This supplement can aid digestion if you have low stomach acid
Jul 25, 2023
Betaine HCl is currently known to help with digestion when a person has low stomach acid. However, it is also being researched for other potential benefits. — 123rf.com
Betaine hydrochloride, also known as betaine HCl or trimethylglycine hydrochloride, is a chemical compound derived from the amino acid glycine.
It is commonly used as a dietary supplement and as an ingredient in some over-the-counter (OTC) digestive enzyme preparations.
In addition to its role in digestion, betaine HCl is also being studied for its potential benefits in other areas.
Some research suggests it may have a positive impact on exercise performance, liver health and cardiovascular (heart) function. However, further studies are needed to establish these potential benefits more conclusively.
One condition betaine HCl might be able to help in terms of digestion is hypochlorhydria.
Too little HCl
Hypochlorhydria is a medical condition characterised by abnormally low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
Hydrochloric acid plays a crucial role in the process of digestion, particularly in breaking down food and activating digestive enzymes.
When the stomach does not produce sufficient levels of hydrochloric acid, it can lead to various digestive problems and nutrient deficiencies.
Several factors can contribute to the development of hypochlorhydria.
Some common causes include ageing, chronic stress, certain medications (such as proton pump inhibitors and antacids), Helicobacter pylori infection, autoimmune conditions affecting the stomach lining (such as autoimmune gastritis), and certain medical procedures involving the stomach.
Hypochlorhydria can manifest with a range of symptoms, including, but not limited to:
These symptoms include bloating, gas, indigestion, belching, diarrhoea and constipation.
Insufficient stomach acid can impair the absorption of essential nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and certain minerals.
Paradoxically, low stomach acid can sometimes lead to symptoms resembling acid reflux, as the lower acidity can cause the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) to relax, allowing acid to flow upward into the oesophagus.
Hypochlorhydria is typically diagnosed through a combination of symptoms, medical history and diagnostic tests.
Some common methods used to assess stomach acid levels include gastric pH testing, the Heidelberg pH capsule test and the betaine HCl challenge test.
In some cases, lifestyle modifications like stress reduction, dietary changes (such as consuming smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding trigger foods), and proper chewing techniques can help.
In certain instances, supplementation with betaine HCl may be recommended under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Betaine HCl is primarily used to support digestion.
It provides a source of hydrochloric acid, which, as mentioned earlier, is an essential component for the the activation of digestive enzymes and optimal nutrient absorption.
Therefore, in cases where low stomach acid is the underlying issue, betaine HCl may be beneficial.
However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using betaine HCl for acid reflux or any digestive condition.
They can help determine the appropriate dosage and duration based on individual needs.
Other potential benefits
While betaine HCl is primarily known for its role in digestion, there is ongoing research exploring its potential health benefits beyond digestive support.
Although more studies are needed to establish these benefits more conclusively, here are a few areas of interest:
Betaine HCl supplementation has been studied for its potential to enhance exercise performance.
Some research suggests that it may improve power, strength and endurance in athletes.
Betaine HCl is thought to increase nitric oxide production, which can improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
However, more research is needed to determine optimal dosages and its effectiveness across different populations.
Betaine HCl may play a role in supporting liver health.
Studies have shown that it can help reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver, known as hepatic steatosis or fatty liver.
It is believed that betaine HCl promotes the metabolism of fats and helps prevent liver damage.
However, further research is necessary to determine the exact mechanisms and potential therapeutic applications.
Some studies suggest that betaine HCl may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.
It has been associated with reducing levels of homocysteine – an amino acid that, when elevated, is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
By reducing homocysteine levels, betaine HCl may help support cardiovascular health.
However, more research is needed to establish a clear link and determine optimal dosages.
Preliminary studies have explored the potential cognitive benefits of betaine HCl.
It has been suggested that betaine HCl may improve memory and cognitive performance.
However, more research is necessary to understand the mechanisms involved and to establish its effectiveness in cognitive support.
Taking supplements safely
Betaine HCl supplements are available in tablet or capsule form.
The dosage may vary depending on the individual’s needs and the product.
It is typically recommended to start with a low dose and gradually increase the dose while monitoring for any negative reactions.
Betaine HCl supplements are generally safe for most people when taken as directed.
However, it’s important to use them responsibly and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Some individuals may be more sensitive to betaine HCl supplements than others.
Taking high doses or having an underlying condition, such as gastritis or peptic ulcers, may increase the risk of adverse effects.
Therefore, individuals with a history of gastric ulcers, gastritis or other gastrointestinal conditions should use betaine HCl with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
This is as these conditions may be exacerbated by increased stomach acid levels.
It is not recommended for individuals with a history of hyperchlorhydria (excessive stomach acid).
As with any dietary supplement, it’s important to prioritise your overall health and consult with a healthcare professional to determine the suitability and appropriate usage of betaine HCl for your specific needs.
They can provide personalised advice based on your individual circumstances and help monitor for any potential adverse effects.
Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a functional medicine practitioner. For further information, email [email protected]. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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Thank you for your report!Too little HClDigestive issuesNutrient deficienciesHeartburnOther potential benefitsExercise performanceLiver healthCardiovascular functionCognitive functionTaking supplements safelyDatuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a functional medicine practitioner. For further information, email [email protected]. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.Related stories: