From personal experience I learned a few lessons about stomach acid and hidden infections.
The story starts 11 years ago when I had IBS. Eventually I developed a bad case of GERD/refulx/heartburn.
If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms you know how disturbing they are. The doctor prescribed a PPI (proton pump inhibitor) which decreased the acid in my belly and should have relieved my symptoms.
The PPI didn’t help at all. In fact my constipation got a bit worse. I was at the end of my rope and spending a lot of time in doctors offices at that point with no improvement. I argued with my doctor because he refused to dig deeper for a solution that would actually help me.
Looking back, it was pointless to argue, he was doing everything he knew how to do from his paradigm. Unfortunately his paradigm was dead wrong.
I was able to heal my painful heartburn issues by changing my diet and taking hydrochloric acid (HcL) for a short while under the guidance of an alternative health profession. The HcL increased my stomach acid instead of decreasing it as doctors had done.
I learned a decade later that low stomach acid is a more common problem than high stomach acid and is more likely to cause the type of symptoms I was having.
This blew my mind. And is one of the many reasons I always question what my doctor tells me and do a ton of my own research. So here’s my tutorial about stomach acid and common things that can decrease it.
What’s the big deal about stomach acid?
Stomach acid should be relatively high because it’s the first line of defense against the pathogens you ingest.
Strong stomach acid will kill invading yeast, bacteria, viruses and parasites before they set up camp in your body. We also need strong stomach acid to digest protein and absorb micronutrients (vitamin B12 in particular) as well as minerals.
Adequate stomach acid is also required for the stomach to empty correctly. When your stomach acid is weak, it can lead to a variety of problems from gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and heartburn to leaky gut and infection.
So what lowers stomach acid?
As we age, stomach acid production declines. There’s also a few conditions that lower stomach acid production, such as h. pylori or inflammation of the stomach caused by food allergy, gastritis or even stress. Obviously, antacids and PPIs also interfere with acid production.
I had every reason to believe that my stomach acid was fine all this time because heartburn and reflux issues were no longer a problem.
A year ago, I took a stool test which came back positive for h pylori.
H pylori is an extremely common bacterial infection of the stomach that may cause inflammation and lower stomach acid production. While my stomach acid was not low enough to cause symptoms, it wasn’t as strong as I thought.
I took every digestive medical test under the sun when I had IBS but no one thought to test me for h pylori.
As far as I know, I could have had this infection since childhood. And strangely my mom had been diagnosed with an h pylori infection a few months prior. Her infection caused all sorts of reflux issues for her.
What causes h pylori?
No one is exactly sure how this infection is transmitted. But the theory is that it travels through saliva or food. And it’s one of the most common infections in the world with 1/3 to 2/3 of the population estimated to have it.
What’s even stranger is that some people with h pylori have no symptoms at all, while other people develop inflammation, absorption issues, very low stomach acid, ulcers and in the very rare cases, stomach cancer from this pathogen.
Many people, like me, have no idea they have it. I had my husband tested for it too, as it’s easy to transmit to a spouse, but he didn’t have it.
My theory about why h pylori affects some but not others is due to the relative health of the gut and immune system. If things are generally balanced the h pylori infection is kept from growing out of control. When it is kept in relative balance it doesn’t cause a ton of symptoms.
While a strong immune system can keep H pylori under control, it can’t kill all of it because the bacteria burrows deep into the mucus lining of the stomach to escape detection. It can also can form a biofilm (a biological shield) as an extra layer of protection from being attacked and killed. That’s why h pylori treatment can be tricky.
H pylori treatment
H pylori could contribute to IBS or be a factor that makes it worse or it could just live silently in your body waiting for a chance to overgrow. I wasn’t going to give it that opportunity.
The only symptoms I could attribute to my h pylori infection was occasional burping after eating and a low appetite. The infection was definitely not helping the recovery of my adrenals as they stepped in to lower the inflammation caused by the infection.
The typical medical treatment for h pylori is a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics are not always effective as the mucus layer of the stomach lining and biofilm serves to protect them from total eradication. Most likely, some bacteria are killed but not all. My mother, for example, has taken multiple courses of antibiotics without any success. And unfortunately antibiotics can lower your bacterial diversity, which is vital for health and balance. So it’s always a good idea to research some alternatives if the situation is not life threatening.
I’m working with my mom on more natural treatments.
It was important to me to avoid pharmaceuticals, but finding the right treatment took trail and error.
I did something that you should never try at home…I experimented on myself without consulting an experienced practitioner. That’s why it took me much longer to heal and there were bumps along the way.
I first tried a supplement called mastic gum, which also contained bismuth, the main ingredient in Pepto Bismol. Beware, this stuff turns your poop black. I coupled this supplement with a biofilm buster called Interface plus, which breaks up the protective shield.
The reason I’m not giving you dosages or instructions to do at home is because you shouldn’t do this alone. That’s how people get into trouble. Save yourself time and hassle and work with someone who’s done this before.
Treating yourself is like performing surgery on yourself. Technically you can do it but it gets painful and messy.
This is what I mean: a few weeks into the treatment I got violently nauseous. I stopped the treatment immediately and thought about next steps.
Finally, I decided on a gentler, slower and more holistic approach to healing h pylori. It had been a decade since I did any kind of serious digestive healing program/cleanse. It was time for one.
I choose a very structure 3 month program, working with a practitioner in a group setting. The cleanse included supplements, a detox routine and a clean, strict diet.
The last month and a half of the program I drank a tea that is extremely gentle, pleasant tasting and effective again h pylori. It’s also restorative to the stomach lining.
I retested for h pylori a month and a half after finishing my cleanse and it was gone! It’s important to wait a few weeks before retesting for the most accurate results.
Once the h pylori infection is eradicated it’s important to prevent future infections by building up stomach acid and immune function so bacteria is destroyed before they can burrow in.
I gained a ton of expertise about h pylori, learning what to do and not to do.
I learned that the best test for h pylori is a stool test, all the other tests can produce less than accurate results.
I learned about the amazing matula tea and now use it with clients.
I also learned about foods that help kill h pylori. Tumeric is one of the best, but be careful not to overdo, a cup tumeric tea bloated me terribly as the die off overwhelmed my system.
Pay attention to your stomach acid
I advise my clients to test for h pylori and other pathogen and pay attention to the strength of their stomach acid.
The best way to test stomach acid is to gently increase it and see if it helps. You can increase it with hydrochloric acid supplements, a shot of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before you eat. But again, work with a practitioner, this stuff can hurt you if you have an ulcer or stomach inflammation or are one of the rare people with super high stomach acid.
If you have gastritis or stomach lining inflammation you need to calm it first with herbs like aloe vera, slippery elm, marshmallow, l-glutamine, or DGL liquorice.
If you’re underweight, and can’t gain weight no matter what you eat you may have issues with nutrient absorption based on low stomach acid.
If your food doesn’t not digest well in your stomach then it’s harder to absorb and assimilate nutrients in your small intestine. The supplements you’re taking may also not be fully absorbed due to low stomach acid.
So in my opinion, stomach acid should be the first thing you look at as it is the first line of digestion and defense.
I hope you’ve learned something about h pylori and low stomach acid from my experience. Here’s a recap.
What to do:
Get tested for h pylori and gastritis or test your own stomach acid levels. Work with an alternative health professional so you don’t hurt yourself.
What not to do:
Blindly taking acid lowering or blocking medications without doing your own research or listening to your body’s reaction.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.