What is Betaine Hydrochloric Acid?
GERD Acid reflux can be caused by a lack of Hydrochloric acid (also called HCL, HCL acid or betaine hydrochloride in supplement form) is considered one of the most important fluids (or “juices”) found in the human body.
Betaine HCl or Hydrochloric acid or Betaine Hydrochloride is a supplement that is normally recommended when you have a low amount of stomach acid (HCL). This leads to GERD, Acid reflux, weakened lower esophageal sphincter, and other GI conditions. Betaine HCL will only help your digestive issues only if they are caused by low stomach acid. If you were taking Prilosec for example, you may have been exacerbating your problem. The symptoms are usually the same for high and low stomach acid, so many people mistakenly take an antacid when they should be adding a hydrochloric acid supplement.
How can that happen, you may say– Aging and a bad diet have a lot to do with it. Stomach acid production decreases as you get older, along with a poor diet of processed foods, alcohol, bad sleeping habits, stress, and overall lifestyle changes. That is why you need increased quantities of something containing HCl to keep your digestive system working normally and properly.
How Do You Know if Your Hydrochloric Levels Are Optimal?
The first thing you need to do is to test your Betaine HCL levels to find out whether you really suffer from low quantities of HCl. This can only be done when your experienced doctor monitors the production of acid in your stomach. However, many doctors skip this procedure and immediately recommend acid blockers. This may do you more harm in the long run.
Warning: Corticosteroids and NSAIDs can increase the chances of stomach ulcers within the stomach and used in conjunction with Betaine HCL raise the likelihood of gastritis. Talk to a health care provider before attempting this test or supplementing.
Each case of poor acid in your stomach is different and is going to call for a unique dose of HCL. But a method you’ll discover in the event you have low acid in your stomach is with Betaine HCL supplementation. Most doctors recommend using 650mg or even less along with Pepsin.
How to Test Your Stomach Acid Levels
Method 1: The Betaine HCl pill test
The idea here is to dose the HCl pills until you feel a slight discomfort in your stomach. When I was low on stomach acid (due to the bacteria h.pylori), I had to take as many as seven pills to feel the warmth.
Watch for any feelings of warmth, discomfort, pain, or burning in the throat or stomach.
Meal 1, start with two capsules of Betaine HCl, at the beginning of each meal. Note: This means a full meal, not a snack. Ideally, have a high protein meal such as (grass-fed steak, pastured chicken breast, pork, lamb, or wild-caught salmon) of not less than 6 ounces of meat. In the middle of the meal take 1 Betaine HCL pill, and finish your meal as normal.
- If you experience any of these symptoms after two capsules, reduce to one capsule before the next meal.
- If these symptoms are NOT present, go to Step 3.
Meal 2, increase your dose by one capsule (this would be three capsules) of Betaine HCl at the beginning of each full meal.
- If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above (warmth, discomfort, pain or burning in your throat or stomach) decrease your dose to the level at which you had no symptoms and maintain this dose.
- If you do not feel these symptoms go to Step 4.
Meal 3, increase your dose as described in Step 3. Each meal increases the dose until you feel a warming sensation or until you reach a dose of seven capsules per meal. Do not take more than eight (8) capsules with a meal.
Looking for a trusted Betaine HCl option? I recommend this one Betaine HCl.
Method 2: Baking soda test
You can very easily do this test at home.
- Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 4-6 ounces of cold or room-temperature water first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything.
- Drink the baking soda solution.
- Time how long it takes you to belch.
- If you do not belch within 3 minutes, stop timing.
If you do not belch, you have too little stomach acid. If you belch, you are fine.
This is not the most effective test and it often produces false negatives (meaning, it makes you think you have sufficient stomach acid). I, therefore, highly recommend Method 2 below.
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Natural foods containing Betaine Hydrochloride
Unfortunately, people have reduced their salt intake because it is being blamed for a large number of diseases. What they do not know is that the salt they get at their friendly neighborhood supermarket is highly refined with all its benefits leached out of it.
