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How much is too much Betaine HCL?

by (260)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:30 PM
Created September 15, 2011 at 7:35 PM

Lately I have been suffering from horrible, almost constant heartburn - that occurs both with an empty and full stomach. I have started Betaine-HCL and NOW Superfoods, and definitely experience relief, especially when taking the former. However, despite taking up to 10 pills at one time (now I take usually 2-3 with meals) I have never experienced that warm feeling I have read about. Is it possible my stomach is too low to even feel any warmth at 10 pills? Should I resume taking very high amounts of this? or could there be another issue? Any ideas? I also suffer from Ulcerative Colitis, eczema, and acne.

Af9e23fd927bacc1ad31e83db69f454e
0 · December 19, 2013 at 4:23 PM

That's funny, I recently saw someone named "Char" post something similar to this post recently for another question. Although the details were not the same (i.e. amount of pills taken and when). Is this a real person?

Aff97e82eccef9d957abdd7317f72457
180 · October 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM

how many MG per meal are you taking?

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4359 · January 30, 2012 at 2:25 PM

I've changed my view on this since I wrote it. I still don't think there is evidence for widespread stomach acid deficiency, as proponents of the low-acid theory claim. That said, it could still be the acid that is helping. Perhaps, acid before a meal is not confronted with buffering bile salts, with the result that the small intestine is exposed to lower ph than would be typical from a meal- and perhaps it is this acid wash kills bacterial overgrowth. Seems possible since kombucha seems wot work just as well for me, if not better, as betaine HCL.

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78417 · September 16, 2011 at 7:40 AM

Great discussion. +1 for Cannabis. On related note, if AH is problematic, taking Choline + Piracetam will boost it up for sure.

85026a0abe715229761956fbbee1cba0
78417 · September 16, 2011 at 7:39 AM

+1 for Cannabis.

85026a0abe715229761956fbbee1cba0
78417 · September 16, 2011 at 7:36 AM

Sounds reasonable. Low acid means higher bacterial content means ulcers means damaged epithelium means more acid will do harm.

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4359 · September 16, 2011 at 1:34 AM

Thanks -- that's my own theory. Could be total crap but I like it. Better than the low-acid theory which seems definitely wrong.

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18671 · September 16, 2011 at 1:24 AM

No idea. Thanks!

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19469 · September 15, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Everything that I've read about Betaine says that you should wait until your heartburn is under control and your esophagus is back in good working order before taking it. However, if you are feeling relief it may be due to some other mechanism like the "esophageal tightening via acetylcholine" that Jay spoke to in his answer.

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19469 · September 15, 2011 at 10:44 PM

Interesting take on the reasons why betaine is effective. I haven't heard of anyone taking the "acetylcholine angle" before. Definitely worthy of further investigation AND upvoted!

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19469 · September 15, 2011 at 10:42 PM

I don't see why your comment would warrant a downvote, so I'm upvoting in protest.

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24528 · September 15, 2011 at 10:35 PM

There seems to be some rampant downvoting here without explanation, what's up?

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18671 · September 15, 2011 at 9:52 PM

What about my answer warrants a downvote, I wonder? A comment would be nice.

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4359 · September 15, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Agree with this -- see my post for another reason why betaine HCL might work that has nothing to do with low stomach acid.

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24528 · September 15, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Heartburn sucks! I am so sorry you are going through this. My nutritionist was very clear that I needed to heal my gut before adding the betaine. She had me do a month of aloe juice before starting. I think your heartburn may an exaggerated form of the "warm feeling" people speak of, you just have rawness from GERD so it burns more. I used to get heartburn if I took more than I needed. Does it cease if you stop or decrease the betaine to 1 capsule?

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18671 · September 15, 2011 at 8:35 PM

ROB, it didn't, but, I didn't take it very long, because one capsule was giving a burn, which is supposed to indicate it's not needed.

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18671 · September 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Ah, well, scratch that theory, then, Kristen.

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3521 · September 15, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Did HCL improve your rosacea??

Cad33a3c7874ebf0f6885e9a8d1d22a3
260 · September 15, 2011 at 7:52 PM

I've been taking the capsules.

