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).
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):
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Iron-deficiency anemia (as an adjunct to supplemental iron)
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Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
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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.
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.4 5
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with Betaine Hydrochloride.
1. Kokkonen J, Simila S, Herva R. Impaired gastric function in children with cow’s milk intolerance. Eur J Pediatr 1979;132:1–6.
2. Gillespie M. Hypochlorhydria in asthma with specific reference to the age incidence. Q J Med 1935;4:397–405.
3. Fravel RC. The occurrence of hypochlorhydria in gall-bladder disease. Am J Med Sci 1920;159:512–7.
4. Murray MJ, Stein N. A gastric factor promoting iron absorption. Lancet 1968;1:614.
5. Russell RM, Krasinski SD, Samloff IM, et al. Correction of impaired folic acid (Pte Glu) absorption by orally administered HCl in subjects with gastric atrophy. Am J Clin Nutr 1984;39:656.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.