8

votes

What good or bad is betaine-HCl?

Asked on June 02, 2015
Created July 08, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Betaine-HCl is often recommended to increase stomach acid and thus digestion. However, I found this comment by Art Ayers in which he refutes that it would work. Could it actually be counter-productive? What about a supplement that not only contains betain, but also enzymes like pancreatin, papain and bromelain?

At the link that you cite, they were advocating adding a salt, betaine-HCl, to increase stomach acid. This is silly. The betaine is a weak base and when it is neutralized with HCl, you get the salt. That just means that it acts like a buffer to maintain a particular pH, it is not going to acidify any more than adding NaCl. Betaine is, however, an interesting compound that may interfere with heparin-based signaling.

The point here is that alteration of stomach acid levels is not caused by the contents of a single meal and indicates more profound problems, such as the most likely, Hp infection.

I don't buy the impact of stomach acid levels on protein digestion and some consequence of proteins slipping through. That isn't consistent with how digestion works. The peptic enzyme hydrolyze proteins differently than the subsequent pancreatic proteases. This is interesting with respect to antimicrobial peptide production, but I don't think that there is going to be a systematic impact on immunity. Those proteins and large peptides do not get across an intact intestine. Leaky gut is required. COX inhibitors would be more likely problems.

Vinegar and lemon juice are not going to acidify the stomach. They contain weak acids, acetic and citric acids, that will actually act as buffers and neutralize stomach acid. That doesn't mean that they are not useful, because they are very helpful in dissolving biofilms.

Original Comment

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 13, 2011
at 07:41 AM

But how does a rat tell you it's tummy hurts?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 13, 2011
at 07:39 AM

The protocol I was put on called for gut healing with aloe juice for 2 weeks, and then introducing the betaine.

Fe87afa634afe26f4f6fd956abe0b46a

(565)

on July 09, 2011
at 04:36 PM

Here is a great article about digestion written for the layperson: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/you_are_what_you_absorb It's a thorough run from mouth to... the end. It says this about Betaine HCL: "This a good source of hydrochloric acid, a naturally occurring chemical in the stomach that helps digest food by breaking up proteins and fats. The low pH of HCL also destroys ingested bacteria and microorganisms that can make you sick and compromise gut integrity."

Fe87afa634afe26f4f6fd956abe0b46a

(565)

on July 09, 2011
at 01:21 AM

Anecdotally I find Betaine HCL to be VERY effective for digestion. I can feel and see the difference. I've tried just betaine HCL supplementation, as well as the NOWfoods Super Enzymes that Robb Wolf recommends. I prefer the Super Enzymes. I find it hard to believe that many big names in the fitness business are wrong about this.

  • 2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

    asked by

    (1520)
  • Views
    46.8K
  • Last Activity
    1143D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

12 Answers

4
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 08, 2011
at 10:26 PM

I don't have any science to back up my answer here, just personal experience. At times in my life when I've had heartburn, betaine supplements with meals for a few days has stopped it completely. I always attributed it to improving my stomach acid so food wasn't sitting around half digested in my stomach and causing problems, but who knows if that was what really happened.

2
E42bbeb8dd9964683c46a000dbc3e3c1

(20)

on September 06, 2012
at 01:28 AM

Inulin/chicory root allergy and/or fructose mal- absorption disorder will cause terrible gas and terrible abdominal pain.

If this goes on undetected, since doctors don't understand or address the problem, the colon is damaged which leads to infections. Constant infections can lead to a need to remove part of the colon. Take my word for it, that hurts.

Inulin/chicory root is now added to kefirs, yogurts, breads, ice creams, protein bars (Kashi), cookies(Kashi), etc, etc. it is identified as a healthy fiber and a miraculous prebiotic. If your digestive system is not ok, research inulin and fructose malabsorption.

No one in the medical community or the government is doing anything about this disaster. But, we can save ourselves.

2
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on July 12, 2011
at 09:34 PM

I may not be a biochemist, but countless studies show that lower stomach acid through acid-reducing drugs lowers immunity (several studies on pneumonia and SIBO for example) and reduces digestion of many nutrients. So I think the evidence for hypochloridia being an issue is strong. As for betaine HCL there isn't much evidence and I found that a tablespoon of ACV in water works just as well and is cheaper, but I do not know the mechanism behind why it improves digestion. Perhaps Art is right about that, there are some studies in rats that have his proposed mechanism.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 13, 2011
at 07:41 AM

But how does a rat tell you it's tummy hurts?

2
072fd69647b0e765bb4b11532569f16d

(3717)

on July 09, 2011
at 03:01 AM

Like Happy Now, all I have is an n=1 story to tell. My digestion is significantly better with the digestive support than without it. I no longer have indigestion; have more regular bowel movements; and actually have an appetite, whereas before supplementing with betaine HCL, I had the opposite of each of these.

1
3808580ce08ffe6009ec200696a5a08f

on June 04, 2012
at 07:42 AM

I just started taking Betaine HCL. I am hoping it helps my severe constipation (maybe go once a week), bloating and excessive gas. I have read that Betaine HCL doesn't do anything to help low stomach acidity and that there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. I have also read that it DOES help and people have reported this via their own experience.

I am fairly thin with the exception of my gut, which tends to bloat. It's embarassing and there is nothing I can do that seems to work. I also have a severe vitamin D deficiency, which would make sense if I'm unable to breakdown and absorb any nutrients. I need to square my health insurance out and go see a professional. Until then... I am my own doctor :/ with the help of these forums.

