Betaine hydrochloride (HCL) is a type of alkaloid which may alleviate cases of heartburn by increasing the level of hyrochloric acid in the stomach.
Having enough HCL is critical for good digestion and immune health. Without adequate HCL food is not completely digested and failure of assimilation occurs. If this happens, we become vitamin and mineral deficient. When we start to eat, our stomach is stimulated to start producing HCL. The HCL activates the chief cells in the middle portion of the stomach to start secreting a protein-digesting enzyme known as pepsinogen. Pepsinogen requires the presence of hydrochloric acid in order to begin digesting protein. The major role of HCL is to activate pepsinogen (not digest food), which now becomes known as pepsin.
Stomach acid gradually increases during a meal. When the stomach acid amount is elevated, which normally takes about 20-30 minutes after eating, it neutralizes enzymes from the mouth, helps to kill bacteria, parasites, viruses that enter with the food, carbohydrate digestion is reduced, and protein digestion starts. There are many consequences when HCL production is not adequate, a few of which are:
Malnutrition – reduction of absorption of nutrients from foods
Iron deficiency anemia, owing to poor iron absorption
Osteoporosis, resulting in part from decreased calcium absorption