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Hypochlorhydria – Do You Have an Underactive Gut?


February 6, 2014 | Published by

 stomach illustrationHypochlorhydria – Is Your Gut an Underachiever?

Is your stomach going on strike? Are you finding undigested foods and supplements in your stool? You may have an underactive stomach. Scientifically known as hypochlorhydria, this condition is an insufficient amount or level of production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).

Unfortunately, when hydrochloric acid is low it causes malabsorption resulting in malnutrition, various digestive problems such as constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea and more and eventually a myriad of health problems. HCI mainly digests protein, breaking it down into small molecules in your stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine), the smaller molecules formed are further digested and then absorbed in the intestinal tract.

How does one get into such a state? Diet, lifestyle, and other medical conditions can all be factors, but one of the biggest culprits is stress. When you experience high or chronic stress, your whole body can pay the price. The gut is often hardest hit, as it controls digestion and a majority of your body’s immune system. Moreover, HCI production requires a lot of energy and resources, and if there aren’t enough to go around, your gut (and you) suffer.

Hypochlorhydria, Heartburn, and ‘Acid Blockers’

It is a known fact that doctors are quick to prescribe acid blockers to patients who complain of heartburn, but the unfortunate thing is that many who have in fact an under-acidity of the stomach may well have signs and/or symptoms of heartburn, which the doctor may well interpret as over-acidity. The normal human gut pH range is typically 1 to 2. The pH of an underactive gut can be between 3 to 5, which is considerably less acidic. By addressing all heartburn as a sign of too much acid/too high pH, we’re often making the issue worse.

Hypochlorhydria is often induced by antacids, H2 blockers and protein pump inhibitors. In fact, prolonged hypochlorhydria can potentially increase one’s risk of osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases simply because the body does not have the ability to pull in sufficient minerals through digestion to build strong and healthy bone tissue. This is the same reason why many with hypochlorhydria experience vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Signs and Symptoms of an Underactive Stomach

Don’t wait until it becomes painfully obvious there’s a problem. If you’re under a lot of stress, eat a diet that includes tea, coffee, alcohol, red meats and any foods containing sugars/starches, or experience frequent indigestion, start supporting your gut. The older you become, the more likely it is for you to experience hypochlorhydria. Here are some common signs and symptoms of low stomach acid:

  • Frequent stomach pain, discomfort or bloating after meals
  • Feeling unwell/fatigued right after eating
  • High protein or fat foods cause nausea/upset stomach
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Reflux and/or heartburn
  • Poor appetite or feel overly full easily
  • Poor fingernail health (splitting easily/white flecks)
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Trouble digesting red meat
  • Frequent constipation
  • Low iron levels
  • Frequent nausea
  • Nausea/reflux after supplements (e.g. fish oil)
  • Burping after meals
  • Thin, weak or fragile hair

dr eric bakkerAbout the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 27 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specializes in candida, psoriasis, as well as adrenal fatigue, thyroid and digestive disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. He has also written what may well be the most comprehensive Natural Psoriasis Treatment Program available. You can find more articles by Dr. Bakker on his blog at

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