Achlorhydria is a condition with an absence of hydrochloric acid, and hypochlorhydria is a condition with a low level of hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice.
Hypochlorhydria develops when your stomach is unable to produce enough hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice. Some call it as low stomach acid. It is a common problem particularly associated with childhood asthma. However, almost nobody is looking or testing for it.
Achlorhydria develops when your stomach stops making stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) in the gastric juice. Some call it as no stomach acid.
Most people with heartburn, acid reflux, abdominal bloating, GERD, and cramping are due to a lack of stomach acid, and not an excess of stomach acid. However, these people may take over-the-counter antacids or their doctor’s prescription proton pump inhibitors (acid blockers) to reduce your stomach acid. This will likely have a devastating consequence to your digestive system and your health as a whole.
Why do we need stomach acid?
The stomach demands an acid environment for multiple reasons:
- Stomach acid sterilizes your stomach by playing as an immune system by killing harmful microbes that ingested with food.
- Certain level of stomach acid is necessary for proper closing of the lower esophageal sphincter and opening of pyloric sphincter. Otherwise, it does results in acid reflux or improper emptying of stomach acid respectively.
- Stomach acid helps to digest protein – by stimulate the release of enzyme pepsin. When you eat, the stomach acid secretion triggers the pepsin production. If there is insufficient stomach acid, then low level of pepsin, which in turn cannot break down protein into essential amino acids.
- Stomach acid helps reduce ingested bulky food into chyme of smaller particles; this helps easy movement in your entire intestine until excreted.
- Stomach acid initiates peristalsis movement (the rhythmic contraction of the intestine) to carry food through the entire gastrointestinal tract.
- Stomach acid triggers the pancreas and liver to release digestive juice and enzymes’ lipase, amylase and protease. Lipase helps digest fat, amylase digest carbohydrates and protease further digest already partially digested protein. Hypochlorhydria impairs the digestion of fat and carbohydrates resulting in bloating, indigestion, and deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.
- Stomach acid is essential for the vitamin B12 absorption, which is a key for normal brain and nervous system functioning and the formation of blood.
- Stomach acid is essential for proper absorption of micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, boron and so on.
What is low acid indigestion?
Contrary to your popular belief, indigestion is usually due to no or low stomach acid. Treating this by further lowering the stomach acid content with antacids or proton pump inhibitor can make your indigestion worst.
As per alternative medicines, acidic gastric juice is considering as digestion fire. If it is lower than normal, can lead to insufficient digestion causing ama (means rotten undigested food residues).
How common is hypochlorhydria?
It is more common than what you might think; about 10 to 15% of the population has hypochlorhydria. After age 35, most people begin to secrete inadequate stomach acid. At their 50s, many alternative medicine practitioners have estimated that over 50% of their patients have low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria). Those who have a history of Helicobacter pylori infection and/or long-term users of protein-pump-inhibitor medications are more likely to have hypochlorhydria.
Link between childhood asthma and hypochlorhydria
Various studies confirm that childhood asthma is associated with hypochlorhydria. Asthma in children has initiated by food allergy. Poor digestion makes more antigenic that leads to allergies and then asthma. A study shows 80% children with asthma also have low stomach acid, two closely related conditions. As the child grows, the acid starts producing normally and thus asthma healed. Hypochlorhydric child is often mal-absorption and underweight. It is unusual to see an overweight child with asthma.
Effects of hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria
No or low stomach acid can affect your in many ways; they are:
- Improper digestion of food: low or no acid production in the stomach leads to difficulty to digest protein into essential amino acid; your body needs to keep you healthy.
- Low production of digestive enzymes and bile acid – is due to lack of stimulation of the pancreas and small intestine by the insufficient stomach acid secretion. Enzymes and bile are necessary for the further breakdown the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your food.
- Stress on liver and kidney - Lack of stomach acid and improper protein digestion can lead to the high amount of nitro genic’s waste in your blood (blood urea nitrogen BUN of 20 or greater). This excess nitrogen waste puts more stress on your liver and kidney to remove.
- Inappropriate absorption of nutrients: due to shortage or no stomach acid, this leads to general mal-absorption.
- No protection for stomach: against dangerous microorganisms ingested along with the food. Presence of gastric acid is an essential defense against these microbes. These microbes start fermenting foods instead of digesting it for energy and causing gas, leading in bloating.
- Increase in risk for stomach illnesses: such as gastro-enteritis, and even leads to cancer. The dangerous bacteria and/or yeast can grow and start irritating the stomach lining and raises your stomach cancer risk.
- Shortage of vitamin B12: that can occur due to lack of gastric acid, stomach must be acidic for efficient absorption of vitamin B12.