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11 Answers

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
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4359 · September 15, 2011 at 9:34 PM

There are three things that cause reflux in my opinion.

  1. Weak connective tissue that leads to a hiatal hernia. Pure speculation, but I would eat more copper, zinc, gelatin, magnesium, fat soluble vitamins (especially vitamin K).

  2. Upwards pressure from colonic fermentation of indigestible fiber (the short chain fatty acids seem to act like a signal to slow down digestion, probably to give the body time to extract all those extra fermentable calories). Google FODMAPS. They cause GERD, from 5-15 hours after meal time. Limit them and you will have no GERD!

  3. Weak lower esophageal sphincter pressure. This is a matter of wear after a period of stress (e.g., the day after you eat a lot of FODMAPS) or have been awake for a long time. Protein tightens the LES, ice does too, calcium carbonate too. Fat weakens it, so does peppermint. The LES is also under central nervous system control. So, marijuana helps. More importantly, certain other neurotransmitters may help. Some of them have cardiac complications - that's why neurotransmitters are NOT a common therapeutic target for GERD. That said, acetylcholine increases LES pressure, which is important because... betaine may upregulate acetylcholine, leading me to my last point:

If betaine HCL does help GERD, there are other plausible mechanism that have nothing to do with the HCL or pepsin in it. In particular... the betaine! Since betaine may upregulate acetylcholine which tightens the lower esophageal sphincter, the effect on acetlycholine may account for the benefit that some people experience (especially since most people report relief don't after until at least a few days to weeks of pill popping - they are filling up bodily stores of acetylcholine in thta time). Instead of betaine HCL, perhaps you should just eat eggs, liver, and heart or spinach and wheat bran, if you digest them well.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · January 30, 2012 at 2:25 PM

I've changed my view on this since I wrote it. I still don't think there is evidence for widespread stomach acid deficiency, as proponents of the low-acid theory claim. That said, it could still be the acid that is helping. Perhaps, acid before a meal is not confronted with buffering bile salts, with the result that the small intestine is exposed to lower ph than would be typical from a meal- and perhaps it is this acid wash kills bacterial overgrowth. Seems possible since kombucha seems wot work just as well for me, if not better, as betaine HCL.

85026a0abe715229761956fbbee1cba0
78417 · September 16, 2011 at 7:40 AM

Great discussion. +1 for Cannabis. On related note, if AH is problematic, taking Choline + Piracetam will boost it up for sure.

85026a0abe715229761956fbbee1cba0
78417 · September 16, 2011 at 7:39 AM

+1 for Cannabis.

4781cf8ae1bfcb558dfb056af17bea94
4359 · September 16, 2011 at 1:34 AM

Thanks -- that's my own theory. Could be total crap but I like it. Better than the low-acid theory which seems definitely wrong.

Thumbnail avatar
19469 · September 15, 2011 at 10:44 PM

Interesting take on the reasons why betaine is effective. I haven't heard of anyone taking the "acetylcholine angle" before. Definitely worthy of further investigation AND upvoted!

Af005ec9a8e028f2b04bf5367b64e0d6
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2797 · September 15, 2011 at 7:46 PM

I'm skeptical about the idea that most people have low stomach acid and that taking HCl caplets until you feel a warm feeling is a solution. Poliquin seems to be disconnected from most of the science behind gastroenterology:

http://tnation.t-nation.com/free_online_forum/diet_performance_nutrition_supplements/rebuttal_to_charles_poliquins_article_on_stomach_acid_ (sorry for the tnation link, not a t nation article just reposted there)

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4359 · September 15, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Agree with this -- see my post for another reason why betaine HCL might work that has nothing to do with low stomach acid.

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3717 · September 15, 2011 at 10:02 PM

I take Betain HCL as well with meals. I am down to about 2-3 250 mg capsules with each meals, and sometimes 4 if I am going to have a larger, more protein dense meal (e.g. a big steak). I find that the warmth gets created if I take the capsules approximately 5 minutes before eating the meal than if I take them right before. I've also noticed the warmth if I take them a few minutes after I have finished eating. One other observation is that the warmth is more noticeable/easier to come by at breakfast than at dinner.

