Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride & Gastrointestinal System: The Importance of Fluoride Concentration in Stomach

March 28th, 2012

The following is an excerpt from the National Research Council’s (2006) review of fluoride toxicity:

“It is important to realize that GI effects depend more on the net concentration of the aqueous solution of fluoride in the stomach than on the total fluoride dose in the fluid or solid ingested. The presence of gastric fluids already in the stomach when the fluoride is ingested can affect the concentration of the fluoride to which the gut epithelium is exposed. The residual volume of stomach fluid ranges between 15 and 30 mL in people fasting overnight (Narchi et al. 1993; Naguib et al. 2001; Chang et al. 2004). Such volumes would decrease the fluoride concentration of a glass of drinking water by only about 10%. In Table 9-1, the concentrations of fluoride in the stomach were estimated from the mean reported fluoride exposures. A dilution factor was used when it was clear that the subjects already had fluid in their stomach. The results from the water fluoridation overfeed reports (concentrations of fluoride in the stomach between 20 and 250 mg/L) indicate that GI symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, are common side effects from exposure to high concentrations of fluoride.

Fluoride supplements are still routinely used today in areas where natural fluoride in the drinking water falls below 0.7 mg/L. In an early clinical trial using fluoride supplements, Feltman and Kosel (1961) administered fluoride tablets containing 1.2 mg of fluoride or placebo tablets to pregnant mothers and children up to 9 years of age. They determined that about 1% of the subjects complained of GI symptoms from the fluoride ingredient in the test tablets. If it is assumed that the stomach fluid volume after taking the fluoride supplement was approximately 250 mL, the concentration to which the stomach mucosal lining was exposed was in the neighborhood of 5 mg/L. GI effects appear to have been rarely evaluated in the fluoride supplement studies that followed the early ones in the 1950s and 1960s. Table 9-1 suggests that, as the fluoride concentration increases in drinking water, the percentage of the population with GI symptoms also increases. The table suggests that fluoride at 4 mg/L in the drinking water results in approximately 1% of the population experiencing GI symptoms.”
SOURCE: National Research Council. (2006). Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. National Academies Press, Washington D.C. p 229-230.