Reflux and Low Stomach Acid (Hypochlorhydria)

Generally we are told too much stomach acid is to blame for reflux, but we are going to discuss how too little of it can cause the problem.  Firstly, let’s look at what stomach or gastric acid is and what it does.

Gastric acid is a combination of hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride (salt) and potassium chloride.  It is produced by the stomach to help:

  • digest our food, in particular protein
  • kill ingested bacteria, parasites and viruses,
  • absorb nutrients including zinc, B12, Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium
  • encourage the flow of bile and the release of digestive enzymes to further breakdown food for absorption

When there is an insufficient amount of gastric acid, food and in particular protein, doesn’t breakdown as quickly as it should to pass into the small intestine.  The longer food sits in the stomach the more it putrefies and gases are formed which cause the stomach to bloat and put pressure on the LOS.  Over time this will weaken the LOS leading to reflux.  Further, when there is a decreased level of gastric acid the LOS does not close properly allowing reflux to occur.

There are a number of factors which can cause hypochlorhydria (low levels of stomach acid):

  • High levels of stress are a big factor
  • Fast and processed foods
  • Diets deficient in zinc
  • Antibiotic use
  • Prescription medication
  • Over the counter medications

Next week we will look at the use of Proton Pump Inhibitors, such as Nexium and Losec, in the treatment of reflux.

This information is of a general nature only and doesn’t take into account any person’s individual situation.  It does not replace any information provided specifically for you by your health care professional.  Never stop or start a new treatment without discussing it first with your health care provider.