How to use Betaine HCl for safer travel with autoimmune disease
If you’ve been creepin’ around the site for a minute now, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Betaine HCl.
- I suggest clients start with this step via Step 1: Start with your Stomach in the Revive in Five framework – despite being a nutritionist who should probably tell people to do something with food first 🤷♀️.
- I have a few free courses, and a dozen articles, on why stomach acid is your #1 problem if you’ve got gut issues.
- I pontificate so often on the dos and don’ts of Betaine HCl usage, I created an incredibly useful and SAFE way to master the process.
Just some of the many juicy clues I’m sure you could dig up. And, while this is an impressive list, I’m just going to go ahead and add to it right now the single most important reason I love Betaine HCl so darn much.
Betaine HCl is the best tool we have to protect our immune systems while we travel, adventure, and go do stuff besides sitting on the couch.
And, TBH, this ^ is really what I’m about: simplifying gut solutions for my autoimmune clients so they can have the freedom to go out and experience more.
Let’s explain this a bit more – shall we?
Stomach acid is important for 3 reasons:
- It’s an acid barrier – it kills microbes that have the potential to infect us and make us sick.
- It’s a food reducer – it breaks down the foods we eat into safe forms to digest.
- It’s a digestive signaler – it cues other secretions and processes to begin and to end.
In this vein, it’s important to nod our head at the fact that any time stomach acid is low (which is often in modern life, especially if you have an autoimmune disease) these three jobs that stomach acid performs will not be carried out. This translates to us being vulnerable to infection, to undigested food, and to digestive dysfunction.
When we consider what happens to us when we travel or are engaging in a lifestyle outside of our typical routine, we essentially expose ourselves to increased stress (even if it’s fun stress, it’s still stress).
Stress as a rule results in the body allocating its resources away from digestion and stomach acid production and into the physical stress response ala cortisol production.
But it takes resources to secrete stomach acid properly, and digest well.
So when we experience the stress of travel we can almost always expect to experience low stomach acid.
This is actually pretty intuitive when we consider the common prevalence of things like Traveler’s constipation – you’re constipated because your body hit the pause button on digesting your dinner and decided to focus its energy on navigating your new circumstances: catching that plane, making your Exit turn-off, getting your tent set up, etc.
OK, so low stomach acid is always a problem when it’s present, we know this. But it’s an even bigger problem when we’re travelling with an autoimmune disease and here’s why.
When we change our geography, we expose ourselves to environmental stimuli that may be new and unfamiliar to our immune systems, and this recipe is not a good one when it comes to exerting control over the likelihood our overactive immune cells won’t work themselves into a tizzy and send us into a flare.
For example, think of something like Montezuma’s Revenge or traveler’s diarrhea. That response happens to folks because their acid barrier is down and the microbes causing the diarrhea don’t get neutralized in the stomach, so their bodies freak out and have an inflammatory reaction via digestive distress.
For we autoimmune folk, we need to be especially careful with this combination of events as our systems are already hypersensitive – right?
Low Stomach Acid + New Stimuli = Oof.
So here’s the great thing about understanding this equation… we can manipulate one of these variables: the low stomach acid one.
With Betaine HCl!
As you may know, I suggest everybody learn to use Betaine HCl who has an autoimmune disease – or at least rule it out – because strong stomach acid is such a foundational component of minimizing potential immune overstimulation…
…But when you’re travelling, this is an absolute non-negotiable.
Being diligent with Betaine HCl while you travel will:
- Protect you from infection
- Decrease the likelihood you will react to any new foods
- Keep digestion regular and working smoothly
Instead of you:
- Getting sick with traveler’s diarrhea or otherwise
- Having bad reactions to local foods
- Experiencing digestive distress
All of which can lead to you spending more time in bed instead of experiencing whatever is available to you in your new locale.
If you’ve never used Betaine HCl before, and don’t currently experience any digestive symptoms, but would like to incorporate it into your travel routine, you could consider purchasing a bottle of Betaine HCl with Pepsin (options available on the Fullscript store), and adding 1-2 pills in at mealtime while travelling.
However, I always suggest first finding your baseline HCl dose at home using the SAFE process. Then you can use the information you get to make the adjustments outlined below while you travel.
When you’re travelling, the following scenarios are times when you should consider titrating your typical Betaine HCl dose upward by 1-2 pills:
- On traveling days or days where your digestion feels challenged.
- Some kinds of cuisine will contain more or less protein than what you would typically eat at home. Adjust your typical dose up or down according to the protein content, where the more protein will mean more HCl is indicated, and the less protein will mean less HCl.
- If you typically ingest coffee, tea, red wine, or any vinegar-forward or fermented food at home, these serve as digestive aids. If you are not consuming these while travelling, you may require a higher dose of Betaine HCl in their absence. Likewise, if you consume these while travelling and don’t typically at home, you’re HCl requirement may be lower than usual.
- If you suspect you have eaten something that you’re sensitive to, or something of questionable quality.
**Make sure not to go overboard with the Betaine HCl! You don’t want to experience digestive discomfort from too much stomach acid either.
When we have this tool in place and follow these guidelines, travelling and coming into contact with new things becomes a lot less scary and more fun.
It’s always great to have a plan in place for how to prevent fallout, how to support yourself, and how to help yourself in the event something comes up. Betaine HCl plays a huge role in all of those plan components for me personally, and has often been the difference between having a new experience or calling it quits for the day.
Don’t underestimate this wonder-tool!
Curious if you have low stomach acid? Join our free 7 Day Challenge where we'll teach you how to assess this important metric.