Excessive stomach acid can be uncomfortable to live with, and while in many cases it is a minor nuisance, it can lead to serious health problems when not treated.
Your stomach has a nifty way of digesting proteins and it’s called stomach acid, though you might know it as gastric juice or simply acid. It mainly consists of hydrochloric acid, a potent chemical produced by the cells lining the stomach (parietal cells) and your gastric glands.
Stomach acid is important to the digestive system. It helps us process food and it kills harmful bacteria. The stomach makes the hormone called gastrin, which creates hydrochloric acid. When these acid levels increase, it can lead to hyperacidity. Excess stomach acid can range from mild to severe.
- Citrus fruits: Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and pineapple can cause acid build-up. Apples, grapes, bananas, melon, and pear are much better options.
- Vegetables: Most vegetables fit into a low acid diet, but fried, canned, or creamed veggies should be avoided. Some people find that onions and tomato-based products bother them.
- Dairy products: Whole milk, high-fat creams, chocolate milk, and strongly flavored cheeses should be avoided. Low-fat and fat-free products are much safer.
- Grains: Any grains that are made with whole milk or cream.
- Meats: High-fat meats, cold cuts, chicken wings, sausage, bacon, poultry skin, and fried or greasy meats. Skinless chicken and lean beef are better choices.
- Beverages: Alcohol, coffee, mint tea, hot cocoa, and other caffeinated beverages
- Spicy foods: Hot peppers, curry, garlic, and salsa are some examples.
- Fiber: Too much fiber can cause acid production to go into overdrive since it takes a long time for the food to pass through the stomach.
- Ulcers or cancers: Either of these can lead to an increase in the production of the hormone gastrin, which increases acid production.
- Stress: Research shows people who are severely stressed produce more acid in their stomachs.
- Infection: Bacterial infection by the bacterium H. pylori can also increase acid production.
- Irregular meals: Not having meals at a regular time or having long gaps between meals can result in acid accumulation.
- Lack of sleep: This can also increase acid production in some individuals
- Peptic ulcers: Peptic ulcers are sores that can develop when gastric acid begins to eat away at the lining of your stomach.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): GERD is a condition in which stomach acid backs up into your esophagus.
- Gastrointestinal bleeding: Damaged gastric mucosa due to acid may cause bleeding
- Medications: If you take medication to lower stomach acid as advised by your acidity doctor then once you stop it, there can be a rebound acidity. This typically resolves on its own over time.
- H. pylori infection: Having an active H. pylori bacterial infection in your stomach may lead to an increase in stomach acid.
- Tumour: Very rarely a tumour called ‘Gastrinoma’ may be responsible for hyperacidity .
If your high stomach acid is caused by an H. pylori infection, you’ll be given antibiotics along with a PPI. The antibiotics work to kill the bacteria while the PPI will help lower stomach acid production.
Sometimes surgery may be recommended, such as removal of gastrinomas in people with Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Additionally, people who have severe ulcers may need to have surgery to remove part of the stomach (gastrectomy) or vagus nerve (vagotomy).
If heartburn is one of your symptoms, you can make dietary changes to help reduce your symptoms:
- eating smaller and more frequent meals
- following a low-carb diet
- limiting your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated beverages
- avoiding foods that make heartburn worse
The acidity doctor also called gastroenterologist or gastro doctor, treats the problem of hyperacidity.