The Health Benefits of Betaine Hydrochloride

Boosts Stomach Acid

Betaine hydrochloride (also known as betaine HCI or betaine HCL) is a chemical compound produced in laboratories. It is believed to increase stomach acid.

In the past, betaine hydrochloride could be found in over-the-counter (OTC) digestive aids as a source of hydrochloric acid, a key component of stomach juices that some people are low on.

However, in the late 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned betaine hydrochloride from use in OTC products because there was not sufficient evidence for it to be considered “generally recognized as safe and effective.”

Although you can still find betaine HCL in the form of a dietary supplement, few studies have been done to elucidate what effects it may have.

Digestive problems may lead you to try betaine hydrochloride
 Antonio Diaz / iStock / Getty Images

Health Benefits

Betaine hydrochloride is commonly marketed as a supplement that can be taken for a slew of conditions, but little research exists on its purported health benefits.

Some doctors may recommend betaine HCL as a source of hydrochloric acid for people who do not produce enough of it due to a health condition called hypochlorhydria

Otherwise, despite many claims from promoters and alternative medicine practitioners, there is insufficient evidence that betaine HCL can be taken for any of the following reasons:

  • Promote healthy stomach pH
  • Enhance protein and vitamin absorption 
  • Reduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Reduce symptoms of food allergies 
  • Reduce symptoms of gallstones 
  • Support heart health
  • Fortify joints 
  • Reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Improve asthma symptoms 
  • Protect the liver 
  • Fight yeast infections

While betaine HCL does deliver hydrochloric acid, research has only revealed a short-term effect on stomach acid content. This may help counteract the effect of certain drugs and in turn aid in the absorption of other drugs, per a 2014 study. That said, more studies are needed to fully examine this potential effect. 

More research is needed to elucidate many potential health benefits of betaine hydrochloride supplements.

Possible Side Effects

Unfortunately, not enough research has been done on betaine hydrochloride in order to know if it’s safe to use. According to a 2016 report published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, one potential side effect is heartburn. 

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking betaine HCL since there’s no information on how it may affect you or your baby. 

Because betaine HCL can boost the amount of hydrochloric acid in your stomach, it may irritate stomach ulcers or prevent them from getting better. For this reason, it’s best not to take betaine HCL if you have a peptic ulcer or live with peptic ulcer disease.

Dosage and Preparation

Betaine hydrochloride supplements are available in the form of tablets or capsules and can also be bought in bulk as a powder. 

Currently, there is no recommended dosage for betaine HCL. As such, the amount found in supplements can vary quite a bit. Often, you’ll find betaine HCL in supplements that also contain pepsin, a digestive enzyme.

If you’re considering adding a betaine HCL supplement to your treatment regimen, make sure to talk to your doctor and pharmacist before you make a big purchase. With their help, you can make an educated decision in light of any potential risks or medication interactions based on your personal medical history.

It’s important to keep in mind that little is known about betaine HCL and how it may (or may not) work for various health conditions. In light of this reality, it’s essential that you consult with a healthcare professional before you start taking it. 

What to Look For

Because more research is needed on betaine hydrochloride and the FDA does not regulate supplements, it’s best to lean on your doctor and pharmacist for help choosing the right supplement for you.

They can guide you toward the best dosage for your needs and recommend a trustworthy manufacturer certified by a third party such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or Consumer Lab. 

Remember: Companies cannot claim that a supplement can treat, diagnose, cure, or alleviate the effects of a disease, per the FDA. If a supplement manufacturer or promoter is making big, unsubstantiated claims, that’s a red flag. 

Other Questions 

How long does it take betaine HCL to work?

Betaine HCL can rapidly affect stomach acid levels, with a measurable albeit short-term impact within three to six minutes, per a 2013 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics. Other purported effects of betaine HCL have not been adequately studied.  

Should I take betaine HCL with every meal? 

Always consult with your doctor before taking betaine HCL. They’ll provide dosage and timing instructions that best suit your individual needs.

A Word From Verywell 

While some studies have shown that betaine HCL can increase short-term stomach acid levels, more research is needed to test the safety and efficacy of this supplement as well as its long-term effects. For these reasons, make sure to consult with your doctor before you take it.

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  1. Yago MR, Frymoyer A, Benet LZ, et al. The use of betaine HCl to enhance dasatinib absorption in healthy volunteers with rabeprazole-induced hypochlorhydriaAAPS J. 2014;16(6):1358-1365. doi:10.1208/s12248-014-9673-9

  2. Kines K, Krupczak T. Nutritional interventions for gastroesophageal reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypochlorhydria: A case reportIntegr Med (Encinitas). 2016;15(4):49-53.

  3. Yago MR, Frymoyer AR, Smelick GS, et al. Gastric reacidification with betaine HCl in healthy volunteers with rabeprazole-induced hypochlorhydriaMol Pharm. 2013;10(11):4032-4037. doi:10.1021/mp4003738

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