way.
- Our preferred, most effective way to increase stomach acid naturally is to use digestive bitters. Bitters, made from bitter herbs, naturally enhance the body’s secretion of HCl. Take 1/4 teaspoon before meals. Learn how to make your own digestive bitters or try our favorite brand of bitters, Urban Moonshine.
- The third and most powerful way to increase HCl is to take Betaine HCl, a naturally occurring amino acid compound usually derived from beets. While this can be done safely on your own with care, it is best to work with a healthcare professional to determine appropriateness and correct dosage.
Betaine HCl should not be taken by anyone who has ulcers, gastric inflammation, and/or is on medications, especially anti-inflammatory medication (e.g. corticosteroids, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs) (source). In general, we recommend herbal digestive bitters over Betaine HCl unless working with a health professional or with Bye Bye Bloat course guidance.
Want more digestion tips? Here are six ways to improve your digestion naturally.