Betaine hydrochloride is an acidic form of betaine, a vitamin-like substance found in grains and other foods. Betaine hydrochloride is recommended by some doctors as a supplemental source of hydrochloric acid for people who have a deficiency of stomach acid production (hypochlorhydria).
A deficiency of gastric acid secretion increases the likelihood and severity of certain bacterial and parasitic intestinal infections. A normal stomach’s level of gastric acid is sufficient to destroy bacteria.1 In one study, most fasting people who had normal acidity in the stomach had virtually no bacteria in the small intestine. Some bacterial colonization of the stomach occurred in people who had low levels of hydrochloric acid.2
Where is it found?
Gastric acid is produced by the parietal cells of the stomach. The acidity is quite strong in a normal stomach. In fact, the stomach can be between 100,000 and almost 1,000,000 times more acidic than water.
Betaine hydrochloride (HCl) has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
Rating Health Concerns
Helps with :
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Iron-deficiency anemia (as an adjunct to supplemental iron)
Who is likely to be deficient?
Some research suggests that people with a wide variety of chronic disorders, such as allergies,3 asthma,4 and gallstones,5 do not produce adequate amounts of stomach acid.
How much is usually taken?
Betaine HCl is the most common hydrochloric acid-containing supplement. Normally it comes in tablets or capsules measured in grains or milligrams. Only people who have reduced levels of stomach acid (“hypochlorhydria”) should take betaine HCl; this condition can be diagnosed by a doctor. When appropriate, some doctors recommend taking one or more tablets or capsules, each 5–10 grains (325–650 mg), with a meal that contains protein. Occasionally, betaine (trimethylglycine) is recommended to reduce blood levels of a substance called homocysteine, which is associated with heart disease. This form of betaine is different from betaine HCl.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Large amounts of betaine HCl can burn the lining of the stomach. If a burning sensation is experienced, betaine HCl should be immediately discontinued. People should not take more than 10 grains (650 mg) of betaine HCl without the recommendation of a physician. All people with a history of peptic ulcers, gastritis, or gastrointestinal symptoms—particularly heartburn—should see a doctor before taking betaine HCl. People taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cortisone-like drugs, or other medications that might cause a peptic ulcer should not take betaine HCl. Betaine HCl helps make some minerals and other nutrients more absorbable.6 7