Hypochlorhydria, vitiligo connection?
A few people have brought up a theory that Hypochlorhydria may be what triggers the vitiligo gene to turn on. And while I hear many ideas on the potential causes of vitiligo, this one fits many issues that we’ve already linked to it: b12 deficiency, low folic acid, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disorders, just to name a few.
For the next few days I am going to do a series of posts about the online research i’ll be conducting on hypochlorhydria.
What is hi-po-klor-hi-dree-uh? Basically, it’s just low stomach acid. Well, that sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? But it’s not.
It is commonly assumed that the decline in stomach acid production observed through later adult life is normal and a very common consequence of the aging process. Recent evidence, however, shows that this is incorrect. The cells that produce stomach acid, also known as hydrochloric acid or HCL, are the parietal cells. Several things can affect the ability of the parietal cells to produce hydrochloric acid. A partial list includes: regular use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); acid blocking medications (often used for symptoms that are actually due to a lack of HCL); nutritional deficiencies such an histidine (an amino acid), zinc, and vitamin B1 (thiamine), all of which are needed for HCL production. Stress can also impair HCL production as well as alcohol consumption and food allergens. In addition to HCL, the parietal cells also manufacture “intrinsic factor” which makes the absorption of B12 possible. Without adequate intrinsic factor, a B12 deficiency sets in and can result in pernicious anemia.
Once the stomach acid is low, you may be more susceptible to infection by Helicobacter pylori, a common cause of ulcers. This chronic bacterial pathogen in humans is so prevalent that 50% of 50 year olds are infected with H. pylori. (Plummer, Dr. Nigel, Townsend Letter, July 2004. It is also important to remember that if you don’t make enough HCL to disinfect and kill off bacterial and parasites in your food, you may also be more prone to gut infections and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and malabsorption.
HCL is not only necessary for proper digestion (it begins the breakdown of protein) and thus nutrient absorption, but it also kills many organisms and helps to keep the stomach sterile.
Most people don’t have too much stomach acid as you would think from watching the pharmaceutical commercials on TV. By taking antacids, you will have less stomach acid being secreted setting you up for infection and malabsorption.
A partial list of symptoms associated with low stomach acid includes the following:
Gas shortly after eating
Indigestion ½ to 1 hour after eating that may last 3-4 hours
Poor night vision
Loss of taste for protein foods
If you have symptoms of low stomach acid, you will want to take HCL as Betaine Hydrochloride. In all cases, it is prudent to begin supplementation in steadily increasing levels. If a capsule contains 500 mg. of Betaine Hydrochloride, then an individual should start with one capsule per meal and then build up to 3 capsules per meal. Sometimes you may need to take even more than 3 if you are extremely low in HCL. You can increase until you get a burning sensation and then you know you need to back down but it is a good idea to have some Alka Seltzer on hand.
There are several good brands of Betaine HCL on the market. I have two that I use in my clinic—Premier Research Labs has 2 products to be used together, Quantum HCL Activator with Quantum Betaine HCL; and Biotics Research Labs has Hydrozyme. It is best to take these products in the middle of each meal. Make sure you consult your nutritionally oriented physician prior to supplementing with HCL.
If your doctor does lab work and finds you have an infection of H. pylori, the University of Wolverhampton in Great Britain has found that 3 different strains of H. pylori were highly sensitive to some mixtures of essential oils, particularly oregano, clove, wormwood and ginger. Following the release of this data, Pharmax developed a product Pyloricin, containing the same mixture of oils. In addition, in this product, the oil mixture is emulsified so that once it is in the stomach, it produces a milky emulsion enabling the antimicrobials to effectively disperse and penetrate the mucous layer and attack the surface and deep layers where H. pylori bores in.
Other companies that produce therapies for H. pylori are: Metagenics’ Zenlori, Allergy Research with Mastica, and Biotics Research Labs with Bio-HPF. Studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that mastic gum inhibits H. pylori at very low concentrations and that it was effective against at least 3 different strains of H. pylori. (N Engl J Med, 339 (26): 1946 Dec 1998.
For all problems dealing with the gut, I recommend taking probiotics such as Bifido bacteria and Acidophilis bacteria. You can check with your local health food store for a suitable brand.
In conclusion, most digestive dysfunctions start in the stomach with decreased HCL. HCL is one of the most difficult chemicals for the body to make and, the loss of which, sets us up for multiple problems such as an inability to break down our food properly for absorption. Without proper digestion, we cannot obtain the nutrients from our food which can then make us more prone to multiple health problems and disease.