Solved! The digestion problem for Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
(And those horrible symptoms you suffer)
Some years ago, I had five troubling issues: (1) extreme lack of energy (2) numbness in my feet, (3) a sore tongue, (4) being less social than usual, possibly because of my lack of energy, & (5) a relatively short temper, unlike me. What should I do?
I could have (1) kept track of my sleep cycle plus quit drinking coffee, (2) bought a TENS unit for my feet, (3) got checked for glossopharyngeal neuralgia or gone on a food elimination diet—or both, (4) forced myself to interact more with my co-workers, & (5) gone to a therapist for the temper problem.
Fortunately, my doctor said, “I believe you have a B-12 deficiency,” and gave me a shot. Three days later, all the symptoms were gone. Wow. Five symptoms, one treatment.
How does this relate to your hyperemesis gravidarum? Very well, I believe. Too often, doctors treat one HG symptom with this medication and another problem with another medication, That commonly happens with HG. I believe there’s a solution that can handle all your HG symptoms. Here goes.
The Hyperemesis Gravidarum Research Foundation (HER) is an excellent organization for women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and morning sickness (NVP). Check it out for guidance at https://www.hyperemesis.org/
One of their articles I took note of, back in 2013, mentioned digestion as a significant problem for HG women. A recent HER article (3) listed symptoms from delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis), which is undoubtedly a problem for HG women. A few signs were constipation, flora and pH imbalances, & GERD. That same article mentioned low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) which limits protein breakdown. But, medical journals and blogs include other symptoms: heartburn, vomiting, excess saliva production (ptyalism), vitamin B-1 deficiency, dehydration—all related to poor digestion.
Should we treat these issues separately? I’d suggest you try one treatment that may treat them all just like the doctor’s success with me and without side effects.
Here it is. What HG women often lack is sufficient stomach acid (hypochlorhydria). Might increasing stomach acid cure all your HG ills? Yes. Why treat constipation, heartburn, dehydration & malnutrition (PICC lines, anyone?), weight loss, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies individually? This one item can stop everything for many sufferers. Is your stomach acid level strong enough to digest food? Probably not when you have HG.
Doctors rarely check for stomach acid,(6) but they should if they suspect a deficiency (5) . Unfortunately, most doctors probably don’t suspect hypochlorhydria in HG women. I surveyed women in an HG Facebook group, and from over 30 responses, not one doctor checked for their acid levels. Yet, for almost 100 years, we've known that HG women are often low or actually absent stomach acid (1). In another survey in that same Facebook group, I asked what liquids helped them, and 38 of 41 said bubbly drinks like cokes, sprite, etc. Why would that be? Those drinks are acidic, and your stomach says, “yes” to those.
Did your doctor check your stomach acid levels? One article said doctors should check gastric pH as part of the diagnosis but then added there is no way to increase stomach acid (2). That’s NOT true. In fact, an article in WebMD (7) says your doctor can prescribe betaine hydrochloride capsules to restore your stomach’s pH (acid level). They are available over the counter, too, but talk to your doctor before trying.
You might say, “Hey, I have GERD and heartburn from acid reflux, and don’t dare increase my stomach acid.” Not so. The reason you have the reflux is a digestion problem (see the HER comment above). Once your stomach acid is normal, you’ll be able to eat again, and your stomach acid won’t be coming back up. Problem solved.
Check out my book, How to Stop Hyperemesis Gravidarum on Amazon, for further information.
Here’s hoping you talk to your doctor about taking acid supplements because it could change your life—well, at least your pregnancy.
Anderson, D.F. (1932). Gastric acidity in emesis and hyperemesis gravidarum. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of British Empire, 29, (3), 558-565.
Fatima R, Aziz M. Achlorhydria. [Updated 2021 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507793/
HER. Gastrointestinal Complications. Retrieved on 12/18/21 from https://www.hyperemesis.org/about-hyperemesis-gravidarum/complications/gastrointestinal-complications/
Jednak, M.A. Shadigian, E.M., Kim. M.S., et al. (1999). Protein meals reduce nausea and gastric slow wave dysrhythmic activity in first trimester pregnancy. American Journal of Physiology, 277 (4, Pt. 1). G855-G861.
Kohli, D.R., & Anand, B.S. (2016). Achlorhydria. Available from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/170066-print.
Schubert, M.L., & Peura, D.A. (2008). Reviews in basic and clinical gastroenterology: Control of gastric acid secretion in health and disease. Gastroenterology, 134, 1842-1860. DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.05.021
WebMD. (2020). What is Hypochlorhydria? https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-is-hypochlorhydria