Ask A Nutritionist – Underactive Stomach

Welcome to “Ask a Nutritionist”, my weekly blog entry where I answer your nutrition and food-related questions. This week’s topic is underactive stomach.

Q.  I’ve been reading your blog for some time and I love it. I’m trying to improve my digestive system as I’ve been told I have an underactive stomach and would love to get some information from you on it.

A.  Wow! Thank you so much. I hope you’ll find the information here helpful.

An underactive stomach does not produce enough enzymes for the proper digestion of food. Pepsin, the enzyme responsible for the digestion of protein, is only activated in the presence of hydrochloric acid (HC1) in the stomach

Causes of imbalance:

An underactive stomach can be caused by a diet high in meat (particularly red meat), dairy products, refined and processed foods, and fast foods. It can result from faulty eating habits such as drinking liberally with meals, drinking ice cold drinks at mealtime, improper food combining, or inadequate chewing. Stress is an emotional factor that also contributes to an underactive stomach.

The symptoms of an underactive stomach can be sometimes confused with those of an overactive stomach, leading to the use of antacids, which aggravates the condition. The regular use of antacids interferes with the production of natural acid in the stomach, leading to poor digestion and malabsorption.

The production of HC1 in the stomach naturally decreases with age, so the condition is more common in people over 40. It is possible, however, to encounter young people, even children, with underactive stomachs when their diets contain too much junk food.

Effects of Imbalance:

An underactive stomach will affect the proper functioning of the colon, leading to constipation and poor absorption of all vitamins and minerals. Calcium, iron and zinc in particular, along with protein require sufficient HC1 to metabolize.

Protein and EFA deficiencies may be suspected in cases of poor digestion and assimilation. Allergies are also linked with underactive stomach. It is not uncommon to experience effective relief of minor allergies by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes.


Eating smaller meals more often, avoiding red meat, dairy products, convenience food and alcohol will support the digestion process. Food combinations such as protein and carbohydrates, or fruit right after meals are to be avoided.

Drinking too much with meals, especially ice cold drinks, will shut down the digestion process. Small sips of water at room temperature taken during the meal is ideal.

Sugars are digested in the intestine and pass through the stomach quickly. Protein and fats remain in the stomach for several hours. When sugars, which normally pass through the stomach within minutes, are mixed in the stomach with protein and fats, fermentation occurs causing gas and bloating.

Eating when rushed or upset should be avoided. Unexpressed worries and fears are common stressors affecting digestion. Facing these issues at a more appropriate time, and keeping mealtime peaceful and happy will have a beneficial effect on digestion and absorption.

If the above recommendations are not sufficient to alleviate the problem, then a digestive enzyme such as papain and bromelain (plant enzymes), pancreatin and pepsin (animal source) or an enzyme containing HC1 is recommended. Start with one tablet just before meal time, increase to two or more if the meal is heavy. Taking a digestive aid containing bile and pancreatin is particularly important if the gall bladder has been removed

If you would like a personalized nutritional recommendation, please contact me through my blog or by visiting my website listed below.

Yours in health,


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