Heartburn And HCL Supplementation By Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench.com
Everybody gets heartburn now and then and nobody likes it. Strangely enough, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart—it just feels like it does. I can't say with 100% certainty that this is true but I believe that it gets its name from the fact that some people confuse its symptoms with a heart attack. Though the symptoms and severity vary from person to person, heartburn feels like a heat sensation or feeling of warmth in and around the chest. This is why some people confuse it with a heart attack. This discomfort may reach up to the neck or even into the jaw. Some people also note pain in their back. A sour taste is generally experienced when stomach juices reach the mouth.
Heartburn symptoms might last anywhere from just a few minutes on up to several hours. It is usually brought on by the foods we eat. People who suffer from certain gastro-intestinal diseases or illnesses are more prone to developing heartburn than healthy people.
The process of digesting the foods we eat is very complex, beginning the moment we place the food in our mouths and not finishing until the remnants head out the back door about 12 to 24 hours later. In digesting foods, Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) plays a very important role, starting the process of breaking down protein, activating pepsin (an enzyme that further breaks down protein) and contributing to the breakdown and utilization of minerals—particularly calcium.
HCL has other very important functions as well, stimulating the release of pancreatic enzymes and bile into the small intestine. Both of these facilitate the absorption of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins into the bloodstream.
It is a common misconception that heartburn is the result of too much stomach acid—particularly HCL. In reality though, the reverse is true. While there can be multiple causes of heartburn, one of the most common instigators is a lack of HCL, not an overabundance of it. When the body doesn't produce enough HCL, it slows the digestion process, causing food to sit in the stomach much longer than it would otherwise. The undigested food hanging around the stomach then brings on the heartburn.
When a person's body doesn't produce enough HCL, a condition known as Hypochlorhydria arises. In addition to frequent heartburn, other symptoms of Hypochlorhydria may include excessive burping, belching, bloating, sour stomach, constipation or diarrhea. Today, there are tests that medical professionals can run to specifically identify Hypochlorhydria.
When most people experience these symptoms, they reach for an over-the-counter antacid, which is exactly the one thing you don't want to do. While these may temporarily alleviate the 'burning' sensation, in the long-run they may actually be contributing to the problem, making it worse.
Because the problem is the result of a lack of HCL production, not over production, supplementing with Betaine Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) has helped a lot of people overcome the problem. Note the difference—we're talking about supplementing with HCl (little 'l'), not HCL (capital 'L'). HCl is an over-the-counter supplement available in tablets or capsules that are taken right before you eat a meal.
When someone decides to start supplementing with HCl, the first thing they need to do is determine the proper dosage that is right for them. It's usually recommended that the person start by taking one tablet (or capsule) before each meal for about three days so you can gauge how your body is going to react. If this doesn't produce a burning sensation or cause your symptoms to get worse then you can increase the dosage to two tablets at the start of each meal. Again, you'll want to keep doing this for about three days so you can how your body is going to react. You can keep doing this up until you reach a maximum dosage of five HCl tablets or capsules with each meal. Remember that you should take the HCl just before or right at the start of your meal.
If at any time you start experiencing a burning sensation in your stomach or your existing symptoms start to worsen, that is your indication that you are overdosing with HCl and should cut back to the previous level. For example, if taking four HCL tablets or capsules causes a burning sensation or your symptoms to get worse, then you should cut back to three tablets with each meal.
If you feel you are experiencing Hypochlorhydria you should probably seek the advice of a medical professional to be certain. Strangely enough, the symptoms of excessive stomach acid production are almost identical to insufficient stomach acid production. You want to be sure you're treating the right problem before beginning any regimen because the last thing you want to be doing is making it worse.