Healing Digestion: Part 2 – Digestive Tonics for Low Stomach Acid

Healing Digestion: Part 2 - Digestive Tonics

Photo Credit: Beth Phillips

 Do you get heartburn? It’s likely a sign of low stomach acid.

Click on the following links to read the other posts in this series:

Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous Layer
The Dangers of Acid Blockers: How to Heal Heartburn Naturally {Healing Digestion: Part 3}
3 Essential Facts about Probiotics [Healing Digestion: Part 4]
Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]

When you eat, the stomach goes to work mashing up the food you eat into a kind of soup called chyme before it moves to the small intestine. If your stomach doesn’t produce enough hydrochloric acid (low stomach acid or hypochlorhydria), the food you ate will start to putrefy and ferment causing it to swell and push back up into the esophagus.

Do this often enough over a long period, and the lower esophageal sphincter can weaken and ‘hiccup’ or weaken enough to no longer seal the opening from the esophagus to the stomach. This allows the acidic chyme to splash up into the esophagus and make any amount of acid in the stomach feel like too much acid.

Low stomach acid doesn’t mean no stomach acid.

Though the acidity level of the stomach isn’t enough to fully digest the food, it is definitely enough to burn the delicate lining of the esophagus.  

The vast majority of doctors are convinced that stomach acid creeps back up because of hyperacidity – too much stomach acid – without even testing for it. Ironically, they often suffer from the same problem.

Be sure to read Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Healing the Mucous Layer if you are looking to get out of the antacid/acid blocker cycle and begin healing your digestion. We will discuss medications that reduce hydrochloric acid and their dangers in Part 3 on hydrochloric acid (HCl).

Before starting supplemental HCl therapy, it’s a good idea to encourage the production of your own digestive aids first.

Healing Digestion: Part 2 - Digestive Tonics

Photo Credit: visualpanic

The following digestive tonics should normally be taken 30 minutes before you eat, unless noted otherwise, to allow the stomach time to “ramp up” and for the excess liquid to be absorbed so it doesn’t dilute stomach acid production once you eat.

They should be used before meals and substantial size snacks. A cookie, piece of fruit, or a few crackers would not normally qualify unless they cause heartburn. Continuous snacking throughout the day is not recommended and also contributes to low stomach acid. We’ll discuss that further in Part 3 too.

Our purpose in discussing these tonics is for increasing low stomach acid and digestive enzyme production, so we will focus on using them before eating. There will be a separate post to discuss indigestion tonics that relieve gas and bloating.

Digestive Tonics

I included recipes and links to buy some of the items for those of you not comfortable making your own. I would encourage you to make your own when possible for ingredient control, increased nutrient content, and potency.

This is not an exhaustive list.

[Note: I earn a small commission to help maintain this website if you make a purchase through the links provided – learn more here. All of the products linked to are those I use myself.]


Dandelion root tea –

2 teaspoons of dried herb or 4 teaspoons of fresh herb steeped in 8 oz. of hot water for 20-30 minutes. Keep covered while steeping and squeeze liquid from pulp into infusion before discarding.

Nettle tea, stinging nettle leaf –

2 teaspoons of dried herb or 4 teaspoons of fresh herb steeped in 8 oz. of hot water for 20-30 minutes. Keep covered while steeping and squeeze liquid from pulp into infusion before discarding.

Swedish Bitters (make your own)

Genziana (genetian root) – recipe to come. I’m very excited about this one. It’s a recipe that comes from the mountains of northern Italy, brought over by my Italian father-in-law.


Meat Stock/Broth (recipe) – 4-8 oz. 15-30 minutes before eating

Lemon – squeeze juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon into 4-8 oz of warm (not hot) or room temperature water

Master Tonic (Plague Tonic) – 1-2 tablespoons straight 15 minutes before eating


Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV) (buy it) – 1-2 tablespoons straight 15 minutes before eating or in 4 oz. of water 30 minutes before eating

Raw, fermented sauerkraut juice (recipe) –  1-2 tablespoons straight 15 minutes before eating

Kombucha (recipe) (buy a SCOBY)- I take up to 4 oz 30 minutes before and/or during a meal to help with digestion; if given a 9 day fermentation, the pH of kombucha is around 2.5 and perfect for food digestion (source).

Beet kvass (recipe)


Cayenne – small or large pinch, depending on tolerance, of high-quality cayenne powder in 4-8 oz of warm water

Ginger (ginger tea) – 4-8 oz of fresh ginger tea

These are general recommendations and not meant to diagnose or treat a condition. Because of our bioindividuality and individual circumstances, full healing protocols will vary.

If you are not comfortable treating your own condition, please see a holistic practitioner who practices nutritional therapy. If you would like to work with me as a distance client, please contact me here.


Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine by Elson M. Haas, MD with Buck Levin, PhD, RD

Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford

Introduction to the Human Body: the Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology Tortora/Derrickson

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green, herbalist


Jennifer Nervo is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Reiki Master Practitioner & teacher, and Aromatherapist. Her focus is on digestive, nervous, and immune system dysfunction and the fields of functional nutrition & psychoneuroimmunology. She works with all conditions and diseases including environmental and food allergies, autoimmune diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity, diabetes, eczema, anxiety, weight loss as a symptom of dis-ease, and gut-brain disorders like autism.

When she’s not herding her small troupe of monkeys or seeing clients, her free time is packed with researching and perfecting new wellness techniques (her not-so-secret passion). Jennifer is currently a group leader for the newest class of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners out of Ann Arbor, MI, studying for the national board exam in holistic nutrition, and running a combined distance and brick and mortar practice in metro Detroit. She’s also a homeschooling suburbanite, foodie, and mama to two littles and a schnoodle.

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