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Hypochlorhydria, or the insufficient production of stomach acid, is a very common clinical problem with influences far beyond the digestive tract (i.e. food and environmental sensitivity, asthma, intestinal parasites, dermatological problems, autoimmune disease and arthralgias.) Most practitinoers would not look at a blood test as being their primary sources of information on the digestive system. However, I have found it invaluable for helping uncover my patient’s digestive insufficiency.Many factors contribute to the development of chronic hypochlorhydria including:
- Poor food choices (Standard American Diet)
- Excess carbohydrate consumption (depletes critical co-factors)
- Insufficient protein stimulation (veganism, low protein diets)
- Sympathetic dominance/stress (inhibits the parasympathetic control of digestive secretions)
- Zinc and thiamine deficiencies (essential to the production of HCL)
- Antacid use (temporary symptom relief/worsens problem)
- Alcohol and NSAID use (lead to gastric atrophy)
The inability to produce HCl is frequently due to a need for chloride (low serum chloride) or a need for zinc (ALP will generally be decreased) and thiamine (C02 will generally be decreased with an increased anion gap). These are primary nutritional factors required for the synthesis of hydrochloric acid. Paradoxically, sufficient HCL is needed in order to properly absorb these nutrients as well. Hence, the chronic nature of this problem is often perpetuated. Globulin, albumin, and total protein will often be out of the reference range with digestive insufficiency.
When hypochlorhydria is present, pancreatic and biliary dysfunction are generally also present, secondary to the need for HCI. If the food bolus is not acid enough upon exiting the stomach, it will not trigger CCK properly and stimulate pancreatic enzyme production and release. The subsequent improperly digested proteins and carbohydrates contribute to the growth of opportunistic organisms and often lead to a dysbiotic intestinal tract. Checking urinary indican levels is an excellent means for determining protein putrefaction, carbohydrate fermentation, and dysbiotic activity.
Hydrochloric acid supplementation is often fundamental to breaking this cycle of chronic digestive insufficiency. Short term administration stimulates the body’s own eventual production of HCL by reducing the tremendous digestive stress upon an otherwise compromised gut mucosa.
© 2004 Dicken Weatherby, ND
ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Dicken Weatherby is a graduate of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. He is the co-author of the best-selling book “Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis- Clinical Laboratory Testing from a Functional Perspective”. To learn more about Dr. Weatherby’s functional diagnosis books and sign up for FREE functional diagnosis tips, tools, and techniques, visit his web site at http://www.BloodChemistryAnalysis.com
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