1
Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5

(18472)

on July 12, 2011
at 09:40 PM

I was taking Betaine HCL months ago because when I switched to low-carb back in August, I developed heart burn. It persisted for a long time, and after about a billion hours of research, I finally got ahold of some Manuka honey, which I took one tablespoon per day for about 2 months solid. (trigs?)

It really helped with my heartburn, but I stopped taking months ago and I still get heartburn every now and then. I settled into the notion that it has to do with gut flora not being diverse enough. I did notice that the more diverse my diet (even eating crappy non qualifying foods), the less I felt the heartburn.

I also wonder if caffeine plays a role. I drink a small amount of coffee 5 days a week in the mornings. I am going to go cold turkey on all caffeine and see how I feel.

The Betaine HCL pills didn't seem to do me a lick of good, seriously. I wasn't consistent with them, but I don't really think low stomach acid was my problem. Weird too, when I told Dr Ayers that I was taking betaine, he didn't mention anything about the quote you referenced above, which is dated well before I got to him. I wonder why. Maybe his opinion of betaine had changed by that time.

1
F1b39d4f620876330312f4925bd51900

(4090)

on July 12, 2011
at 09:27 PM

My doc had me take betaine HCL because she said my tummy troubles were symptomatic of low stomach acid. It made my whole digestive track burn like fire (so did apple cider vinegar for that matter). (I did numerous trials in the month between my appointments). Now she is saying my stomach acid levels are too high. Go figure.

Update: The betaine was causing me issues because I was severely inflammed. Now that I elimated soy-fed poultry and pork, I no longer have an inflammed digestive tract. Now I am experimenting again with Betaine. So far I am taking 2 pills with each meal and there is no burning. My digestion has not improved yet....

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on July 13, 2011
at 07:39 AM

The protocol I was put on called for gut healing with aloe juice for 2 weeks, and then introducing the betaine.

0
Da1fdb4a726c50f0e4e96d6d644015a0

on August 23, 2013
at 09:01 PM

just got some betaine hcl today... 1 capsule a day... i have alot of acid that moves around in my lower digestive region and what not... been like that 10 years.... anxiety causing it ...but we see how it goesmar

0
F8fb7f16a02306405a796cc670a0f3f9

on December 03, 2012
at 08:22 PM

I did not have positive results with betaine-HCL, in fact I had really bad results with it. For a very long period of my life I had terrible acid reflux - to the point of vomiting a few times a day ( mind you, this was when I was 330LBS.) Even though I lost backstreet boy worth of weight, I still had issues with acid reflux and would take PPI's whenver it would get really bad. I read Chris Kresser's post on HCL and Pepsin and gave it a whack. I did it as suggested, taking the smallest pill dose possible. I still had acid reflux and it seemed to get worst when I took it. I continued taking it - yes, not the best idea but honestly I thought it would take a while to get the results - and my acid reflux got to the point where the acid was destroying my throats ( I'm a singer, so this is really bad). I went a head a quit, and took nothing for a couple of weeks - the acid reflux was light but still persistent. I took PPI's for about a week and the acid reflux subsided. My acid reflux toned down a lot since then. I now take a lot probiotics and eat fermented dairy and it's seemed to keep things in check for the last couple of months, whether that's a cause or correlation I'm not sure.

0
44c5b03ba347df9d0443614e63cea687

(0)

on December 03, 2012
at 07:11 PM

I had been having digestive issues for 2 years before taking BETAINE HCL. My labs were always normal even though my stomach was always twisted up. I had low immunity, bloating, gas constipation,infection, and gastritis. I tried ACV, but my stomach would boil. So I did a colon, liver, heavy metal, and kidney cleanse, and still had bloating and indigestion.So, one day I took the BETAINE for gas, not knowing that the whole 2 years, my stomach acid was low. The infection was gone in 3 days. After taking it for one month, my stomach feels brand new like a baby compared to before. With a clean system, I was able to get off of the BETAINE and now take ACV before each meal. The ACV now goes down smoothly. Making sure that my colon and liver are clean seem to be key for me to make sure the BETAINE works at its best.

0
34201e3a9d3f0ec455f35c06c73843cc

on October 19, 2012
at 04:12 AM

I've taken Bettaine HCL w/ Pepsin in the past and I am taking it now. My digestion was awful!! It takes a few days for the B-HCL to kick in. I always have to exceed the dosage (way beyond protocol) in order for it to work. I exceed the amount because when taking it as directed, there is no effect. I take a handful of supplements and herbs - so without B-HCL, nothing gets absorbed. I feel a "slight" burning in my stomach that lasts for only about 5 minutes. That's when I know it's working. My BM's are normal (1-2 times per day-every other day) and there's no more ongoing burping. The gas has decreased a whole lot and I'm also seeing the positive effects in my skin and hair. I can't go by any research, I just go by results! Everyone is different and what works for some, might not work for others and vice versa. I just love the slight "burning" sensation because it's telling me that it's working and I see great results! The burning isn't uncomfortable at all. I take more when I eat heavy proteins and make sure that I take it right before taking my supplements or eating my food. It works for me!!

0
369ea85f287f437d656104106b5203b7

on February 17, 2012
at 03:47 PM

I've been taking Betaine HCL for a couple of months now, after a long struggle with what was misdiagnosed as high acidity. I was on PPIs for years and they only made my condition that much worse. Right now, on the Betaine, I am much better. I just can't figure out the dosage I need. Apple cider vinegar works when I already have heartburn but it doesn't replace Betaine for me as a low acidity remedy. I am on a mostly paleo diet, though recently I started eating yogurts again because without them, I get really bad gas (and probiotics don't help). As soon as I start on the yogurts, the gas disappears within a couple of days.

If anyone has better suggestions, I am open to those!

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!