All I can advise is to experiment with timing and dosage. I would advise that you be careful with the dosage. Ultimately, your goal is to reduce GERD and improve digestion. If you think that occurs with 3 pills despite not having a warm feeling, then stay at 3.

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18671 · September 15, 2011 at 7:39 PM

Are you taking tablets or capsules?

I tried this once, and my experience was that taking 10 tablets did nothing, but taking a single capsule created the warmth.

Interesting that you got relief without feeling that, though. My issue wasn't heartburn, but rosacea, so I didn't have any direct feedback like that. I guess if it's giving you relief, then the warmth doesn't really matter.

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18671 · September 16, 2011 at 1:24 AM

No idea. Thanks!

Thumbnail avatar
19469 · September 15, 2011 at 10:42 PM

I don't see why your comment would warrant a downvote, so I'm upvoting in protest.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b
24528 · September 15, 2011 at 10:35 PM

There seems to be some rampant downvoting here without explanation, what's up?

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · September 15, 2011 at 9:52 PM

What about my answer warrants a downvote, I wonder? A comment would be nice.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · September 15, 2011 at 8:35 PM

ROB, it didn't, but, I didn't take it very long, because one capsule was giving a burn, which is supposed to indicate it's not needed.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · September 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM

Ah, well, scratch that theory, then, Kristen.

742ff8ba4ff55e84593ede14ac1c3cab
3521 · September 15, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Did HCL improve your rosacea??

Cad33a3c7874ebf0f6885e9a8d1d22a3
260 · September 15, 2011 at 7:52 PM

I've been taking the capsules.

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0 · September 27, 2013 at 6:30 PM

I just started hcl. I took 1capsal with every meal and 1 at bed time. I ended up with really bad heartburn in the night. Any thoughts? Should I continue upping my dose or is this just not going to work for me. The reason I started HCl is because I've got extreme bloating, constipation and hair loss. Every now and again I'll get that egg burps extremely bad stomachache and throwing up.

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38 · August 09, 2013 at 4:39 AM

Article from Chris Kresser:

"In Dr. Wright’s clinic, most patients end up at a dose of 5-7 650 mg capsules. In my more limited experience, 3-4 capsules is the norm."

I get the warm sensation after 4 x 650mg tablets so have 3 with every meal.

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20 · August 09, 2013 at 1:24 AM

I have had GERD for 3 years and picked up some Betaine with pepsin (650mg of betaine). I took one with dinner and within 15 mins of eating I burped up the betaine and my throat was burned and I couldn't quit coughing...I had to take a tums :(. Does this mean I am not taking enough or I am just sensitive to it?

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0 · October 19, 2012 at 4:22 AM

I've taken Bettaine HCL w/ Pepsin in the past and I am taking it now (9 capsules morning and evening). 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!!

Af9e23fd927bacc1ad31e83db69f454e
0 · December 19, 2013 at 4:23 PM

That's funny, I recently saw someone named "Char" post something similar to this post recently for another question. Although the details were not the same (i.e. amount of pills taken and when). Is this a real person?

Aff97e82eccef9d957abdd7317f72457
180 · October 19, 2012 at 8:21 AM

how many MG per meal are you taking?

8b7336876b8456903adff7f7061cf411
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0 · February 12, 2012 at 9:26 AM

Don't discount that acetylcholine link if kombucha is working for you. Guess what: compounds in kombucha stimulate acetylcholine production. Surprise!

C8b3837ee3a38cb2b0d284f21224fa92
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0 · January 30, 2012 at 6:05 AM

To the person who stated they don't get the burning sensation: I am experiencing the same thing but I still have very bad heartburn despite taking full doses of beatine for 3 weeks. Did you ever experience the burning/ warmth. How long after you started the beatine did you get relief rom your symptoms?

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566 · September 15, 2011 at 7:52 PM

If I recall correctly, Robb Wolf recommends taking no more that 6 NOW Foods caps at a meal, even if you don't get the warmth.

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