Dr. Sarah Myhill, MD, who is a UK-based specialist on CFS and FM, has recently written a great article on the prevalence of Hypochlorhydria, or lack of stomach acid, in CFS and FM patients. The more I read about Hypochlorhyrdia, the more some of my stomach problems make sense. Things just fall into place when you find information like this and it’s amazing how you can check off this symptom and that symptom. Read on…this is a long post but it is worth the read. I have posted the link to the entire article at the end of the post, but I have summarized it here.
Dr. Myhill says that Hypochlorhydria is a greatly overlooked cause of problems and that in the UK nobody is testing or looking for it. Hypochlorhydria occurs when the stomach is unable to produce hydrochloric acid, or stomach acid. The doctor says it is especially common in CFS/FM patients and is also known to be associated with childhood asthma.
Having the proper amount of stomach acid is important for our health for many reasons:
- Acid is required for protein digestion.
- In order for the stomach to empty properly, acid is required. If this is not occurring, GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) is the result.
- Stomach acid kills bacteria and yeast and sterilizes the stomach.
- A proper acid environment is required for the absorption of certain micronutrients: calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, boron, etc.
Risks of Low Stomach Acid:
- A failure to digest food properly which results in a malabsorption of proteins.
- A failure to absorb trace elements that are essential for normal body functioning.
- A failure to sterilize the stomach contents which can lead to an increased risk for stomach infections and even enteroviruses (EBV, Coxsackie virus, Echovirus, etc.)
- An increased risk of stomach cancer because of having the wrong bacteria and yeast in the stomach, which causes irritation to the lining of the stomach.
- Malabsorption of B12. The stomach must be acidic in order to absorb vitamin B12.
Symptoms of Hypochlorhydria:
- Accelerated aging due to malabsorption
- Gas and bloating: IBS
- Increased problem with allergies.
- B12 deficiency (how many of us CFS patients have given ourselves shots of Vitamin B12?)
Treatment of Hypochlorhydria:
Short-term treatment is to take acid supplements. Dr. Myhill says:
“This may explain why cider vinegar is such a popular treatment for many problems – the vinegar acidifies the stomach and improves the digestion of food. Clearly, this has the potential to affect a wide range of conditions. The problem with cider vinegar is that it contains yeast and would therefore not be tolerated by many people.”
Take high doses of ascorbic acid at mealtimes. The doctor suggests combining nutritional supplements with ascorbic acid to mildly acidify the stomach and promote absorption.
Take Betaine Hydrochloride. this is a naturally occurring substance derived from beets that are available in capsules that need to be taken with food. The dose also must be adjusted according to the patient’s response. Dr. Myhill suggests:
“…that people start off with one capsule initially and build up to maybe four or five capsules depending on the size of the meal and the response of treatment. Often, in the longer term with the correct diet (low glycemic index, low allergy, smaller meals) this cures the chronic gastritis, and the stomach is again able to produce acid normally.”
Remember, never try any treatment without first consulting your physician!