Is "hypochlorhydria" scientifically sound or natural-health quackery?
January 23, 2013 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Is "hypochlorhydria" (low stomach acid) a scientifically sound problem or some natural-health quackery?

I've had some mild-to-moderate GI issues for the past couple years that doctors have diagnosed as GERD and IBS - heartburn, bloating, gas, nausea, stomach pain, frequent #2 visits, feeling very full after meals etc. Generally they fall under the "minor annoyance" category and I'm already on an acid blocker for the heartburn so I figured I just gotta suck up the rest of the symptoms. (I've experimented with a ton of diets and nothing has helped me much, BTW, though I have not yet done the gluten-free thing. I have also been tested and do not have H. Pylori.)

However, I've been reading a lot of articles lately online about "hypochlorhydria" or low stomach acid (see: which seems to encompass all of my health problems and is easily cured with stomach acid supplements. However, most of them seem to come from natural/alternative health websites which raise my bullshit alarm. I'd go ahead and try it, but taking an HCL supplement seems counter productive to all the acid blockers I've been taking and likely to upset my stomach further.

Does anyone have any experience with hypochlorhydria or taking HCL supplements? Is it natural health bullshit is or there some sound science behind this theory?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hypochlorhydria is a real thing - it happens to people as they age, and to people who take proton-pump inhibitors long-term, but that doesn't mean you can fix it with stomach acid supplements.

I don't know anything about HCl supplementation, but it seems dubious to me - how do you ingest something that's strong enough to significantly change the pH of your stomach (which, even if you have low stomach acid, is seriously acidic, and buffered besides) without burning yourself?
posted by mskyle at 6:17 AM on January 23, 2013

Did you ask your doctor about it?
posted by empath at 6:36 AM on January 23, 2013

It doesn't make sense to take an acid supplement while you're taking an acid blocker. I would instead see a doctor to talk about managing the GERD with non-meds methods and see if getting off the acid blocker helped your IBS.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:06 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have they actually tested your stomach acid levels? I don't know if that's a thing but it seems logical.

Also you mention you haven't tried gluten-free... all of your symptoms fall soundly under symptoms of gluten intolerance, since the structure of wheat is a gut irritant, so it's worth a shot to go gluten-free for 2-4 weeks and see if it helps.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:54 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's a real thing. Yes, people tend to be helped by taking HCl.

Seconding DoubleLane that gluten intolerance causes similar issues. You should also be aware that if it's gluten intolerance, you could also have problems with similarly structured peptides from dairy and soy, and some people are so sensitive that eggs, legumes, and corn also do damage. Just throwing that out there, in case you feel like practically all foods seem involved

I recommend the Whole 30 to people who have digestive issues. It helped me and it helped literally every friend I recommended it to who had IBS, acid reflux, and similar disorders.
posted by Nattie at 3:06 AM on January 25, 2013

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