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Hypochlorhydria

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What is hypochlorhydria?

Hypochlorhydria is a scientific term for a low level of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).

Hydrochloric acid, along with enzymes, helps your body to digest and absorb nutrients from food. It also helps eliminate bacteria and viruses in the stomach, protecting your body from infection.

People with low gastric or stomach acid can experience issues with digestion and suffer the consequences of nutritional deficiencies, as well as being more prone to gastrointestinal infections. Prompt treatment can prevent serious complications.

What are the symptoms of hypochlorhydria?

The most common symptoms of hypochlorhydria are:

  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Diarrhoea
  • Flatulence
  • Heartburn
  • Gastro infections
  • Nausea while taking supplements
  • Nutrient deficiencies, including iron and vitamin B-12
  • Undigested food in the stool
  • Upset stomach

What causes hypochlorhydria or low stomach acid?

Some of the most common causes for low stomach acid include:

  • Age.
    • As we age, acid production declines. People over the age of 65 years are most likely to have low levels of hydrochloric acid.
  • Stress.
    • Chronic stress may decrease production of stomach acid.
  • Vitamin deficiency.
    • A deficiency of zinc or B vitamins, as a result of your diet, or by nutrient loss from stress, smoking, or alcohol consumption, can also lead to low stomach acid. 
  • Medications.
    • Antacids or medications prescribed to lower acid in the treatment of gastric ulcers (eg H2 antagonists and PPIs), may also lead to hypochlorhydria. But always speak with your healthcare professional before making changes to your medications.
  • Infection with H. Pylori is a common cause of gastric ulcers and if left untreated can result in decreased stomach acid.
  • Gastric bypass surgery can reduce production of stomach acid

Treatment of Hypochlorhydria?

The treatment options for hypochlorhydria vary according on the cause and severity of symptoms.

Your healthcare professional will provide the best advice, which might involve a supplement to increase acid production (such as a Digestive Enzyme), or it could be as simple as a change in diet and lifestyle.

If an H. pylori infection is identified as the cause of your symptoms, a course of antibiotics might be prescribed.

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