Autoimmune gastritis (AIG) is characterized by the destruction of gastric parietal cells, resulting in hypochlorhydria and eventual achlorhydria, as oxyntic glands in the corpus are destroyed and become atrophic. The permanent loss of gastric acid has many impacts—both theoretical and documented. The most concerning of these are hypergastrinemia and increased N-nitroso compounds, both of which increase the risk of gastric cancers. While known deficiencies of B12 and iron are often replaced in AIG, acid is not. Moreover, patients with AIG are often prescribed acid suppression for a stomach that is decidedly no longer acidic, worsening the sequelae of gastric atrophy. Betaine hydrochloride (BHCL) is a short-acting acidifying agent, available over the counter in capsule form. Mealtime acid supplementation has an historic basis and could ameliorate many AIG-related gastrointestinal symptoms. Theoretically, acidification could also reduce the potential for hypergastrinemia and the production of N-nitroso compounds, consequently reducing the risk of gastric cancers. Supplemental vitamin C may also help in preventing gastric N-nitroso formation, regardless of the gastric pH. This narrative review describes the functions of gastric acid in gastrointestinal and immune health, documents the effects of hypochlorhydria in AIG, and proposes potential options for safely re-establishing the acid milieu of the stomach for patients with AIG.

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