What are the Signs of Low Stomach Acid?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
Niki Foster
An illustration of a human stomach.
An illustration of a human stomach.

Low stomach acid produces a condition known as hypochlorhydria, while achlorhyrdia is a complete lack of stomach acid. It is often a secondary symptom of another condition, but it can also result from the use of antacids, from radiation therapy targeting the stomach, or from complications of gastric bypass surgery. The risks of this condition are unknown, but it may lead to an increased risk of stomach cancer.

A person suffering from low stomach acid may experience nausea.
A person suffering from low stomach acid may experience nausea.

Stomach acid is a very important part of the digestive system. It maintains a low pH in the stomach, which activates the release of the enzyme pepsin to break down proteins in one's diet. In addition, stomach acid helps to prevent the growth of bacteria that cannot survive in a highly acidic environment.

A person suffering from low stomach acid may experience various gastrointestinal symptoms, many similar to those of acid reflux disease. Such symptoms include pain or difficulty when swallowing, regurgitation, nausea, heartburn, and excessive salivation. The condition can also contribute to abnormal bacterial growth in the gastrointestinal tract, causing symptoms such as diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients and vitamins. The risk of certain bacterial infections is increased, including Vibrio vulnificus, a close relative of cholera often found in shellfish.

Low stomach acid may be a secondary symptom of another health condition.
Low stomach acid may be a secondary symptom of another health condition.

Some of the diseases that can cause low stomach acid are autoimmune disorders in which the cells responsible for the production of stomach acid are targeted; VIPoma, a pancreatic tumor that secretes vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP); stomach cancer; pernicious anemia; Helicobacter pylori infection; and rare diseases including the congenital mucolipidosis. If you experience any of the symptoms, it is important to visit a medical professional as soon as possible, whether or not you are aware that any of the risk factors apply to you. Gastrointestinal symptoms are not only uncomfortable, but can be extremely dangerous as well. Low stomach acid is only one of many conditions that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, and it is often only a symptom itself of something more serious.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Discussion Comments

fBoyle

@mitchell14-- Yea, many digestion related problems cause similar symptoms to low stomach acid. That's why doctors run so many tests, so that they can cross out the possible disorders that do not exist.

Probiotics definitely help, my sister takes them regularly as well. The number of good bacteria in the gut needs to overwhelm the number of bad bacteria to prevent problems with digestion.

But stomach acidity is a more complex problem. There is something called a proton pump in our gut that's responsible for producing stomach acid. That in turn gets triggered by various hormones and chemicals in the body. So if the proton pump is producing too much or too little acid, that won't change no matter how many stomach acid supplements or probiotic supplements one takes.

burcinc

@MikeMason-- Low stomach acid can cause bacterial infections because most bacteria cannot live in the very acidic environment of the stomach. When the acidity levels decrease, bacteria are able to survive and multiply.

The symptoms caused by this can vary based on the type of bacteria. For example, h. pylori in stomach cause symptoms like acid reflux, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps.

It can also cause other gastro-intestinal side effects like diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, etc.

stoneMason

Why does low acid in stomach cause bacterial infections? How do I know if I have a bacterial infection due to low stomach acid?

lovelife

Good article, I didn't realize there are so many different things that can cause these symptoms. I do know that low stomach acid symptoms might also be caused by liver and gallbladder problems, so that should be checked by your doctor also.

mitchell14

While I have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, now I wonder if I have low stomach acidity as well. Many of the symptoms are fairly similar. Whichever I have, I take probiotic capsules daily, and that has helped to make my digestion issues much more manageable and avoidable.

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    • An illustration of a human stomach.
      By: pixologic
      An illustration of a human stomach.
    • A person suffering from low stomach acid may experience nausea.
      By: snaptitude
      A person suffering from low stomach acid may experience nausea.
    • Low stomach acid may be a secondary symptom of another health condition.
      By: Alliance
      Low stomach acid may be a secondary symptom of another health condition.
    • Low stomach acid can be caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection.
      By: joshya
      Low stomach acid can be caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection.
    • The symptoms of low stomach acid are similar to those of acid reflux disease.
      By: bilderzwerg
      The symptoms of low stomach acid are similar to those of acid reflux disease.