Could you have low stomach acid?

Low stomach acid is more common than you think. Tell tale signs include frequent colds and infections, fatigue and digestive problems such as bloating, constipation and gas.
How can you spot the signs and what can you do about it?

What is it?
As the name suggests, stomach acid is acid that resides in your stomach.
It is particularly corrosive stuff with two main functions: to break down food and to kill any bacteria that you may have ingested.

Signs of low stomach acid
The signs of low stomach acid are correlated with either the improper breakdown of food or the incomplete execution of ingested bacteria.
Digestive issues including bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhoea may occur.
Since food is not broken down completely, we are unable to absorbs many of the essential nutrients required for health. Nutrient deficiencies have a knock on effect on energy so fatigue may also be experienced. 
In addition, the extra bacteria, parasites and viruses that would've ordinarily been killed off by the acidic environment of the stomach survive and travel further down the gut where they can add to digestive discomfort. Not to mention the increased frequency of infections, colds and lower immunity that they also bring.
Low iron levels, allergies and reflux are also linked with low stomach acid.

What causes it? 
Stress: stress is one of the main offenders when it comes to improper digestion. Whilst stressed, digestion and stomach acid are suppressed
Age: stomach acid lowers naturally from the age of 40 onwards
Over-exercising: exercising too much is a major stressor. Whilst keeping fit is important, recovery is also essential
Mineral imbalance & lack of Vitamin C: minerals, especially sodium (salt) as well as vitamin C are required to make stomach acid
Allergies: those with allergies have a higher incidence of allergies, including asthma

Test your stomach acid:
The baking soda burp test is a simple at home method that may be used as an indicative of stomach acid levels.
Here is what to do:
Combine 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda with 100 - 150ml of water.
Drink this fluid before any food is consumed (ideally in the morning).
Time when you burp.
If you burp within the first 3 minutes your stomach acid levels may be sufficient. If you don't burp then your stomach acid levels are suboptimal.

What can you do about it?

Chew food thoroughly: if you stomach acid is suboptimal then this part is crucial. Chewing your food properly means there is less breaking down to be done further down the digestive tract.
Start your day with hot water and lemon: lemon is naturally acidic and since you need stomach acid to make stomach acid, drinking hot water and lemon is a great way to gently boost stomach acid levels
Don't eat on the go: see the note above re stress and digestion
Sip water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with protein rich meals: similar to lemon, apple cider vinegar may help to boost stomach acid levels
Address your stress: stress and good digestion are polar opposites. Make time to destress, meditate, go for long walks or whatever it may take for you to chill