Fermented foods and Zinc
Zinc is essential so that over 300 enzymes can properly function in the body, and it plays a role in processes like digestion, metabolism, and nerve health. (source). Foods rich in zinc seem to help low stomach acid levels. Therefore, fermented foods, oysters, mixed greens, pastured raised meats and cheeses (unless you can’t tolerate dairy), shellfish, pastured organic eggs, and mushrooms (I love these medicinal mushrooms).
One of the main reasons fermented foods are literally a superfood is because they help populate the microbiome or gut flora with healthy bacteria. Some of my favorites that I consume often are Kefir, Kombucha, fermented vegetables, Kimchi, and homemade organic yogurt (coconut if you are dairy-free.)
Take Apple Cider Vinegar Before Meals
One of the best foods for balancing the pH in your stomach is apple cider vinegar. I recommend taking about one to two teaspoons of high-quality ACV (I like this one the raw, fermented kind) mixed with 6-8 oz of filtered water right before you eat your main meals. Start with a smaller amount and work your way up as needed.
Apple cider vinegar is beneficial because it has a very low pH and is highly acidic, so it mimics some of the effects of gastric juices. If taking ACV helps alleviate your symptoms, such as heartburn and bloating, regurgitating, gas, etc.. consider this a sign that you’re likely dealing with low HCL production.
Try increasing your natural salts intake, like Himalayan pink salt (I like this one), and celtic salts in their purest which are necessary and healthy minerals in your diet. You may need, anywhere between 1000 – 1500 mg of these natural salts every day. That means about one small teaspoonful.
People advocating salt-free diets are not looking at the long-term harmful effects of a salt-less diet chart. And when you fall prey to digestive problems, because your body cannot produce enough HCl to digest food properly, they are going to blame everything except the lack of real salt!
The Importance of Supplementing Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
Do you want to know all about the importance of using Betaine Hydrochloride(HCL)? If you have studied chemistry in high school, you know all about hydrochloric acid – HCL. If you don’t remember or have a clue what it is– no worries here is the scoop:
Small quantities of this very strong acid are present in our stomachs and is an important aid to digestion. This acid along with other important acids like pepsin, Amylase, and Triapsin act on food particles and break them down into smaller pieces for digestion. That is why often you may find yourself regurgitating food that tasted very sour and felt like a burning sensation.
This is acid reflux and the sour taste is due to the HCL – hydrochloric Acid – which was used during digestion.
If indeed after testing you suspect you are lacking HCl and continue to suffer from digestive problems, step up your natural healthy Himalayan, sea salt, or Celtic salt intake, or get the purest form of Betaine HCl (try it here)!
However, make sure your symptoms are not those of someone suffering from GERD-Acid Reflux.
So How Does Betaine Hydrochloride Work to Benefit You?
Firstly, its presence in your stomach in the initial stages of digestion is going to break up all the food particles into easily managed digestive particles. This mixture called “chyme” should have enough of water, so remember to drink water when you are eating something. The rest of the digestive procedure is going to take place in the small and the large intestines, with all the nutrients extracted and absorbed by the body and the wastes eliminated. All the alkaline secretions neutralize the acid in the next part of the digestive procedure before elimination.
This procedure can only be done when there are adequate quantities of Beta hydrochloride/HCl in your body. This acid also serves as an agent to destroy any sort of harmful bacteria which we may have ingested with our meals.
Please note that, If low acid secretion is associated with a certain bacteria (H. pylori), then eliminating the bug can remedy the situation. Apple cider vinegar is one of the best defenses against H. Pylori. However, you may need to get see (preferably a functional or Naturopathic physician) to get rid of H. Pylori at the root cause. Additionally, it is wise to supplement any nutrient you are deficient in because of low stomach acid. In the case of B12 deficiency, injections may be necessary.
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