Hypochlorhydria

Hypochlorhydria  is a state in which production of gastric acid in the stomach is low. Achlorhydra is when there is no production of gastric acid. The conditions can lead to a failure to digest food properly, to absorb certain trace elements, and to sterilize stomach contents. These problems can lead, in turn, to further medical complications.

Some degenerative diseases can occur due to the resulting lack of certain raw materials. The risk of osteoporosis, for instance, increases because of the body's inability to provide the raw material to replace bone. The lack of elements essential for normal functioning of the body can slow down the body's metabolism and accelerate its ageing process. A less acidic environment in the stomach can also make the stomach more susceptible to certain infections.

Hypochlorhydria  and achlorhydra can also be caused secondarily by other medical conditions. A vitamin B12 deficiency, for instance, can lead to low stomach acid. And since a sufficient amount of stomach acid is needed to properly absorb B12, this can create a vicious cycle of malnutrition and Hypochlorhydria .

While not all causes of Hypochlorhydria  are known, some others include:

  • Autoimmune disorders in which antibodies target parietal cells (large peripheral cells of the mucous membrane that produce gastric acid)
  • Rare diseases such as mucolipidosis IV
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Atrophic gastritis
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Vasoactive intestinal peptide-producing tumors (VIPomas)
  • Stomach cancer
  • Certain kinds of asthma in children

Certain drugs, antacids and radiation therapy can also cause or induce Hypochlorhydria . Drugs that can decrease production of gastric acid include H2-receptor antagonists and protein pump inhibitors. Since the elderly's ability to produce stomach acid naturally tends to decline, and since they are more commonly prescribed anti-ulcer drugs, there is additional concern of small bowel bacterial overgrowth secondary to drug-induced hypochlorhydria among this segment of the population.

Symptoms of hypochlorhydria may include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Wind, gas, belching, bloating
  • Burning, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea
  • Itching around the rectum
  • Flatulence immediately after eating
  • Undigested food in stools
  • Food allergies
  • Abnormal sense of "fullness"
  • Loss of appetite for meat
  • Nausea
  • Cracked, peeled and/or weak fingernails
  • Hair loss
  • Symptoms similar to those of GERD or anemia

Treatment may include:

  • Vitamin supplements
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Betaine Hydrochloride
  • Other acid supplements during mealtimes (although cider vinegar may help acidify the stomach, it contains yeast, so it may not be tolerated by some)
  • Diet (smaller meals with a low glycemic index and for which there is a reduced risk of allergy)
  • Antibiotics (in cases of significant bacterial overgrowth)