Digestive Enzymes and Stomach Acid for Gut Health and ABSORPTION Of Nutrients
We all now know digestive health is a cornerstone of overall well-being, influencing everything from nutrient absorption to immune function. Central to this process are digestive enzymes and stomach acid, both of which play pivotal roles in breaking down food into usable nutrients and building blocks, which are vital throughout the body.
Digestive enzymes, produced by the pancreas, stomach, and salivary glands, catalyse the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCL) not only aids in digesting food but also acts as a barrier against pathogens and an imbalance of bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract.
Key Benefits and Uses
Stomach Acid: Adequate stomach acid (HCL) levels are essential for protein digestion, nutrient absorption (especially B12, calcium, and iron), and preventing bacterial overgrowth in the intestines. Low stomach acid can lead to a cascade of digestive issues, including malabsorption and indigestion and may play apart in digestive issues and low levels of nutrients in the body.
Digestive Enzymes: These enzymes streamline the digestive process, ensuring efficient nutrient breakdown and absorption, especially in the small intestine. They can help alleviate symptoms like bloating, gas, and discomfort, particularly after meals. For individuals with conditions such as pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis, supplemental enzymes are crucial for nutrient assimilation. Critically, the pancreas relies on the acidity from the stomach as a message to release enzymes into the small intestines. Therefore, HCL and digestive enzymes work in tandem to digest your food.
Signs of Deficiency
A deficiency in digestive enzymes might manifest as bloating, gas, indigestion, or a feeling of fullness after eating small amounts. Low stomach acid symptoms are similar and may include undigested food in stools, acid reflux, and nutrient deficiencies. We also produce less stomach acid when we age, particular in those over 70, and when we are stressed!
When we are not digesting our food well, it puts us at greater risk of:
✓✓ Contracting parasites from our food – stomach acid helps us sterilize our food, killing off potential infecting pathogens.
✓✓ Food sensitivities – proteins that are not properly broken down are more likely to induce an antigenic response from our immune system leading to food sensitivities, especially to gluten and dairy
✓✓ Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) – without stomach acid which keeps them at bay, bacteria in the small intestine may grow and thrive on poorly digested proteins.
✓✓ Nutrient depletions – especially in iron, calcium, zinc and B12
Different Forms and Their Applications
Digestive enzymes come in various forms, targeting different dietary components:
- Proteases for protein digestion
- Lipases for fat digestion
- Amylases for carbohydrate digestion
A well rounded digestive enzyme supplement should include all of these components.
Stomach acid supplements typically contain betaine hydrochloride (HCL), which mimics the stomach’s natural acid. Stomach acid can also be stimulated with bitters foods, such as apple cider vinegar before meals.
Stomach acid supplements are not recommended for anyone with a history of gastric or peptic ulcers, gastritis, or anyone taking NSAIDs or Corticosteroids. If in doubt, please contact a medical professional.
For digestive enzymes, taking a broad-spectrum supplement with meals can aid digestion. With most digestive enzymes supplements, this means one or two capsules with meals.
For HCL supplementation, start with a low dose (1 capsule) before meals and gradually increasing (up to a max of 3 capsules) if needed. Do not continue if you experience any warmth or discomfort in your stomach.
Absorption Challenges and Optimization
Digestive enzyme efficacy can be influenced by factors like pH level and the presence of co-factors. Ensuring a balanced diet and proper hydration, aswell as addressing infections or imbalances that are causing the gut to be inflamed and leaky, can enhance enzyme function.
For HCL, its effectiveness can be hampered by antacid use and certain medical conditions.
Improvements with digestive enzyme and HCL supplementation can include reduced digestive discomfort, bloating, better nutrient absorption, and overall better digestion. Benefits may be noticeable within a few days to weeks of consistent use.
The results will vary from person-to-person, and other interventions such as Low FODMAP diet and food re-introduction, and a comprehensive probiotic protocol may be necessary.
Long-Term Supplementation Considerations
While digestive enzymes are generally safe for long-term use, it’s wise to reassess periodically, as the body’s needs may change. Long-term HCL use should be monitored by a healthcare professional.
Digestive Wellness Bundle
Understanding the vital roles of digestive enzymes and stomach acid in our health underscores the importance of maintaining optimal levels of these key digestive components. If you’re experiencing signs of digestive enzyme or stomach acid deficiencies, our specially curated Digestive Wellness Bundle, featuring top-tier digestive enzymes and HCL supplements, might be just what you need to rebalance your digestive health. Explore this tailored solution and embark on your journey to enhanced digestion and nutrient absorption.