HCl, or Hydrochloric Acid, 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 isn't 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 adequate acid environment. 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. It is crucial that the ability to produce acid, pepsin and intrinsic factor is lost altogether in patients with complete gastric atrophy.
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. For those who have heartburn because of hypochlorhydria, antacids or medications which reduce acid production may bring relief of the heartburn but can lead to poor digestion and contribute to dysbiosis, leaky gut, and food allergies. It has also been provent that stress can impair HCL production. The most common thing that goes wrong with our digestion as we age—and the root of many digestive problems—is a condition known as hypochlorhydria.