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The HCL Challenge (Gas, Bloating, Constipation)


cover of hcl challenge test with your stomach locked in barbed wire

dr hugh wegwerth chiropractor rosemount minnesota


The HCL Challenge-

Optimal digestion is super important for your body to work right. One big reason for digestive issues is not having enough hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach. The parietal cells in your stomach are the ones that make this acid. HCL is key because it helps break down the food you eat.

When you munch on fats, proteins, and carbs, HCL gets the digestion process rolling. If your stomach doesn't have enough HCL, you might face some annoying digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and other issues.

To figure out if your stomach has the right amount of hydrochloric acid for perfect digestion, you've got to try the HCL challenge.



Impact of Low HCL in Digestive Process

For apt understand, let's say north is your stomach and south is for pooh. Therefore, the digestion process starts from north and goes south. So, you need first to ensure you chew your foods properly. Then the food goes into the stomach after chewing. You need to have enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach for this to happen because inadequate hydrochloric acid in the stomach disrupts the normal digestive process. Inadequacy HCL causes your food to leave your stomach and go into your small intestine.



If your body doesn't produce enough hydrochloric acid (HCL), it means the parietal cells in your stomach aren't doing their job properly. This lack of HCL affects other parts of your digestive system too. For instance, your pancreas won't get the signal to produce the necessary digestive enzymes, and your gallbladder won't be prompted to produce bile. This leads to a shortage of both pancreatic enzymes and bile acid. These deficiencies can disrupt your gastrointestinal (GI) system, causing issues like poor gut health, constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and more. Therefore, undergoing a hydrochloric acid challenge test is important. It helps determine the right supplements to take and the best digestive programs to follow in order to repair and restore your gut health.


pancreas and its enzymes important to balance in hcl challenge by Dr. Hugh Wegwerth

You might try various supplements and GI protocols, like glutamine, aloe vera, mushrooms, licorice, and other specialized options, to increase your hydrochloric acid levels. However, if you still find yourself lacking enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach after these efforts, don't worry. Keep reading this post until the end. I'm going to recommend some highly effective, yet affordable, capsules that can help repair and restore your gut health. Additionally, I'll share the detailed protocol that I've used for the past ten years to successfully reverse chronic degenerative conditions and GI issues in my patients.


The Problem of Undigested Protein and Its Effect

The problem of undigested large protein molecules can be a major issue for your digestive health. Normally, if your digestive enzymes and bile acids are functioning well, they break down proteins efficiently, allowing them to be absorbed into your gut without causing inflammation. However, when there's a lack of sufficient hydrochloric acid (HCL), digestive enzymes, and bile acid, these proteins remain undigested.

For example, consider lactose that isn't properly broken down. This results in large protein molecules, which can cross the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream - a place they're not supposed to be. When your immune system detects these misplaced lactose molecules, it starts to attack them, leading to widespread inflammation. This inflammation can cause a variety of health issues, including brain fog, chronic fatigue, muscle and tendon pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, and various thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. All these conditions can stem from a leaky gut caused by poor digestion.


bottle of betaine HCL pepsin for gut health

drawing of stomach lining showing how hydrochloric acid is made in hcl challenge

Improving Your HCL and Digestion

Improving your HCL (hydrochloric acid) levels and digestion can be achieved with the help of a supplement called Betaine HCL. This supplement is rich in essential nutrients and includes pepsin, another digestive enzyme that helps break down food. While its main component is HCL, it may also contain other ingredients to aid digestion. When choosing a Betaine HCL supplement, it's not necessary to stick to a specific brand, but ensure that it's labeled as Betaine HCL.

Here's a detailed protocol for using Betaine HCL:

  1. Start Small: Begin with a half capsule per meal. It's crucial to take Betaine HCL only when your meal includes fat and protein. Avoid taking it with just an apple or carbohydrates. The meal should be a combination of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

  2. Meal Composition: Make sure each meal contains fat, protein, and carbohydrates. This is essential when taking Betaine HCL.

  3. Monitoring for Heartburn: Continue this routine until you experience heartburn. The occurrence of heartburn indicates that your HCL has reached its optimal level, and you can stop using the supplement.

