Gastric acid (also known as stomach acid) is produced by the walls of the stomach for dissolving food. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is one of the elements of gastric acid. Because hydrochloric acid is a strong acid, it makes up only 5% of total stomach acid. Potassium chloride, or KCl, and sodium chloride, or NaCl are the other elements, which make up a large part of stomach acid.
Why is HCl Important for the Stomach?
- Helps in Digestion of Proteins: A key function of HCl is to help in digestion of proteins. HCl does so by maintaining an optimum pH level in the stomach. The pH levels of the stomach vary in the range of 1-2 upto 4-5. A high protein meal may cause the stomach pH levels to drop to as low as 1. HCl creates an optimum acidic environment to convert pepsinogen, an inactive stomach enzyme, into active pepsin enzyme. Pepsin is a powerful enzyme, which is used for digestion of proteins. If the body doesn’t produce enough HCl, digestion of protein becomes difficult.
- Destroys microorganisms: Another key function of hydrochloric acid in the body is to destroy microorganisms in the food particles. The acidic environment created by HCl helps in preventing food poisoning. It also prevents digestive problems by limiting yeast, parasites, viral and bacterial infections.
- Helps in absorption of Vitamin B12: Among all the vitamins, B12 has the most complex structure. HCl helps in the absorption of Vitamin B12. Also known as the energy vitamin, B12 is essential for the health of nerves, red blood cells and the immune system. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to fatigue, dizziness, and brain fog.
Low stomach acid is the main cause of acid reflux. One way to ensure your body gets enough HCl is through Betaine + Pepsine (B+P) supplements. The recommended dosage varies from 1 to 7 capsules of 650 mg each with a heavy protein meal. You can determine your dosage based on your comfort and results.
Note: Betaine+Pepsin supplements are not recommended for people using pain medication (NSAIDs) as it can lead to internal bleeding. If you’re on NSAIDs, consult your doctor to determine the right combination and dosage of B+P for you.