Today I am going to share with you the simple way for how to test at home for low stomach acid HCL Challenge.

This is part 2 of my 3-part series on low stomach acid. In case you missed it, yesterday was part 1: 33 Ways to Tell If You Have Low Stomach Acid.

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There are a few different ways people test for low stomach acid at home, but the HCL challenge is the one that has been most effective for me.

How to Test At Home for Low Stomach Acid HCL Challenge

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How to Test At Home for Low Stomach Acid HCL Challenge #stomachacid #hcl

You’ll only need Betaine HCl (with pepsin preferably) in order to successfully complete the test.

And because I’m so passionate about Betaine HCl with Pepsin, we came out with a super-high quality one that you can now purchase.

Increase Now from A Gutsy Girl and betaine HCl with Pepsin

Use code BLOG at checkout to save 15% off Increase Now or anything else from

You want to do the test with a protein-heavy meal.

Taking Betaine HCL, in general, is not something you do when you eat a banana or all-greens salad.

  1. Eat a high protein meal (~4-6+ ounces)
  2. Halfway through the meal, take 1 Betaine HCl pill
  3. Finish your meal

You now have just one job to take away from that task -> listen to your body. Ask yourself:

Does my stomach feel perfectly normal or do I feel a burning sensation at all?

If, after doing the challenge with just 1 Betaine HCL pill you feel a burning sensation, you likely have enough stomach acid.

If not, at the next meal, increase from 1 Betaine HCL pill to 2 Betaine HCL pills and make note of how you feel.

The more you have to take, the more likely it is that you do not have enough stomach acid.

How to Take HCl the stomach acid challenge with A Gutsy Girl

{Please make note of two very important things: If you take NSAIDs and Corticosteroids please be sure to consult your doctor prior to doing this, as the two together increases your risk of gastritis. If you reach 6 or more Betaine HCL pills with no effects, please contact your doctor prior to increasing even more, as s/he will likely have a further approach. }

Stomach Acid Not Just a Theory

Again, when I provide information on my blog it is because I not only have studied and researched the information, but I also have (many times) lived it.

So what were my results when I did this challenge?

First off, I continue to do it because the Betaine HCL not only serves its purpose from a testing standpoint but also if you do have low stomach acid, can help the body naturally begin producing more HCL.

About a year ago, I took twelve – yes 12 – Betaine HCL pills with zero burning sensations.

We have reduced this down to 8 because when you are consuming that many pills at one time during  a meal, drinking all that water also interferes with digestion.

Together with my doctor, we came up with the max dosage of 8 pills in any one sitting.

I drifted from the Betaine HCL pills for quite some time, so I am back to needing 8 and in the near future I will get very serious about never missing them with high protein meals.

In the past, I have gotten down to 4, and I am looking forward to getting to that place (and lower) again.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

  1. 11 Ways to Naturally Improve Stomach Acid
  2. All About HCL
  3. Digestive Enzymes vs HCL


Formal Disclaimer: As a Certified Holistic Health Coach, my intentions are not to substitute for the advice given by a licensed health-care professional. I do not prescribe medications, dispense supplements, nor am I licensed to take the place of your doctor. You are ultimately responsible for any and all actions taken.

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    1. Hi Dani, My research with this has only included meat. That said, I know of people who just get 15+g of protein (from any source) in one sitting and try it. I have never, so I can’t be certain. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Hi Sarah, is your doctor a M.D.? Or an N.D.? My M.D. was against HCL and recommended Pepcid AC! I have yet to find a M.D. who will work with a low stomach acid problem.

  2. Hi Sarah-
    Super excited to come across your blog today. I’ve had chronic digestive issues my entire life and was recently diagnosed with Methane producing SIBO. I know my stomach acid is totally off. Do you use these pills with all your meals? With eggs at breakfast? Thanks so much for all the work you’ve put in to creating a site that’s so manageable and filled with valuable info!!

    1. Hi Fran –

      Apologies for the delay. If you go to the “Search” bar on my site and search “HCL” you will find all the times I’ve written about it and shared how I’ve used it. You will also find it via “The Gutsy Girl’s Bible.” But in short, any time I have higher protein meals (so yes, with 2+ eggs at breakfast), I would use them. Today, I am down to barely needing them, and it’s been incredible!

  3. I just tried this method and didn’t feel an burning sensation in my stomach per day, but more so in my mouth and throat?! This started about 5 min after taking the pill. I took it half way through my meal (turkey loaf). Should I assume I’m okay with HCL then?

  4. Hi! What do you think about the combination of Betaine HCL and Digestive Enzymes in the same capsule. I’m talking about Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra with Betaine HCl. Does it work? or Is it vey strong?

    Thank you!

  5. Where are you supposed to feel the burning sensation? Is it in the lower GI like burning gas cramp, or upper GI like indigestion or reflux?

  6. Hello,
    I would sincerely like your comments regarding the HCL test. I was asked to perform this test by my NP, and when I searched for the challenge, I ran across this article, i.e.

    I have read in books and on the internet the method you recommend, but this man is stating you are all wrong. Will you please tell me how one of you can be correct, because you both cannot be correct. I’m confused! Thanks

  7. I would like to do this challenge but I’m a little confused about your water comment. You made the same comment in an interview you did with Katie Wells from Wellness Mama. You said that taking 12 pills wasn’t practical because of the amount of water that required you to consume. My confusion with that is that I can easily swallow 6 capsules (possibly all 12) with one swallow. I would follow that up by drinking the rest of my 10-12 oz. glass of water, but I don’t see that as excessive so I’m assuming there must be some minimum requirement of water that should be taken per capsule? (If one was required to drink 8 oz. of water per capsule, I could see why taking 12 capsules would be a problem!). Could you please let me know if there is a water per capsule recommendation?

    1. Hi Dannette – This is a great point you bring up. Yes, if you can swallow more than one pill at a time, then you’re good to go. I just can’t 🙂 The water is for swallowing the pills. The burning sensation would happen if you have adequate stomach acid and/or you’re not eating enough protein with the HCL. Good luck!

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