Hyperchlorhydria (High Stomach Acid)
Hyperchlorhydria is a name used to describe high levels of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). The symptoms of high stomach acid mimic that of low stomach acid and as a result many individuals are treated with medications to lower their stomach acid, when in fact the concern is low stomach acid.
Hydrochloric acid is responsible for two important functions:
- it begins the breakdown of protein by dissolving the protein in the hydrochloric acid, and
- in the presence of food it activates an enzyme called pepsin, which further breaks down protein.
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Related Symptoms and Conditions
- Peptic ulcer disease
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
- Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Type I (MEN I).
The symptoms of high and low stomach acid are similar and can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting of sour liquid or "water brash"
- Gas and Bloating
Because the symptoms of low stomach acid and high stomach acid are very similar it is important to due the appropriate diagnostic testing to ensure that the correct problem is being treated.
Here are three preliminary self tests which you can undertake at home before visiting your doctor:
- Take a small amount of baking soda in water first thing in the morning and if you have not belched within a few minutes, you may not be producing enough stomach acid, since hydrochloric acid reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas.
- Take a dose of a Betain hydrochloride supplement before the start of a meal and if you experience any warmth, burning or indigestion associated with excess acid, it is unlikely that you are suffering from insufficient stomach acid. If this happens you should be able to obtain relief by taking a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in water.
- When you are suffering with heartburn, take one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. If the lemon juice remedies your heartburn then this probably means you need more stomach acid but if your heartburn becomes worse, your stomach probably has too much hydrochloric acid.
Other studies to determine the presence of high stomach acid include:
- Heidelberg Radiotelemetric Device or Gastro-Test (which is used to determine the acidity levels in the stomach)
- GastroTest and Endoscopy
The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Hyperchlorhydria is treated by addressing the causes associated with the underlying condition.
It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.
Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND 
- McPherson RA, Pincus MR (2011) Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods: Expert Consult - Online and Print, 22e. Saunders
- Friesen SR, Tatsuo T (1981 October) Pseudo-Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome: Hypergastrinemia, Hyperchlorhydria without Tumor pseudo-Zollinger-Ellison Ann Surg; Vol194(4): 481–493.
- Cheney WF (1911 Feb) Hyperchlorhydria Cal State J Med; Vol9(2):48-51 PMID: 18735164.