Betaine is one of the many nutrients that help our body to function well and stay healthy. As such, the betaine must be consumed within a balanced diet through the foods that naturally contain it. It is found in meat and vegetables and is responsible for breaking down (amongst others) fats and proteins in our body. Among the foods that contain more betaine are broccoli, spinach, shellfish, red beets, and quinoa.
In general, people consume about 1 gram of betaine per day consuming a standard diet, but the amount increases for those following the Paleo diet.
What is Betaine HCL?
When there are problems of low stomach acid, the diet is not sufficient to produce the desired effect and may require the introduction of Betaine hydrochloride.
Betaine HCL increases the levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is necessary for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients in the food. Normal levels of hydrochloric acid are necessary for the complete digestion of proteins and for the absorption of amino acids. It’s also necessary for the extraction of vitamin B12 from food. Betaine HCL helps us then to restore the levels of acid in the stomach and maintain proper gastrointestinal function.
From the book “The Paleo Diet” by Robb Wolf (pages 396-397).
Although only a small part of digestion takes place in the stomach, the large part of the signaling mechanisms that take place later in the digestive process is initiated by a high concentration of acid in the stomach. Many people are afraid of stomach acid due to gastric reflux, but most of these problems is not the result of high levels of insulin and intolerance to cereals . A low acidity of the stomach or an inflamed pancreas due to intolerance to cereals, an unbalanced intestinal flora or high levels of insulin can reduce the amount of digestive enzymes released in the small intestine, thus making it less effective digestion.The digestive support is especially important if you have had bowel problems in the past, suffer from autoimmune disease or a high degree of systemic inflammation.
What causes a reduction in stomach acid?
There are many possible causes for the failure of acidity. The hydrochloric acid is produced only in the presence of protein and is inhibited by the presence of sugars and starches. Diets high in carbohydrates, particularly when associated with inadequate amounts of protein (such as vegetarian and vegan diets), are a very common cause of low acidity. Hypothyroidism suppresses the production of gastrin, a hormone needed to signal the production of acid. The lack of some nutrients (vitamin B1, zinc and vitamin C are necessary for the production of acid) may also be responsible, in addition to overeating at meals, combining foods in the wrong way, consuming too much alcohol, or chronically suffering from stress and anxiety .
Bacterial contamination of the small intestine (SIBO)
The abbreviation “SIBO” stands for “Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth” (small bowel bacterial owergrowth) and refers to a chronic infection of the small intestine. The infection is derived from bacteria that normally inhabit the gastrointestinal tract, but are in excess of the area in which they reside.
In doing so, the excess bacteria interfere with the normal digestion and absorption of food, a result of damage to the wall of the small intestine (leaky gut syndrome). In essence, these excess bacteria:
- Consume the food ingested over time leading to a deficiency in nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 (causing anemia).
- Consume the food that we cannot absorb because of the damage present at the intestinal wall, creating further bacterial overgrowth.
- After eating our food, produce gas, causing bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence, constipation and/or diarrhea.
- diminish the capacity of absorption of fats
- Through the increased intestinal permeability, “large” particles of food are not completely digested, enter the bloodstream, triggering a reaction of the immune system that can cause inflammation, allergies, and intolerances.
- The same bacteria can enter the bloodstream causing (through a response of the immune system) chronic fatigue and burdening the liver.
It’s just a reminder that 60% of the immune system is in the intestines, while antibodies that protect us from infection live in the intestinal wall. This wall has been damaged by the “bad” bacteria that triggered the bacterial contamination, and thus the ability of the intestine to protect itself is reduced, triggering a vicious circle.
If this is the problem, throw out probiotics
When we talk about bowel problems, without distinction between the colon and small intestine, one of the first remedies of which we speak is the intake of probiotics. Now, on this topic (and the interests of those who produce them and sell them) you could write pages and pages.
The truth is that bacteria play a minor role in the digestive process. The first six meters of intestine (small bowel) contain very few bacteria (less than 1000 bacteria per milliliter of fluid against the billion per ml of fluid of the colon) and in this first section, digestion uses of bile acids and enzymes. Any concentration greater than 1000 bacteria per ml of fluid in the small intestine is classified as “bacterial overgrowth”.
Basically, if your problem or syndrome diagnosis contains the words “bowel or small intestine”, the bacteria are not the real problem, because the bacteria are not part of the digestive process in the small intestine. If the problem contains the words “bacterial overgrowth”, you already have too many bacteria, and adding new ones (probiotics) will not help you. With a reduced intestinal capacity for self-defense, the “good” bacteria (probiotics) may be in excess as much as the bad bacteria, causing similar adverse effects (gas, bloating, abdominal distension).
