Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency

Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency: Overview

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) insufficiency can be complete (achlorhydria) or partial (hypochlorhydria) and intermittent.  HCl plays an important part in the first digestive step, which if not completed properly can result in digestive problems all the way through the digestive tract.

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HCl does not digest food on its own, but creates an environment in which digestion begins.  HCl is responsible for converting pepsinogen to pepsin, which begins breaking down proteins in the stomach.  With limited HCl, pepsinogen is not converted to pepsin and protein digestion fails.  A second action of HCl is to prevent infections, since most organisms that are ingested are destroyed by an adequately acid environment.

Conditions that suggest Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency:


Heartburn / GERD / Acid Reflux

Based on the clinical experience of doctors such as Dr. Jonathon Wright, MD, supplementing with hydrochloric acid sometimes relieves the symptoms of heartburn and improves digestion in individuals who have hypochlorhydria.  Unexplained bloating, belching and heartburn are frequently diagnosed as symptoms of hyperacidity and sometimes wrongly treated with antacids, when in fact the underlying problem is insufficient acid production.



Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lack of stomach acid occurs frequently in rheumatoid arthritis patients.  This is associated with changes in gastric microbial patterns.


Vitamin B12 Requirement

Achlorhydria leads to improper absorption of nutrients such as B12.


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Risk factors for Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency:


Vitamin B6 Requirement

Vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid.

Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency can lead to:


Environment / Toxicity

Recommendations for Hydrochloric Acid Deficiency:

Botanical / Herbal

Cayenne Pepper

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne, is believed to assist digestion by stimulating the flow of both salvia and stomach secretions.  One or two capsules of cayenne pepper taken before meals stimulates hunger also.



Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice taken with meals mildly stimulates hydrochloric acid production.

Digestive Aids

Hydrochloric Acid (Trial)

Some people with low stomach acid have no symptoms that are obviously related, and are led to believe they are digesting properly, when they are not.  An HCl trial is a safe, worthwhile, and relatively accurate way to discover if an insufficiency exists.  Since the long-term administration of supplemental HCl may result in reduced stomach output of acid, administration is advised for diagnostic purposes and short-term use only.  Short-term use may result in a return of normal acid production.

Digestive Enzyme (Trial)

A trial using plant-based enzymes to enhance digestion demonstrated their additional benefit of improving hydrochloric acid production in those individuals who were hypochlorhydric.


Folic Acid

In cases of low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) or no stomach acid (achlorhydria), supplemental use of hydrochloric acid normalizes folate absorption.

Vitamin B-Complex

Several B-vitamins are needed to support hydrochloric acid production.

Inositol Hexaniacinate

Inositol hexaniacinate might play a role in both the reduction of achlorhydria-related symptoms and in augmenting gastric acid secretion.  It may enhance the production of hydrochloric acid in a manner that cannot be explained by it simply being an acid.  Its benefits may be due, in part, to its stress-moderating properties upon the central nervous system.

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