Hypochlorhydria can cause lots of problems
Hypochlorhydria, a lack of stomach acid, arises when the stomach is unable to produce hydrochloric acid. It is a greatly overlooked cause of problems.
Acid environment in the stomach
The stomach requires an acid environment for several reasons.
- acid is required for the digestion of protein,
- acid is required for the stomach to empty correctly and failure to do so results in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (heartburn),
- acid is required to sterilise the stomach and kill bacteria and yeast that may be ingested and
- an acid environment is required for the absorption of certain micronutrients, in particular divalent and trivalent cat-ions such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, boron and so on.
As we age, our ability to produce stomach acid declines, but some people are simply not very good at producing stomach acid, sometimes because of pathology in the stomach (such as an allergic gastritis secondary to food intolerance), but sometimes for reasons unknown.
Problems arising from hypochlorhydria.
There are many possible problems that could arise from hypochlorhydria:
- Failure to digest foods properly. This will result in a general malabsorption of proteins. Indeed, hypochlorhydria as induced by antacids and H2 blockers and protein pump inhibitors substantially increases one’s risk of osteoporosis because the body simply does not have the raw material to replace bone. Many degenerative conditions will be associated, therefore, with hypochlorhydria.
- Failure to absorb trace elements. Trace elements are essential for normal body functioning. If these are not present then the biochemistry of the body will go slow, organs will go slow and this will accelerate the ageing process. Therefore, one would expect to see people getting diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and neuro-degenerative conditions, before their time.
- Failure to sterilise the stomach contents. This will make individuals more susceptible to gut infections such as gastro-enteritis and possibly enteroviruses such as Epstein-Barr virus, Coxsackie virus, Echovirus and so on. Gastric acid is an essential part of normal defences against disease. Gastric acid is also essential for getting rid of undesirable bacteria and yeast that appear in the diet. Particularly virulent strains, of course, may cause simple food poisoning. However, if there is an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the stomach, then foods will get fermented instead of being digested. This produces wind and gas resulting in bloating and alcohols, which may or may not be useful to the body.
- Increased risk of stomach cancer. Having the wrong bacteria and yeast in the stomach will irritate the lining of the stomach and increase one’s risk of stomach cancer.
- Malabsorption of vitamin B12. It is well known that the stomach must be acid in order to absorb B12. Indeed, using a proton pump inhibitor such as Omeprazole, will reduce absorption of vitamin B12 to less than 1% of expected. Many people already suffer from borderline B12 deficiency – this is a difficult vitamin for the body to assimilate, but essential for normal biochemistry.
Symptoms of hypochlorhydria
When any of the above problems go wrong, it can result in symptoms.
- Accelerated ageing because of malabsorption.
- Wind, gas and bloating as foods are fermented instead of being digested, i.e. irritable bowel syndrome.
- A tendency to allergies – the reason for this is that if foods are poorly digested, then large antigenically interesting molecules get into the lower gut, where if the immune system reacts against them, that can switch on allergy.
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease
- Iron deficiency Anaemia
- B12 deficiency
- A tendency to candida dysbiosis or bacterial dysbiosis.