What is hydrochloric acid?
Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is produced naturally in the stomach and is the main component of the gastric acids that let you break down and digest food. (Hydrochloric acid is also manufactured synthetically for industrial use.)
For IV infusions, HCl is diluted and buffered (put in a stable solution to maintain the desired pH level).
What is hydrochloric acid good for in terms of health?
IV hydrochloric acid has been used in the medical field for several decades. It was often used to stimulate the immune system to help fight infection but became less popular after introducing antibiotics. With the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, HCl is again being used for its antimicrobial properties.1
Hydrochloric acid kills bacteria and viruses in the stomach before they have a chance to spread infection. Too little HCl in your stomach puts you at higher risk of infection and damage to your gastrointestinal tract.
HCl is also essential for proper digestion. Low stomach acid can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Feeling bloated/gassy
- Stomach upset, nausea & diarrhea
- Wanting to eat even though you know you’re not hungry
Chronic or severe HCl deficiency impairs your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from food. This can lead to more severe symptoms, including:
- Vitamin & mineral deficiencies
- Protein deficiency
- Weak, brittle hair and/or fingernails
- Undigested food passing through the digestive system
Several chronic health conditions are linked to insufficient stomach acid, including allergies, thyroid problems, skin issues, autoimmune disorders, and metabolic alkalosis2.
What causes low HCl?
Several different things can cause low levels of stomach acid:
- Stomach surgery, including gastric bypass surgery
- Long-term use of medications such as antacids or PPIs
- Chronic stress
- Being 65 years of age or older
- Being deficient in B vitamins or zinc
- Having a feeding tube
- Barbaric D, Curtin J, Pearson L, Shaw PJ. Role of hydrochloric acid in the treatment of central venous catheter infections in children with cancer. Cancer. 2004 Oct 15;101(8):1866-72. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.20562. PMID: 15386305.
- Wagner CW, Nesbit RR Jr, Mansberger AR Jr. Treatment of metabolic alkalosis with intravenous hydrochloric acid. South Med J. 1979 Oct;72(10):1241-5. DOI: 10.1097/00007611-197910000-00008. PMID: 482977.