Betaine

Used to treat homocystinuria, Betaine reduces homocysteine levels and prevents amino acids from building up in the body.

Overview

In healthy people, enzymes regulate levels of an amino acid, known as homocysteine. Present in blood and urine, it’s vital that homocysteine levels are kept within an appropriate range. If these enzymes are missing or fail to work properly, however, homocysteine levels can increase to a dangerous level and homocystinuria occurs.

Betaine works by preventing homocysteine from building up, even when the enzymes do not work as they normally should. While treatment with Betaine does not cure homocystinuria, it does manage the condition effectively.

As high levels of homocysteine can damage the blood vessels, homocystinuria can increase the risk of patients suffering from strokes, heart attacks and/or circulation problems. By treating the condition with Betaine, physicians can, therefore, prevent damage to the blood vessels and reduce the risk of subsequent complications occurring.

Conditions Treated:

  • Homocystinuria

Type of Medicine:

  • Digestant

Side Effects:

Although Betaine is not normally associated with any serious side-effects, any medication can cause side-effects in some patients. When taking Betaine, patients may experience nausea, stomach upsets and/or diarrhea.

If these side-effects do occur, they are typically fairly mild and they may be relieved once the patient has become accustomed to taking the medication. If a patient experiences severe side-effects, however, they should always seek medical help from a physician or doctor.

Although rare, Betaine can sometimes cause patients to emit a body odor. Whilst patients are advised to contact their doctor if they develop this side-effect, it does not normally indicate that the treatment is ineffective.

If patients experience the following side-effects, however, they should seek medical assistance:

  • Vision changes
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems with speech, balance, or walking
  • Changes in your mental state

Dosage:

Betaine is available in various formats and patients may be prescribed it in tablet form, as a powder to be prepared as a solution or as a powder for suspension. Although physicians will prescribe the most appropriate format for the individual patient, Betaine is usually given as a powder and is then prepared as a solution by the patient.

For most patients, a starting dose of Betaine is three grams of powder taken twice a day. The powder should be mixed with approximately four to six ounces of liquid so that the patient can drink it easily. Water, milk or juice are usually appropriate liquids to mix Betaine powder with. Once the medication has dissolved in the liquid, it should be drunk immediately.

Whilst this is an average dosing strategy for most patients, individuals should always follow the instructions they receive from their physician. Betaine can be prescribed for children, for example, but they may be advised to take a lower dose of the medication.

When taking Betaine, most patients are advised to take the medication with a meal.

In order for Betaine to be affected, patients should adhere to the dosing strategy set out by their doctor. If they miss a dose, however, they may be able to take it as soon as they remember to do so. If it is almost time for the next dose of medication, the missed dose should be skipped. It is not appropriate to take an extra dose or double dose of Betaine, unless the patient is advised to do so by a medical professional.

Warnings:

When receiving treatment with Betaine, patients should have regular consultations with their physician. By monitoring the patient’s response to treatment and their homocysteine levels, doctors can determine whether the current dose of Betaine is effective or if changes need to be made to the patient’s treatment regime.

Betaine is not linked to specific drug interactions at the present time. There is always the possibility that medicines and supplements can interact when taken together, however. Due to this, patients should inform their doctor if they are taking any other medications. This includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbal or sports supplements.

Medications can also react with certain substances, such as the food which the patient consumes. When prescribing Betaine, physicians will advise the patient if there are certain foods which should be avoided. If the patient drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes and/or uses recreational drugs, they should inform their doctor so that this can be taken into account when treatment with Betaine is prescribed.

Patients taking Betaine may also need to take certain vitamin supplements. As the medication affects stomach acids, it can have an impact on vitamin absorption rates. Physicians may advise patients to take vitamin B12 supplements, folic acid and/or vitamin B6 supplements.

In most cases, however, patients should not add these vitamins to their treatment regime without discussing it with their doctor first. Often, physicians will perform blood tests in order to verify the need for additional vitamin supplementation. If required, doctors may also be able to prescribe these vitamin supplements.

When preparing Betaine, the powder should fully dissolve in the liquid before the patient drinks the medication. If the powder does not dissolve properly or if the liquid changes color, the patient should not consume the medicine. Instead, they should seek advice from their doctor or physician. In these instances, an extra prescription of Betaine may be issued and the patient’s existing supply disposed of.

Currently, the effects of Betaine on pregnant women are unclear. It is possible that treatment with Betaine could harm an unborn fetus if it is taken whilst the patient is pregnant. It is essential, therefore, that patients discuss this with their doctor if they are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. In most instances, physicians will only prescribe Betaine to pregnant patients if they feel that the benefits of the drug clearly outweigh any risks associated with treatment.

If patients become pregnant whilst taking Betaine, they should contact their physician for further advice.

Similarly, it is not yet clear whether Betaine can be passed to an infant when a breastfeeding mother is receiving treatment. Due to this, doctors may advise mothers not to breastfeed while receiving treatment. Patients should always advise their doctor if they are breastfeeding so that their medication can be altered accordingly and the risks can be addressed.

Although Betaine can be prescribed to children and young people, they may be given a relatively low starting dose. In addition to this, they may require check-ups on a more frequent basis. Generally, children require their dose of Betaine to be altered more often than adults. This may be because their weight and height changes continually and the medication is, therefore, absorbed at different rates.

Before taking Betaine, patients should check the packaging and list of ingredients to ensure that they are not allergic to any of the contents. They should also inform their doctor if they have any existing allergies or intolerances. If a patient develops an allergic reaction whilst taking Betaine, they should seek urgent medical attention.

Storage:

Betaine is normally prescribed for home-use, regardless of whether it is in tablet or powder form. This means that patients will need to store the medication at home and prepare and consume it when they are directed to do so.

When storing any medication in a home environment, it’s vital that patients use a secure location. If children or pets live in the home, for example, they must not be able to gain access to the medicine.

Generally, Betaine should be kept at room temperature and in a location which is free from excess heat, moisture or direct light. Whilst these are general guidelines for the storage of Betaine, the medication will have specific storage instructions which the patient should follow.

Once the medication is no longer being used, it will need to be disposed of. Similarly, if the medication reaches its use-by date, the patient should dispose of the medicine and obtain a new prescription, if they need to continue taking Betaine.

When disposing of the medicine, however, it’s important that the patient takes steps to minimize the risk of anyone interacting with the drug. Pharmacists can often provide safe medication disposal methods so patients should seek advice from them before disposing of Betaine.

Summary

When homocystinuria occurs, the patient’s methionine metabolism is not working properly and may be said to be disordered. As a result, their levels of homocysteine levels increase to potential dangerous levels.

As high homocysteine levels can put patients at risk of other medical conditions, such as strokes, transient ischemic attacks and heart attacks, it’s vital that levels are reduced. If physicians can prevent the patient’s homocysteine from reaching excessively high levels, they can potentially prevent any damage occurring to their blood vessels. In turn, this should help to reduce the risk of medical complications arising.

Fortunately, Betaine is an effective form of treatment for most patients with homocystinuria. By successfully preventing homocysteine levels from escalating, the medication ensures that patients do not suffer adverse effects because of homocystinuria.

Furthermore, physicians should be able to test the effectiveness of Betaine relatively easily. As homocysteine is present in blood and urine, regular tests can be carried out to assess the amount of homocysteine in the patient’s body. Depending on the results, physicians can alter the patient’s treatment accordingly.

Whilst Betaine does not cure or reverse homocystinuria, it does provide an effective long-term treatment option for patients with this condition and it can successfully prevent them from suffering medical complications as a result of the condition.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
December 23, 2017
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017