a lack of stomach acid - hypochlorhydria - can cause you lots of problems...

Solutions can be simple and amazingly effective...

Fact: Hypochlorhydria arises when the stomach is unable to produce hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and is a greatly overlooked cause of problems It is especially common in those with ME/CFS/FM, and is known to be associated with childhood asthma.

The stomach requires an acid environment for several reasons:
1. Acid is required for the digestion of protein: is required for the stomach to empty correctly, and failure to do so results in gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is required to sterilize the stomach and kill bacteria and yeast that may be ingested.

2. An acid environment is required for the absorption of certain micronutrients, in particular calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, selenium and boron.

3. 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.

Possible Problems with Low Stomach Acid
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.

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.

» Failure to digest foods properly. This will result in a general malabsorption of proteins. Indeed hypochlorhydria - as induced by antacids and H2 blockers substantially increases one's risk of osteoporosis because the body simply does not have the raw material to replace bone. Many degenerative conditions are associated 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 and susceptibility to degenerative diseases.

» Failure to sterilize 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.

» An 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.

Symptoms of Hypochlorhydria
» 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-esophageal reflux disease (GERD)

» Iron deficiency (anemia).

» Vitamin B12 deficiency.

» A tendency to Candida dysbiosis or bacterial dysbiosis [imbalance in the natural flora of the gut].

Treatment of Hypochlorhydria
» The treatment in the short term is to take acid supplements. Cider vinegar is a popular treatment for many problems - the vinegar acidifies the stomach and improves the digestion of food. The problem with cider vinegar is that it contains yeast and would therefore not be tolerated by everyone.

» A second possibility is to take high dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) at mealtimes. Ascorbic acid taken at mealtimes mildly acidifies the stomach and promotes absorption.

» The third approach is to take Betaine Hydrochloride (Betaine HCL), a naturally occurring substance derived from beets. Capsules are best and need to be taken with food, with the dose adjusted according to the response.

Often in the longer term with the correct diet (low glycemic index, low allergy, smaller meals, get rid of Helicobacter pylori, correct gut flora) this cures the chronic gastritis, and the stomach is again able to produce acid normally.

As with all health issues you should discuss stomach acidity, testing, and management with your professional healthcare team.

But a simple preliminary test of stomach acidity is to drink a small amount of baking soda in water first thing in the morning. If you have not belched within a few minutes, you may not be producing enough stomach acid, since hydrochloric acid reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas.

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