  4. Adjustment Based on Heartburn: If you reach a point where you get heartburn, you'll need to scale down the dosage.

  5. Frequency of Use: Typically, you should use half a capsule with each main meal - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many people may need to take five to seven capsules before experiencing heartburn.

It's important to follow this protocol closely and adjust based on your body's reactions, particularly the onset of heartburn, which is a key indicator of your HCL levels.



What if you don't get Heartburn after Using Several Betaine HCL Capsules?

If you're taking several Betaine HCL capsules with each meal and still not experiencing heartburn, this could indicate significant issues with your gut health. In such cases, it's possible that your parietal cells are not producing enough hydrochloric acid. There are a few reasons why this might be happening:

  1. Degenerative Health Conditions: If you have a degenerative health condition, it may be affecting your body's ability to produce HCL. As the condition progresses, your hydrochloric acid levels could continue to decrease. Generally, HCL production declines with age, and this decline can be more pronounced if you have chronic health issues.

  2. Genetic Factors: Genetics can also play a role in HCL production. Some people might naturally produce less hydrochloric acid right from the start. If you're genetically predisposed to low HCL production, you may always produce an insufficient amount, which could impact your digestion throughout your life. This might explain why you could have experienced gastrointestinal issues from a young age, possibly as early as elementary or high school.


Understanding these factors is essential in addressing your digestive health and finding appropriate methods to enhance hydrochloric acid levels and overall gut health.


How do you Figure Out the Number of Capsules you Need to Repair your Gut?

 determine the right number of Betaine HCL capsules needed for gut repair, it's important to follow a gradual and careful approach. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Starting Point: Begin by taking a half capsule with each meal for three days.

  2. Incremental Increase: On the fourth day, increase the dosage to one full capsule per meal. Continue this for another three days.

  3. Further Increases: If you don't experience any heartburn after three days on one capsule, increase the dosage to two capsules per meal. Take this amount for three days.

  4. Continued Adjustments: If you still don't have heartburn, on the fourth day, increase to three capsules per meal. Continue this for three days. If there's still no heartburn, you can increase to four capsules per meal, again for three days.

  5. Reaching Higher Dosages: Proceed to increase the dosage by one capsule every three days, reaching up to five capsules per meal. If necessary, you can go up to seven capsules per meal, but this should be the maximum limit.

  6. Maximum Limit: Seven capsules per meal is the maximum I recommend. Do not exceed this amount.


It's crucial not to rush into this protocol. Each time you increase the dosage, make sure to maintain that level for three days before increasing again. This gradual method helps you carefully monitor your body's response and find the right dosage for your needs.



What to do when you get heartburn after using four Capsules?

If you experience heartburn after using four Betaine HCL capsules, here's what you should do:

  1. Reduce the Dosage: Once you get heartburn at four capsules, it's time to decrease the dose. Drop down to three capsules, which is the amount you tolerated without heartburn. Take three capsules with each meal - breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  2. Monitor and Adjust: As your body begins to heal, you may find that you start experiencing heartburn at this new, lower dosage. If that happens, reduce the dosage further to two capsules.

  3. Finding Your Ideal Dosage: By following this protocol, you'll gradually discover the right number of capsules you need for each meal to maintain a healthy gut without causing heartburn. This process allows you to adjust the dosage as your gut health improves.

  4. Sticking to a Brand: Choose a brand of Betaine HCL and stick with it. Different brands can have varying strengths and compositions. For instance, the brand I recommend with vital nutrients contains 1040 milligrams of Betaine HCF in two capsules. If you start with a half capsule, that's about 250 milligrams. Consistency with your chosen brand is important for accurately gauging the effect.

  5. Maximum Limit: Do not exceed seven capsules per meal. If you don’t experience heartburn even at this high dosage, it indicates a significant issue with your GI system, and further investigation is necessary.

  6. Start Slowly: Begin with a half capsule and gradually increase. This slow progression is key, as different brands have different concentrations of the active ingredients.

  7. Efficacy of the Protocol: This approach has been highly effective in reversing chronic degenerative conditions and GI problems in my patients over the past decade. It's a simple yet often overlooked method in functional medicine. Moreover, HCL supplements like Betaine are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to other enzyme supplements.

Following this method diligently will help you to effectively tailor your HCL supplement intake to your body's needs and improve your digestive health.


cartoon of girl on toilet and text get bloated from eating meat





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