LOW STOMACH ACID (HYPOCHLORHYDRIA)
Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
Hypochlorhydria, or low stomach acid, is a commonly overlooked and neglected health problem that is linked to not only various digestive and GI problems but also other diseases such as stomach cancer, asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. If you have any kind of digestive problems you are likely have low stomach acid and you won’t be able to recover unless you address this issue. I is believed to be the root of many digestive issues, parasites, food sensitivities, IBS, colitis, and other conditions.
Stomach acid or hydrochloric acid (HCl), is a very important and powerful digestive agent. It breaks down proteins into essential amino acids and stimulates pancreas and small intestines to produce digestive enzymes and bile necessary to breakdown carbohydrates, proteins and fats. HCl also prevents diseases by killing pathogenic bacteria and yeast found in food. Proper levels of stomach acid are required to adequately process and absorb vitamin B12, iron, copper, zinc and calcium, or folic acid. Low stomach acidity is one of the key causes of vitamin B12 deficiency which is very common today in spite of consuming foods that may contain this vitamin.
As we age, the ability of the stomach to produce enough acid tends to decrease.
Contrary to popular belief, indigestion and even heartburn is usually caused by chronic low stomach acid (Hypochlorhydria) and it affects up to half of our population. Therefore, using antacids for relief or indigestion does not cure the problem but make it even worse. Any treatment which further neutralizes stomach acid brings temporary relief but at the same time increases the problem.
SYMPTOMS OF LOW STOMACH ACID
Low stomach acid may contribute or cause the following symptoms: Bloating, belching, heartburn (often thought to be caused by too much stomach acid), indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation, acid reflux, heartburn, burping, gas, nausea after eating, dyspepsia, upset stomach, gas, belching, undigested food in stools, acne, rectal itching, Candida overgrowth, food allergies, iron deficiency, cracked fingernails, tiredness, adrenal fatigue, dry skin, autoimmune diseases, etc.
HOW LOW STOMACH ACID MAY CAUSE HEARTBURN
The media and drug industry have brainwashed us with the idea that acid reflux is caused by high stomach acid levels. The truth is that insufficient stomach acid leads to increase in intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) that imposes pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES). As a result the sphincter opens allowing small amount of stomach acid get inside oesophagus causing burning pain (heartburn, acid reflux) because unlike stomach oesophagus is not protected from acid.
The same problem takes place when contents of your stomach start to ferment due to low acid levels which leads to inability to digest proteins. It creates gas, which has to be released and imposes pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) opening it slightly and alloweing that gas to travel up causing belching and. Apart from the gas, a little bit of stomach acid also gets into the esophagus triggering heartburn.
Yes antacids work can help reduce the symptom by lowering stomach acid but at the same time they exacerbate the root cause of the problem which is deficiency of stomach acid which causes idndigestion and bloating thus leading to heartburn.
Acidic foods: meat products, dairy, coffee, cola, chocolate, sugar, refined products, etc.
Large meals and snacking close to bedtime. Overloaded stomach increases pressure on the diaphragm, causing acid to travel upward. Eating too quickly or eating while on the go
H. pylori infection
Aging (less stomach acid is produced with age, beginning as early as 40)
Smoking impairs muscle reflexes and increases production of acid.
Medications, including antibiotics, ibuprofen, NSAIDs (such as Tylenol or aspirin), and proton pump inhibitors (used for heartburn and acid reflux)
Magnesium deficiency can lead to improper functioning of the sphincter that prevents stomach acid from entering oesophagus.
Overweight put extra pressure on the valves and sphincter that allow release of acid.
KEY CONSEQUENCES OF LOW STOMACH ACID
Low stomach acid leads to problems with digesting proteins leading to the deficiency of amino acids and numerous problems linked to this deficiency. Even if you eat high protein foods you can still be protein malnourished.
Improper digestion of protein creates toxins in our intestines leading to gastro-intestinal problems, allergic reactions, skin issues, and other health problems.
Low stomach acid leads to deficiency of other nutrients such as minerals.
Low stomach acid lead to overgrowth of Candida and pathogenic bacteria, reducing the number of probiotic bacteria thus weakening immunity and contributing to numerous health issues.
Over-the-counter or prescription acid-blocking medication is the most commonly used conventional treatment for indigestion. Unfortunately these drugs cause many serious possible side effects.
– Eat plenty of unrefined sea salt or Celtic salt with meals as it will provide chloride, the building block of stomach acid (sodium chloride and hydrochloric acid).
– Take supplement which contains HCL with Pepsin but take it only when you consume protein meals (meat, dairy, fish, pulses, etc). Some people need one capsule; others may need to take more.
– Betaine hydrochloride (Betaine HCl), usually derived from beets, is an amino acid and supplement for helping food to be fully processed in the stomach for optimum nutritional benefits. Betaine HCl promotes healthy stomach acidity, gastric function and the digestion of protein as it activates pepsin used to break down proteins into amino acids. Betaine hydrochloride helps absorb vitamins – increasing their bioavailability. Betaine also helps regulate homocysteine levels as it is used to convert homocysteine in the blood to methionine. Elevated homocysteine levels, which increase with age, are linked to heart issues and blood clots. In the body betaine can be created by choline in combination with the amino acid glycine. Just like some B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B12, betaine is considered to be a methyl donor which aids in detoxification and liver function. Recommended daily dose: 650 – 2500 milligrams. Wheat bran/wheat germ is the single highest source of naturally occurring betaine. Also quinoa, beets, and spinach are very good sources.
