Natural Remedies for Hypochlorhydria and Achlorhydria

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Hypochlorhydria and achlorhydria are conditions recognized in alternative medicine in which the production of hydrochloric acid in the digestive juices of the stomach is low or absent, respectively.

Hydrochloric acid is needed for the breakdown of protein in the stomach, to help with the absorption of nutrients such as calcium and iron, and to control the growth of unwanted microorganisms in the digestive tract.

Risk Factors for Hypochlorhydria and Achlorhydria

Some risk factors for hypochlorhydria include:

  • Chronic use of medications that affect gastric acid levels, including antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H2 receptor antagonists
  • Chronic Helicobacter pylori infection
  • People with antiparietal cell antibodies (pernicious anemia, chronic atrophic gastritis, certain autoimmune diseases)
  • Prior gastric bypass surgery
  • Hypochlorhydria and achlorhydria increase with age. In one report that examined 1590 people, the incidence of achlorhydria was 19% in the fifth decade of life and 69% in the eighth decade.

Having achlorhydria has been associated with:

  • Carcinoid tumors in the digestive tract
  • Hip fracture, possibly due to reduced calcium absorption
  • Bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract, which can lead to reduced absorption of vitamins and nutrients

Symptoms of hypochlorhydria include diarrhea, steatorrhea, macrocytic anemia, weight loss, protein-losing enteropathy, abdominal discomfort or bloating and reflux. Deficiencies in certain nutrients may result in limb weakness, memory or mood changes, numbness and tingling in the limbs or cause other symptoms.

Natural Remedies for Hypochlorhydria

Some alternative practitioners believe that this condition is relatively common, particularly in older people with weak or brittle hair and nails, bloating, indigestion, and tiredness.

It's important to keep in mind that there is a lack of supporting research on the remedies that are typically recommended by alternative medicine practitioners for hypochlorhydria.

  • Consider taking bitter herbs. Some alternative practitioners say that bitter herbs may stimulate the secretion of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Examples of bitter herbs are gentian and dandelion. They're often recommended in liquid vs. capsule form because it's the bitterness that's thought to trigger the release of digestive juices. Another option is to buy an herbal tea containing bitter herbs and drink one cup before eating.
  • Try taking betaine hydrochloride capsules. According to some alternative medicine practitioners, look for a capsule (not tablet) that contains both betaine hydrochloride and pepsin. It's often suggested that the capsule be taken at the start of a meal. This supplement is controversial and should only be taken under the supervision of a health care practitioner because of possible side effects and drug interactions.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Take a multivitamin. Because hypochlorhydria may lead to deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals, a multivitamin and mineral supplement may be recommended.
  • Try vitamin B complex. Some practitioners suggest an additional vitamin B complex.
  • Consider certain herbs. Grapefruit seed extract, garlic, oregano oil, and enteric-coated peppermint oil are some supplements thought to help if there is bacterial overgrowth.
  • Take probiotics.
  • Make sure you get enough glutamine.
  • Drink ginger tea. Ginger is thought to aid digestion and reduce bloating. In Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is considered a digestive tonic.
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