Hypochlorhydria - Low Stomach Acid. Is this the cause of your Acid Reflux?

When we think of having acid reflux, GORD or indigestion, we automatically think our acid levels may be too high. They must be right?

But actually for many people, it's actually more common, the reason is that stomach acid is too low. Hypochlorhydria just means that your stomach acid levels are too low, i.e you are not producing enough. Hypo means low. Hyperchlorhydria means your levels are too high, over production of the acid. Most people when they get symptoms often put it straight down to too high levels of acid, hyperchlorhydria. They are often given PPI's (like omeprazole) as a medication to suppress stomach acid.

However reflux, heartburn, indigestion, these are often signs of hypochlorhydria, signs that you are not making enough stomach acid. If the PPI's you take then further suppress the acid levels we run into issues. So how do low acid levels cause reflux?

When we are suffering these symptoms what we are experiencing is that stomach acid rising into our oesophagus and potentially our throat. Hence why we assume it's too much, it's overflown from the stomach and risen up into he oesophagus, that would make sense. But actually in many people, in fact more than those with hyper, what happens is that due to the low stomach acid levels you have poor digestion, you then get gas bubbles that rise up into your oesophagus, this carry the stomach acid up. It only has to be minute amounts for us to feel the acid rising.

What do we need the stomach acid for?

Hypochlorhydria is specifically talking to the hydrochloric acid (HCl) levels in your stomach. HCl is a strong acid that we need within our stomachs, it has a role in digestion and also in your immunity. When acid levels are too low you can have difficulty digesting food or absorbing the nutrients from the food.

This is because HCl breaks down foods, especially proteins and helps us to absorb nutrients, such as B12, from the food that we eat. Over time this can lead to nutrient deficiencies. If you don't absorb these nutrients you get undigested food and nutritional deficiencies. These can lead to things like anaemia, from iron or b12 insufficiency, which can impact your nervous system, or lack of absorption of calcium and magnesium which can lead to things like osteoporosis over time.

Within the immune system it helps us to manage viruses and bacteria that could potentially cause stomach infections, low levels of the acid leave you more prone to infection, such as h.pylori, which has been linked to many chronic illnesses and autoimmunity. The undigested food in the gut can also lead to other gastrointestinal symptoms such as a gut bacteria overgrowth, causing dysbiosis or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

What are the symptoms of Hypochlorhydria?

  • Reflux

  • Heartburn

  • Bloating

  • Abdominal Pain / cramps

  • Constipation / diarrhoea

  • Undigested food in stool

  • Brittle or weak fingernails

  • Hair loss

  • Fatigue

  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet

  • Brain fog

  • Headaches

The good news is hypochlorhydria can be healed by helping support the body in increasing levels of stomach acid. This is done by...

  • looking for things that might be lowering your stomach acid levels, underlying imbalances and root causes

  • assessing the health of your gut

  • addressing nutritional deficiencies

  • supplementing to support stomach acid production

  • supplementing with HCl

*It is important that you first assess whether you have hyper or hypo -chlorhydria. You can do this with the help of a practitioner.

When you are ready to work on your gut health you can get a Gut Assessment, with a comprehensive stool test included.

Or you can go all in and work with me one-to-one, book your initial Functional Health Assessment now.

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