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Stomach acid deficiency (Hypochlorhydria)

Hypochlorhydria is the lack of adequate stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) production. Some people actually have a condition known as achlorhydria, in which a person produces no stomach acid. The presence of hypochlorhydria is an extremely important finding as stomach acid is responsible for two key functions. The sterilization of food against potentially harmful micro-organisms reduces our risk of being colonized by every micro-organisms we ingest daily. Stomach acid plays an important role in the digestion of protein molecules and the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Stomach acid also signals the release of digestive enzymes and bicarbonate from the pancreas required for digestion. Insufficient stomach acid also causes absorption of partially digested food molecules, leading to food sensitivities. Food components that should be digested and absorbed in the upper intestines, when not processed properly, pass through into the lower intestines providing fuel for harmful micro-organisms, therefore increasing the numbers. Low stomach acid causes gastrointestinal overgrowth of pathogens, malabsorption of minerals, vitamins and amino acids, and food sensitivities. Low stomach acid levels can be genetic or acquired. A number of different medical conditions, listed below, are associated with much higher rates of hypochlorhydria.

  • Asthma.
  • Celiac disease.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Diabetes melitis.
  • Eczema.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Lupus.
  • Macular degeneration.
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity.
  • Pernicious anaemia.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Reflux.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Rosacea.
  • Stomach ulcers/helicobacter pylori.
  • Urticaria (hives).
  • Vitiligo.

What are the symptoms/signs of stomach acid deficiency?

People with low stomach acid usually have a number of the following symptoms/signs.

  • Stomach aching/pain/discomfort or bloating after meals
  • Feel unwell/fatigued right after meals
  • Food or water 'sits in stomach'
  • High fat foods cause nausea/stomach upset
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Reflux &/or heartburn
  • Poor appetite or feel overly full easily
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Trouble digesting red meat
  • Constipation
  • Low iron levels
  • Frequent nausea
  • Nausea/reflux after supplements (e.g. fish oil)
  • Burping after meals

How do you know if your stomach acid is low?

Ideally direct measurements can be made via a Heidelberg pH measuring device, however this is not available to the majority of the population. Click here to check if there is a health professional in your area operating a Heidelberg pH measuring device. The next best method is to simply try supplementing stomach acid as described below and observe the effects:

What will you observe if the supplement trial is helping you?

You should observe less of the following symptoms/signs listed above. If your stomach acid levels rise too high you may experience heartburn, reflex, bloating, etc.

Safety notes.

Reference 1. HEIDELBERG pH CAPSULE GASTRIC ANALYSIS by Stephen A. Barrie, N.D.

Blake Graham, BSc (Honours), AACNEM
Clinical Nutritionist
Perth, Western Australia
Phone/Email: See Contact page
*Non-Perth residents may enquire about phone consultations.

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