If you are suffering from heartburn due to insufficient or excessive stomach acid you either have hypochlorhydria (too little) or hyperchlorhydria (too much). There are some unfortunate individuals who have no stomach acid and the medical term for this condition is called achlorhydria.
There are at least two medical tests which can be undertaken to measure stomach acidity. One test is to examine the stools for undigested protein, but the most well known method to measure stomach acidity is called the Heidelberg test; this test was developed at the famous German University of Heidelberg.
To carry out the test you swallow a small radio transmitter about the size of a large vitamin capsule. This is a very safe procedure with well over a million tests having taken place worldwide and the transmitter is not radio-active. Before you swallow the capsule it is activated and calibrated. You wear a transceiver on a strap around your neck and after swallowing the capsule the transceiver receives the signal from the capsule which measures the acidity that it finds. You are given doses of acid-neutralizing sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and if your acid level doesn’t return to normal after a few minutes, hypochlorhydria is a likely diagnosis.
Here are three preliminary self tests which you can undertake at home before visiting your doctor:
- Take a small amount of baking soda in water first thing in the morning and if you have not belched within a few minutes, you may not be producing enough stomach acid, since hydrochloric acid reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas.
- Take a dose of a Betain hydrochloride supplement before the start of a meal and if you experience any warmth, burning or indigestion associated with excess acid, it is unlikely that you are suffering from insufficient stomach acid. If this happens you should be able to obtain relief by taking a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in water.
- When you are suffering with heartburn, take one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. If the lemon juice remedies your heartburn then this probably means you need more stomach acid but if your heartburn becomes worse, your stomach probably has too much hydrochloric acid.