How to Take Hydrochloric Acid Supplements (HCL)

© Copyright Bee Wilder, Revised September 21, 2011

Revised March 5, 2009 to correct instructions on "when" to take HCL, so it is taken 30–45 after meals, rather than during a meal.
Revised September 21, 2011 to add the maximum number of milligrams of hydrochloric acid to take per meal is 5,000 mg.

Digestive problems like heartburn, called acid reflux (GERD, or Gastroesophageal reflux disease), stomach upsets, nausea, heaviness after eating, etc. are caused by low stomach acid, not high stomach acid (called hydrochloric acid or HCl).

What is confusing is that the symptoms of high stomach acid and low stomach acid are exactly same. People who have candida/yeast overgrowth usually have low stomach acid.

Having enough HCl is critical for good digestion. If the chyme (mixture of food, water and HCl) emptying from the stomach into the first part of the small intestines, called the duodenum, does not contain enough HCl and fluids, the pancreas will not be stimulated enough to produce digestive enzymes and bicarbonate of soda in the small intestines.

Bicarbonate of soda is very important since the mixture must be neutralized (made alkaline) for proper digestion to continue in the intestines. Therefore it is most important to increase HCl in the stomach, making the pancreas do its job, since it would be impossible to get baking soda into the duodenum.

For more information on digestion and how to increase stomach acid with foods, herbs, and spices see Stomach Acid Problems.

How to Take Betaine Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) Supplements

Taking betaine hydrochloric acid is one of the most important supplements for improving digestion, except for individuals who have peptic ulcers.

HCl capsules are taken in increasing doses with meals until symptoms of excess acid occur, which is a burning sensation in the stomach.

At the next meal one less capsule is taken. When the stomach starts to burn sip on this drink until the burning eases: 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 4 ounces of warm water. Sip slowly, and stop sipping when the burning feeling stops.

This is what a typical program would be:

You may need to take less capsules with some smaller meals.

  • Meal 1: Take 1 capsule 30 to 45 minutes after you’ve eaten a complete meal which includes protein, fats and carbs.
  • Meal 2: Take 2 capsules 30 to 45 minutes after you’ve eaten a complete meal.
  • Meal 3: Take 3 capsules 30 to 45 minutes after you’ve eaten a complete meal.
  • Meal 4: Take 4 capsules 30 to 45 minutes after you’ve eaten a complete meal. Sometimes it is more helpful to take some of the capsules even later than 45 minutes after meals, which will still be helpful up to 2 hours or longer after eating a meal.
  • Meal 5 & Subsequent Meals: Keep increasing HCl until you get a burning feeling in your stomach, and then take one less capsule the next meal and stay on that dose until you get a burning feeling again, and so on.
    The maximum per meal is 5,000 mg of HCl. Taking more is not helpful nor needed.

Important Notes & Tips

  • If a burning feeling or heartburn occurs mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into 4-5 ounces of non-chlorinated water, and sip it slowly until the burning stops.
  • If irritation, other than a burning sensation, occurs such as a stomach ache, sour stomach, nausea or heaviness up to 2 or more hours after a meal, take 1 or 2 more HCl capsules at that time and if you didn’t have enough fluids with your meal, drink some water.
  • If you forget to take HCl supplements, they will still be effective if taken 2 hours or more after eating.
  • Small meals or snacks do not require as many HCl capsules as large meals.
  • As digestion improves, the amount of HCl supplements can be lowered until finally a person wouldn’t require them any longer.