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Acid-blocking proton pump inhibitor drugs (the little purple pills), antacids, and other heartburn medications work by reducing stomach acid levels. But sometimes heartburn and indigestion are not caused by high stomach acids levels at all. In fact, these unpleasant symptoms can be triggered by low stomach acid levels. Betaine HCl, a natural supplement, may help solve this complex riddle that begs the question: Why would you take a pill to further decrease your low levels of stomach acid?
A better, more natural approach to indigestion relief, successfully used by many practitioners and patients of natural medicine, is to treat hypochlorhydria—the condition of low stomach acid production.
If hydrochloric acid secretion is measured and hypochlorhydria is documented, or if stomach acid output is believed to be low, betaine HCl capsules can be taken on a trial basis; if they work, they can be continued indefinitely. In fact, one of the top natural heartburn remedies is to begin a therapeutic trial of supplemental betaine HCl and see if that brings indigestion relief.
What Is Betaine HCl?
Betaine HCl is a naturally occurring, acidic form of betaine, usually derived from beets. Even if you do not undergo gastric pH analysis, a trial of betaine HCl can be safely undertaken, as outlined below, for mild heartburn and indigestion relief.
If you have been diagnosed with GERD or are currently taking an acid-suppressing drug (such as a proton pump inhibitor), you should discontinue your medication on your own. Consider working with a qualified integrative physician to determine which natural heartburn remedies may be right for you.
The procedure for taking betaine HCl as one of the natural heartburn remedies is as follows:
- On Day 1, start with one capsule (usually 8-10 grains, or 500-600 mg) of betaine HCl, at the beginning of each meal. (Note: This means a full meal, not a snack.).
- Monitor for any side effects—a warming sensation, discomfort, pain, or burning in the throat or stomach. If you experience any of these symptoms after just one capsule of betaine HCl, stop. (You likely do not have a problem with low HCl and need a different form of treatment for indigestion relief, such as melatonin or d-limonine.) If these side effect symptoms are not present, proceed to Step 3.
- Increase your dose by one capsule (this would be two capsules or a total of 16-20 grains for Day 2) of hydrochloric acid (betaine HCl) at the beginning of each full meal. If you note any of the above side effects, decrease your dose to the level at which you had no side effects (the day before) and maintain this dose. If these side effect symptoms are still not present, proceed to Step 4.
- Increase your dose as described in Step 3. Each day increase the dose until you feel a warming sensation or until you reach a dose of five capsules of betaine HCl per meal. Do not take more than five (5) capsules with a meal without working in conjunction with a physician. This process will increase your stomach acid to just the right level to properly digest your food, thus working as one of the best completely natural heartburn remedies.
One precaution is that betaine HCl should not be used at the same time as aspirin, ibuprofen, corticosteroid drugs, or other anti-inflammatory medications. These medications can cause stomach bleeding and ulcers, and betaine HCl can aggravate ulcers.
The Anti-Aging Benefits of Betaine HCl
Taking betaine HCl with meals not only can bring indigestion relief and serve as one of the most effective natural heartburn remedies, but it will improve digestion and help provide all the benefits of improved absorption and assimilation of nutrients.
Without treatment of hypochlorhydria, keep in mind that enzyme systems, cells, tissues, and organs can’t repair themselves, and we age faster. So don’t be fooled by the myth of “acid indigestion.” If you are searching for non-drug, safe, and natural heartburn remedies and indigestion relief, find out if the problem really is low stomach acid production. If you have hypochlorhydria, correct it with betaine HCl. You’ll be helping your body heal naturally and function optimally.
For related reading, see these University Health News posts:
- Is Your Heartburn Medication Putting You at Risk for Osteoporosis?
- Looking for Genuine Relief for Gastritis Symptoms?
Do You Have Experience with Betaine HCL?
Some of you may already be successfully using betaine HCL one of the top natural heartburn remedies and for better digestion of your foods. If so, please tell us your experience. You’ll be helping thousands of other readers who are just now learning about this as a possible solution to their heartburn woes. Place your experience in the “Comments” section following the end of this article.
Originally published in 2013, this post is regularly updated by the editors of University Health News.