Achlorhydria is defined as the presence of persistently high pH of no less than 6 in the stomach, in the presence of any stimulation of gastric acid secretion. It is often a cause of upper abdominal pain, belching and poor digestion.
Achlorhydria simple put, means little or no acid in the stomach. Other terms like hypochlorhydria or gastric hypoacidity has been used to describe this condition.
Strictly speaking, achlorhydria means absence of stomach acid, and hyochlorhydria and gastric hypoacidity means reduced levels of stomach acidity, but both terms are used interchangeably.
We all secrete acid in our stomach normally. This acid is necessary to help kill bacteria from the food we ingest. It is also a very important ingredient that helps convert a chemical in our gut called pepsinogen into pepsin. Pepsin helps in the breakdown of proteins present in the food we eat to peptides, by splitting them into smaller pieces to aid absorption into our body.
When acid secretion is poor or absent, it leads to
- Bacteria overgrowth in the stomach, causing frequent belching and sometimes "bad breath"
- Poor digestion of proteins in food, leading to frequent mild diarrhea, bloating and upper abdominal or central chest (retrostenal)pain. There may also be unusual sensitivity to fatty food, protein rich food and spicy foods
- Poor absorption of vitamin B12 and other nutrients leading to tiredness always or chronic fatigue as well as features of pernicious anaemia
- Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease), diabetes, joint pain and some forms of cancer could also result from this condition.