– Try Apple cider vinegar with mother (1 Tbsp with glass of room temperature water before meals) as it will acidify the stomach and improve digestion. Clearly, this has the potential to affect a wide range of conditions. Due to the fact that cider vinegar contains yeast it may not be tolerated by everyone. Instead of cider vinigar you can use Swedish Bitters before meals (1 teaspoon of tincture with glass of worm water).
– Take high dose of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) 1000-3000mg with meals. At the same time (with meals) take a tablet or capsule of minerals in the chloride form. As a result of this combination ascorbic acid and minerals in chloride form will react and form mineral ascorbates and hydrochloric acid. It will optimise absorption by increasing stomach acid and improve absorption and bioavailibility of minerals.
– Try to relax and learn to control stress as there is a direct correlation between stress and indigestion due to the fact that brain is very closely connected to the gastro-intestinal tract. In order to calm down nervous system try to take 400mg of Magnesium citrate before breakfast and before bed, B complex (50-100mg) after breakfast, 30-50 mg of Zinc citrate after meal, and drink 2-3 times a day herbal teas such as Lemon balm, Chamomile, Tulsi (Holy basil), etc.
– Ginger has been used for many people as very effective digestive aid and natural remedy for digestive problems, weak immunity or nausea. Researchers also discovered that three capsules of ginger with meals can actually help people with dyspepsia and abnormally delayed gastric emptying to release stomach contents into the small intestines much faster. Ginger also helps get read of other gastrointestinal problems. In addition it relaxes the smooth muscle in the gastro-intestinal tract thus preventing constipation.
– Centaurium (Centaury) > tincture. This is probably the most important remedy and it helped many people suffering from various digestive problems. The following short testimonial by a person with hiatus hernia is an example of effectiveness of this herb: “This is the best medicine ever for stomach trouble. Mine is hiatus hernia and I have taken centaurium for years. Through taking it I feel normal every day and it helps me to digest. Before it I felt very ill. It keeps me going and I live a normal life because of it.” If you want to avoid alcohol look for the Centaurium or Centaury Concentrated Non Alcoholic Tincture.
– Chlorella (requires drinking more water in between meals).
– Good probiotic formula to increase number of beneficial bacteria in your intestines.
– Formulas with variety of digestive enzymes > will improve digestion. Fresh raw sprouts are 30 times higher in digestive enzymes than other healthy foods!
– Magnesium citrate to relax stomach muscle and intestines: 2 times a day 200-400mg 1 hour before meal and 1-2 hours before bed. MagCitra (HealthAid is an excellent magnesium citrate as it is high in elemental magnesium).
– Dink 1-2 glasses of fresh and raw vegetable juices (carrot, beetroot, kale, etc.) 2-3 times a day before meals.
LIFESTYLE AND DIET RECOMMENDATIONS
– Please read carefully and implement principles included in the Health Recovery Plan >
– Go on plant-based unrefined 50-85% raw diet. Hallelujah diet is the best example.
– Try to avoid certain foods that often cause digestive problems. That includes spicy, greasy, fatty and processed foods, caffeine, any acidic beverage, foods containing sources of lactose (cow’s milk and dairy), acidic foods (like meat, fish, fried foods, etc.) artificial sweeteners.
– Chew your food properly and eat slowly, chew with your mouth closed, if possible avoid talking while chewing, never lie down directly after eating but go for a walk, don’t eat between meals, do not eat late at night, avoid imposing pressure on your stomach with tight underwear or clothes.
– Avoid: Overeating, lifting heavy objects, smoking, caffeine (coffee, cola, black and green teas, etc.), and decaffeinated coffee, chocolate (extremely acidic), alcohol, meat, dairy, sugar, glucose, fructose syrup, refined foods, white flour products, white rice, hot spices, antibiotics, refined salt.
– With your meals use mild spices such as marjoram, fennel, cumin, oregano, etc. to improve digestion
– Drink 3 times a day about 3 glasses of water 1 hour before meals or 2 hours after meals. Try to drink only distilled water. Never drink water or other liquids with meals (except ½ glass of juice).
– Avoid straining during bowel movement. Find out how to cope with Constipation >
– Proper regular exercising techniques such as lifting up both legs while lying on bad will help to strengthen stomach muscles.
– If possible avoid drugs (nitrates, sedatives, theophylline in black and green tea, calcium channel blockers) that can make reflux worse as they may decrease the pressure of the lower oesophageal sphincter. Even peppermint tea or peppermint oil can have similar effect and should be avoided.
– Fast walking every day in between meals (2 hours after meals).
– Don’t eat within six to not less than four hours of bedtime.
– Don’t lie down after meals. Light physical activity such as walking is most beneficial after meals.
– Avoid acid-suppressive drugs as they have significant side effects and cause rebound increase in acid production.
– Saltzman JR, Kemp JA, Golner BB, et al. Effect of hypochlorhydria due to omeprazole treatment or atrophic gastritis on protein bound vitamin B12 absorption. J Amer Coll Nutr 1994;13:584-591.
– Bajaj JS, Khardori R, Deo MG, Bansal DD. Adrenocortical function in experimental protein malnutrition. Metabolism. 1979 May;28(5):594-8.
– Kennedy M.D., Ron. “Hypochlorhydria.” Doctor’s Medical Library.
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