At particularly high risk are those persons with an anacidic stomach. Anacidity of the stomach may be caused by gastric mucosal atrophy (atrophic gastritis) or the by use of antacid medication.
A stomach is considered anacidic if the pH of gastric acid increases permanently above 4.5. Many people suffering from anacidic stomach may have a pH value as high as 6.5–7.5, or completely neutral.
Anacidity of the stomach results from either the destruction of gastric-acid-secreting cells due to gastric mucosal atrophy (atrophic gastritis), or the regular use of antacid medication that prevent the normal function of acid-secreting cells.
Risks associated with an anacidic stomach
There are several known risks associated with an anacidic stomach. When the pH of stomach acid is too high, bacteria and yeasts are able to grow and reproduce in the stomach. These microbes increase vulnerability to infections and accelerate the conversion of alcohol in foods and beverages into acetaldehyde, which is classified by the WHO as a carcinogenic substance.
Insufficient acidity of the stomach can also cause malabsorption and deficiencies of calcium, iron and vitamin B12, which are linked to disorders including osteoporosis, anaemia and dementia. Atrophic gastritis increases the risk of gastric cancer by a factor of 90.
Symptoms of an anacidic stomach
An anacidic stomach can cause a variety of non-specific symptoms that may be similar to those of heartburn. Other symptoms include a feeling of pressure in the stomach, stomach pains or gas and belching during and after meals. In many cases, however, an anacidic stomach is nearly asymptomatic or the symptoms are difficult to identify as unusual, particularly if the condition has persisted.