Your stomach’s job is to help digest the food you eat. One way that it does this is through the use of stomach acid, also known as gastric acid. The main component of stomach acid is hydrochloric acid.
The lining of your stomach naturally secretes stomach acid. This secretion is controlled both by hormones and your nervous system.
Sometimes your stomach can produce too much stomach acid, which can lead to several unpleasant symptoms.
There are several conditions that can lead to high stomach acid. Often, these conditions lead to an overproduction of the hormone gastrin. Gastrin is a hormone that tells your stomach to produce more stomach acid.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Rebound acid hypersecretion: H2 blockers are a type of medication that can decrease stomach acid. Sometimes, people coming off of this medication can have an increase in stomach acid. There’s evidence that this can also happen after coming off of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), although this is
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome: With this rare condition, tumors called gastrinomas form in your pancreas and small intestine. Gastrinomas produce high levels of gastrin, which causes increased stomach acid.
- Helicobacter pylori infection: H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can colonize the stomach and cause ulcers. Some people with an H. pylori infection may also have high stomach acid.
- Gastric outlet obstruction: When the path leading from the stomach to the small intestine is blocked, it can result in increased stomach acid.
- Chronic kidney failure: In some rare cases, people with kidney failure or those undergoing dialysis may produce high levels of gastrin, leading to increased production of stomach acid.
It’s also important to note that sometimes a specific cause of high stomach acid can’t be identified. When the cause of a condition cannot be determined, it’s referred to as idiopathic.
Some signs that you may have high stomach acid include:
- abdominal discomfort, which may be worse on an empty stomach
- nausea or vomiting
- decreased appetite
- unexplained weight loss
The symptoms of high stomach acid are very similar to those of other digestive conditions.
It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you develop persistent or recurring digestive symptoms. Your doctor can work with you to help diagnose the cause of your symptoms and create a treatment plan.
Having high levels of stomach acid can increase your risk of developing other stomach-related health conditions. These include:
- 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: This involves bleeding anywhere in your digestive tract.
Some of the potential risk factors for developing high levels of stomach acid include:
- Medications: If you take medication to lower stomach acid production and then come off of treatment, you may develop rebound high stomach acid. However, 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.
- Genetics: About 25 to 30 percent of people with gastrinomas — tumors that form in the pancreas or duodenum — have an inherited genetic condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1).
High stomach acid is often treated with protein pump inhibitors (PPIs). These medications work to lower stomach acid production.
PPIs have a
If your high stomach acid is caused by an H. pylori infection, you’ll be prescribed 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:
Your stomach acid helps you break down and digest your food. Sometimes, a higher than normal amount of stomach acid can be produced. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and heartburn.
There are several causes of high stomach acid. Examples include H. pylori infection, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and rebound effects from medication withdrawal.
If left untreated, high stomach acid can lead to complications like ulcers or GERD. See your doctor if you develop any digestive symptoms that are persistent, recurring, or concerning.