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How can I test my stomach acid at home?

Having balanced levels of stomach acid is important for proper digestion. If your stomach acid is too high or too low, it can cause a variety of digestive issues. Testing your stomach acid levels at home can help determine if your levels are in the normal range.

What is stomach acid and why is it important?

Stomach acid, also referred to as gastric acid, is composed mainly of hydrochloric acid (HCl), and is secreted by cells in the lining of the stomach. The main components of stomach acid include:

  • Hydrochloric acid (HCl)
  • Potassium chloride (KCl)
  • Sodium chloride (NaCl)

Stomach acid serves several important functions in the digestive system. These include:

  • Breaking down proteins – Stomach acid denatures proteins and enables the enzyme pepsin to break proteins down into smaller peptides.
  • Absorption of minerals – Stomach acid helps liberate vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc from food so they can be absorbed.
  • Killing pathogens – The acidic environment helps kill bacteria, viruses and parasites that may be ingested with food.
  • Triggering digestive hormones – Stomach acid triggers the release of digestive hormones such as gastrin and secretin to aid in digestion.

Therefore, having balanced levels of stomach acid is vital for good health. Too much or too little stomach acid can impair protein digestion and mineral absorption and allow pathogens to survive.

What are the symptoms of low stomach acid?

Some common symptoms of low stomach acid include:

  • Bloating, belching, burning, and flatulence after meals
  • Indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, nausea after eating meat
  • Weak, peeling or cracked fingernails
  • Dull hair and hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Acne
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Food sensitivities

If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, especially after eating, it may indicate insufficient levels of stomach acid.

What are the symptoms of too much stomach acid?

Some common symptoms of excessive stomach acid include:

  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain, cramping or burning sensation
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Dyspepsia or indigestion
  • Feeling a lump in the throat
  • Hiccups
  • Coughing or asthma at night

If these symptoms occur frequently after eating, especially anything acidic, it may be a sign of excessive stomach acid production.

What causes low and high stomach acid?

There are several potential causes for abnormal stomach acid levels:

Causes of low stomach acid:

  • Aging – Stomach acid production declines with age
  • Long term use of PPI medications – These reduce acid production
  • H. pylori infection – This bacterium can reduce acid secretion
  • Chronic stress – Prolonged stress can decrease stomach acid levels
  • Poor diet – Diets low in vitamins and minerals affect acid production
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Low levels of zinc, vitamin B12, iron etc. impair secretion
  • Autoimmune conditions – e.g. celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis

Causes of high stomach acid:

  • H. pylori infection
  • Gastrinoma – a gastrin-secreting tumor
  • Pernicious anemia – impairs absorption of B12 which aids secretion
  • Excess zinc intake – zinc stimulates acid production
  • Stress – leads to increased gastrin release
  • Caffeine, alcohol, spicy or acidic foods – stimulate acid secretion
  • Obesity – linked to increased risk of excess acid
  • Smoking – nicotine can increase stomach acid production

Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet, managing stress levels, quitting smoking and limiting intake of triggers like coffee and alcohol can help regulate abnormal acid levels.

How can I test my stomach acid levels at home?

There are a few simple at-home tests you can do to assess your stomach acid levels:

1. Baking soda stomach acid test

  • When you drink baking soda dissolved in water, it reacts with stomach acid to produce carbon dioxide gas.
  • The burping that ensues reflects the amount of acid present.

How to do it:

  1. First thing in the morning, mix 1⁄4 teaspoon of baking soda in 4-6 ounces of cold water.
  2. Drink the mixture on an empty stomach before eating or drinking anything else.
  3. Time how long it takes you to burp up the gas. Burping within 2-3 minutes indicates adequate stomach acid levels.
  4. Delayed burping over 3 minutes may signify low acid production.

2. Apple cider vinegar test

  • Take a shot or two of organic apple cider vinegar diluted in water before a meal.
  • If you feel burning in your esophagus or throat area, it suggests too much acid.
  • No burning indicates you may have low acid levels.

3. Lemon juice test

  • Squeeze half a lemon into 4-6 ounces of room-temperature water and drink on an empty stomach.
  • Heartburn, nausea or throat irritation after 10 minutes likely means excess acid.
  • Lack of symptoms may indicate insufficient acid production.

4. Betaine HCL supplement test

  • Betaine HCL supplements contain hydrochloric acid to raise stomach acid levels.
  • Begin by taking one 650mg capsule of betaine HCL at the start of a protein-rich meal.
  • If you don’t feel a warming sensation, increase the dosage by one capsule at each meal over the next days until you feel warmth.
  • Once you feel warmth, scale back by one capsule. The lowest dose that triggers warmth equals your body’s own HCL production.

Do not take betaine HCL supplements long term without consulting a doctor first.

How can I improve low or high stomach acid levels?

Making dietary and lifestyle changes can help optimize your stomach acid levels if they are abnormal:

Tips to increase low acid levels:

  • Eat more vitamin and mineral rich foods – such as meat, seafood, eggs, leafy greens, citrus fruits, bell peppers
  • Minimize stress through yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake
  • Take HCL supplements short term after consulting your doctor
  • Drink raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar mixed with water before meals
  • Avoid drinking large volumes of water with meals

Tips to reduce high acid levels:

  • Follow a low-acid, plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet
  • Limit acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, carbonated beverages
  • Don’t overeat and avoid late night meals
  • Reduce alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, and mint intake
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress levels through meditation, yoga, counseling
  • Sleep with head elevated
  • Wear loose clothing around abdomen

Over-the-counter or prescription antacids and acid reducers can also help decrease excess acid as a temporary measure. But always consult a doctor first.

When should I see a doctor?

You should consult a doctor or gastroenterologist if:

  • Symptoms of acid problems persist despite lifestyle and diet changes
  • You experience unexplained weight loss
  • You have difficulty swallowing
  • You vomit blood or have bloody stools
  • You have severe, persistent pain in the abdomen
  • Heartburn occurs frequently – more than 2 times a week

A doctor can help diagnose the underlying cause of your acid troubles by ordering tests like:

  • Endoscopy – examines the upper GI tract with a tiny camera
  • Esophageal manometry – measures muscle contractions in esophagus
  • Gastric acid secretion test – analyzes acid levels over 24 hours
  • Upper GI series – uses barium X-ray to examine lining of esophagus, stomach, and duodenum
  • pH monitoring – measures acidity in esophagus by placing a tube with a sensor
  • Blood tests – checks for H.pylori infection

Treatment will depend on the specific cause but may include medications, dietary changes, surgery or alternative remedies.


Maintaining normal stomach acid levels is key for healthy digestion. There are several simple at-home tests you can do to evaluate if your acid levels are too high or low. Making appropriate diet and lifestyle changes can help optimize your stomach acid levels. But see a doctor if symptoms are severe or persistent.