As a nutritionist, Hypochlorhydria (underactive stomach) is something I see in almost every client.
Underactive stomach is when the stomach does not produce and/or secrete enough hydrochloric acid, which then affects our ability to properly digest and absorb nutrients, especially protein, minerals, and Vitamin B12. A low secretion of digestive enzymes usually also occurs.
It is very important to be aware of this condition since so many people experience indigestion and heartburn, which they then take acid suppressing medication for.
The common misconception, even in the medical community, is that heartburn is the result of too much acid in the stomach, however, this is very rarely the case (Hyperchlorhydria does exist but is very uncommon).
So, I know what you are thinking, 'how can low stomach acid cause heartburn?'
When the stomach does not have enough acid for digestion it has to work harder mechanically to break the food into smaller pieces, and proteins will be maldigested leading to putrefaction and gas release. The pressure from the gas and extra mechanical action leads to the small amount of acid that is in the stomach to be physically pushed up the esophagus, leading to the burning sensation.
Longterm, this can lead to malnutrition due to malabsorption, leaky gut (resulting in allergies and/or chronic inflammatory conditions), dysbiosis, and esophageal irritation.
How do you know if you have underactive stomach and what you can do about it:
*Please note, it is important to distinguish between over- and under-active stomach before following recommendations. You can do the Acid Self-Test by taking 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar in 1/4 cup water 5-10 mins before a meal. If your symptoms improve you most likely have underactive stomach and not overactive stomach. You can also ask your doctor for a Heidelberg test to precisely assess your stomach acid levels.
For more information email Shawna at info [at] synergynutrition [dot] ca
Contact Shawna today for Nutrition Consulting, Personal Chef services or a Private Raw Food Class to learn how to ensure you have a good nutritional foundation for your journey to holistic health.
Shawna Barker BSc., RHN is a nutritionist, college instructor, and raw food educator.