An estimated 30% of Americans suffer from low levels of acidity, which can result in the incomplete digestion of foods and displacement of food from the stomach. Studies have shown that HCl production decreases with age. According to one study, 30% of men and women suffer from low acid production.8 A second found that 40% of post-menopausal women lacked basal acid secretions.9 Since HCl and healthy digestive enzyme status is essential for access to nutrients from foods, depletion of enzymes and HCl can result in suboptimal nutritional status. Ongoing use of acid- reducing medications can also deplete stomach acid and lead to malabsorption of certain vitamins and minerals.
Betaine (also known as trimethylglycine) is a natural substance found in foods such as beets and spinach. Research suggests that betaine supports cell health by acting as a methyl donor, This, in turn, supports healthy methionine, homocysteine and hepatic fat metabolism. Betaine also functions as an osmolyte, which supports the integrity of cells and proteins during fluctuations in hydration, salinity and temperature. Betaine HCl, the acidic form of betaine, has been used for years to support digestion and absorption due to its ability to lower gastric pH.10,11 HCl also serves as the body’s primary mechanism against pathogens found in food.
One of the first enzymes to initiate protein digestion, pepsin is synthesized in the parietal cells of the gastric mucosa and secreted as the inactive precursor, pepsinogen. HCl activates pepsinogen to convert it to pepsin once it is outside the cell. Pepsin is released by the chief cells and is responsible for breaking down proteins into peptides. This activation sets up a chain reaction that produces more pepsin, allowing for better protein digestion.
- Bland J, Liska D, Jones DS, et al. Clinical Nutrition A Functional Approach. 2nd ed. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine. 2004.
- Giannella RA, Broitman SA, Zamcheck N. Gastric acid barrier to ingested microorganisms in man: studies in vivo and in vitro. Gut. 1972 Apr;13(4):251-6. [PMID: 4556018].
- Lovat LB. Age related changes in gut physiology and nutritional status. Gut. 1996 Mar;38(3):306-9. [PMID: 8675079].
- Untersmayr E, Jensen-Jarolim E. The effect of gastric digestion on food allergy. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Jun;6(3):214-9. Review. [PMID: 16670517].
- Smolin LA, Grosvenor MB. Nutrition: Science and Applications. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2010.
- Canani RB, Terrin G. Gastric acidity inhibitors and the
risk of intestinal infections. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2010 Jan;26(1):31-5. Review. [PMID: 19907324].
- Kanno T, Matsuki T, Oka M, et al. Gastric acid reduction leads to an alteration in lower intestinal microflora. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Apr 17;381(4):666-70. [PMID: 19248769].
- Krasinski SD, Russell RM, Samloff IM, Jacob RA, Dallal GE, McGandy RB, Hartz SC. Effect on hemoglobin and several serum nutritional indicators. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1986 Nov;34(11):800-6. Fundic atrophic gastritis in an elderly population.
- Grossman MI, Kirsner JB, Gillespie IE. Basal and histalogstimulated gastric secretion in control subjects and in patients with peptic ulcer or gastric cancer. Gastroenterology 1963;45:15-26.
- CraigSA.Betaineinhumannutrition.AmJClinNutr.2004 Sep;80(3):539-49. Review. [PMID: 15321791].
- NewYorkUniversityLangoneMedicalCenter.Betaine Hydrochloride. http://www.med.nyu.educontent? ChunkIID=21560. Last Reviewed 2011. Accessed March 23, 2012.
Always be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new nutritional supplement when pregnant or nursing. For children, we recommend speaking with your child's pediatrician regarding proper dosing. Store away from children.