Original Article here: GERD – Treat it with Betaine Hydrochloride?.
Betaine and GERD seem an odd couple to many people. GERD involves stomach acid washing back into the esophagus. Betaine hydrochloride is acid. Logically, it would seem that reducing the amount of acid would lessen the problem while increasing acid would make the problem worse. Why would you want to use betaine hydrochloride for GERD?
Betaine and GERD are, nevertheless, thought to be a potentially effective combination. Many naturopathic physicians believe that a supplement of betaine hydrochloride can relieve GERD, not by reducing stomach acid, but by increasing it.
Conventional Medical Treatment of GERD
Conventional treatment of GERD always involves reducing stomach acid. Beginning with simple heartburn, people take antacids, not acids. Taking an acid supplement sounds paradoxical. If heartburn leads to GERD, doctors prescribe medications that “turn off the acid pumps” in the stomach. Again, the treatment aims to reduce the amount of acid, not increase it.
Naturopathic Treatment of GERD
One theory, however, proposes that the very reason GERD is present is that the stomach lacks enough acid to fully digest proteins in the food. These food proteins cause allergic reactions and other responses within the stomach. Taken together, the responses cause increasing flows of acid into the esophagus.
In conjunction with that theory, it is believed that stomach acid decreases as we age. The lower levels of acidity allow the ring of muscle that closes off the lower end of the esophagus (LES) to relax. As it no longer squeezes the opening shut, stomach juices flow back into the esophagus.
A supplement that will increase the acid in the stomach is thought to create the right amount of pepsin to keep the LES closed as it should be.
Betaine and GERD are thus connected as a perfect treatment.
A research study done in Brazil sought to determine whether GERD relief could be obtained with a betaine hydrochloride supplement. In a single, blind randomized study, 176 patients underwent GERD treatment using the supplement and 175 received GERD treatment of 20 mg omeprazole – commonly known to the non-medical community as the “purple pill”.
Betaine hydrochloride would raise stomach acid levels, while omeprazole would lower acid levels by inhibiting the “pumps” that produce it. The betaine hydrochloride supplement would have no known side effects. Omeprazole had a number of unwanted side effects such as: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, rash, dizziness, nervousness, abnormal heartbeat, muscle pain, weakness, leg cramps, and water retention.
Patients participating in the study recorded in a diary both symptoms and changes in severity of symptoms. What were the results?
* All patients who used a betaine hydrochloride supplement for GERD treatment reported complete regression of symptoms after 40 days.
* Only 65.7 percent of patients who used omeprazole for GERD treatment reported regression of symptoms in the same period.
Betaine hydrochloride appears to be an effective GERD treatment. More research should be done on this.
CAUTION: Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of betaine in GERD treatment is lacking. This article is for educational purposes only. Please discuss it with your physician.