According to Dr. Mark Pimentel: “Another problem related to the integration of probiotics is that in patients with reduced purifying capacity of the small intestine, the situation gets worse, because probiotics accumulate in the small intestine where they should not be” .
Reflux, heartburn, acidity, bacterial overgrowth and carbohydrates
Gastroesophageal reflux and heartburn are not caused by too much acid in the stomach, but are caused by low acidity and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach and intestines. So, the solution to the problem requires the restoration of the proper acidity in the stomach and small bowel bacterial elimination dell’overgrowth.
A diet rich in carbohydrates promotes bacterial overgrowth. In the presence of bacterial overgrowth, Helicobacter pylori infection can suppress stomach acid. One of the roles of the acidity of the stomach is to inhibit bacterial overgrowth. With a pH of 3 or less than 3 (the normal pH of the stomach), most bacteria do not survive for more than 15 minutes. But when the stomach acids are not sufficient and the pH reaches 5 and beyond, the bacteria begin to proliferate. This creates a vicious cycle where one reinforces the other, to the detriment of the digestive function.
In the book Heartburn Cured, Dr. Norm Robillard says that although microbes can metabolize both the protein and fat, their preferred energy is composed of carbohydrates. The fermentation of carbohydrates that are not digested properly produces gas, increasing the intra-abdominal pressure which is the main cause of reflux and heartburn. In his book, Norm Robillard writes:
“According to the researchers Suarez and Levitt, 30 grams of carbohydrates that escape absorption in one day can produce over 10 gallons of gas.”
The acidity of the stomach supports the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates through the release of pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine. If the pH is too high (insufficient acidity), pancreatic enzymes will not be secreted and carbohydrates not decomposed correctly.
It goes without saying that in the presence of this problem, a diet low in carbohydrate content can reduce the bacterial overgrowth.
How to find out the appropriate dose of Betaine HCL
The best thing to do is ask your doctor. Alternatively ..
- Eat a meal that contains at least 15-20 grams of protein.
- Start with one capsule of Betaine HCL (usually 650 mg) before the meal.
- Stay with the same dose for a couple of days. If the third day you don’t experience any “heat” (at the base of the sternum, at the junction of the ribs), add a capsule.
- Stay with two capsules for a couple of days. If you do not notice differences on the third day, add another capsule.
- When you experience this “heat”, you have reached your limit and then you’ll have to take a capsule. Suppose then that you feel the warmth of the Sixth recruitment capsule, in that case, you should go with 5 capsules per meal.
- if you consume a snack or a meal without “too much” protein, you will not need a lot of Betaine HCL (if the snack is composed of only carbohydrate type fruit, Betaine will be highly ineffective).
- if you suffer from low stomach acid and cannot supplement with betaine HCL, there are natural alternatives such as lemon juice, vinegar or the juice of sauerkraut (homemade and therefore not pasteurized). These are some alternative methods (but certainly not equivalent to betaine HCL… and pepsin). In fact, these methods do not increase the assimilation and absorption of nutrients like betaine HCL.
- According to Dr. Wright: “paradoxically adverse symptoms are more likely in people with lower levels of stomach acid. This happens because these people probably suffer from atrophic gastritis (stomach wall very thin) which makes them more sensitive to even small amounts of betaine HCL compared to people with stomach walls thicker and more resistant. In these cases, it is worth to start with natural remedies (lemon juice, liquid from sauerkraut, vinegar) or with small doses of Betaine HCL (350 mg per meal, half capsule).
- In his book “The Paleo Diet”, Robb Wolf suggests not to exceed 5 capsules per meal even in the absence of the sensation of heat, staying at this dose until you begin to hear it. When that happens, whatever your dosage, you begin to remove one capsule per meal until you will not be able to digest your food without supplements.
However (following the reading of some texts), the stomach is naturally able to withstand extremely acidic environments. For example, if your correct starting dose is 2400mg but you go with 1200mg, you’re not helping your stomach.
Precautions and Side Effects of Betaine HCL
Given the possible side effects and interactions with other medicines, supplements should be taken only under the supervision of your doctor. The main side effects of betaine HCL include diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea. Patients with kidney disease or are very overweight should not take betaine as it may increase levels of cholesterol when taken with folic acid and vitamin B6. Same thing for people who take anti-inflammatory medicines. If it’s not your doctor to prescribe intake and dosage.