If you suffer from gut issues such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or reflux, you can be led to believe that the ‘sexy’ new supplement on the market that just popped into your social media feed is the way to go to finally fix your gut.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all fallen into the trap of buying something new and exciting that promised to fix your gut… only for it to end up in your supplement’s graveyard!
The truth is, the first place to start should ALWAYS be a good digestive support supplement. If you’ve tried these before with no results, maybe you took the wrong one for you, or maybe you just didn’t take enough.
Today, I’ll focus on my two favourite types of supplements to support digestion:
- Digestive enzymes
- Betaine HCL
I’ll explain which one would be best for you depending on your symptoms and how to take each of them to get RESULTS: less bloating, gas, reflux, and maybe even more energy and less pain in your body!
First, let’s take a look at why improving your capacity to digest various foods is so important.
Foods that are not digested properly can cause a lot of unpleasant gut issues, such as gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, but what is perhaps even more important to understand is that incompletely digested foods can be fermented by pathogenic organisms and may contribute to SIBO, yeast overgrowth and dysbiosis. It can also cause inflammation of the gut lining, and contribute to leaky gut.
But not everybody needs the same supplements or the same dosage.
Here’s how to find out which of these you might benefit from, and how to work out your perfect dosage.
FIRST: LET’S LOOK AT DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
Q: Do you feel like you bloat or get gassy every time you eat vegetables, starches, fruits or beans?
A: If yes, you may benefit from digestive enzymes.
Although this is not 100% accurate, it’s a fun test that can help you determine if you might benefit from digestive enzymes.
Find the pancreatic enzyme point, which is located 1 human inch (the width of your thumb) under the xyphoid process, on the right rib margin. Rub this area quite vigorously.
If it’s tender, it’s a sign that you might benefit from digestive enzymes.
However, even if this test comes back negative for you, we still recommend giving digestive enzymes a go if you answered yes to the question above.
MAIN TYPES OF DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
There are three main types of digestive enzymes you should know about.
1- Pancreatic enzymes.
Pancreatic enzymes are secreted by the pancreas into the small intestine.
The main pancreatic enzymes are:
- Amylase: carbohydrate digestion
- Protease: protein digestion
- Lipase: fat digestion
2- Brush-border enzymes
The brush-border enzymes are produced in the cells of the small intestinal lining. When the gut becomes injured for any reason (especially common with SIBO), these cells can become damaged and their enzyme function is lost.
Example of brush border enzymes are glucoamylase, maltase, sucrase and lactase. That’s one of the reason why so many people with gut issues end up being lactose intolerant.
3- Enzymes secreted by your gut bacteria
Your gut bacteria also produce some enzymes to help you digest your food better. If you have dysbiosis, it’s likely that you’re lacking these enzymes.
HOW CAN DIGESTIVE ENZYMES HELP YOU
1- HELP ABSORB MORE NUTRIENTS
They help break down the food you eat into individual nutrients so your body can actually absorb and use the ‘goodness’ in the food you eat, such as amino acids (from proteins), vitamins, minerals etc.
Without digestive enzymes, you could be eating the healthiest food on the planet and still be unhealthy, since you’re not getting all the goodies from those foods.
2- LESS IRRITATION AND INFLAMMATION IN THE GUT
Undigested food particles are irritating to the gut lining and can cause inflammation, leading to a vicious cycle: poor digestion leads to inflammation which leads to poor digestion (as well as bad bacteria overgrowth, leading to more inflammation, leaky gut, etc.).
3- HELP RE-BALANCE GUT BACTERIA
Better digestion means less food for the bad bugs to ferment. The reduction in inflammation also create a more positive environment for the good bacteria to flourish.
4- REDUCTION OF PAIN AND INFLAMMATION
When consumed between meals, on an empty stomach, enzymes have a very different effect on the body, but still very beneficial.
Enzymes have an affinity for denatured, dead, or damaged tissue. This makes certain enzymes very effective for cleaning out damaged tissues and infections in the body, hence reducing pain and inflammation. It may also help with auto-immune issues.
5- BIOFILM BUSTING
Again, when consumed between meals, on an empty stomach, enzymes can help destroy biofilms, which are protective coatings that can form over bacteria and fungus and make them resistant to treatment. This is often a missing step in SIBO treatment that may lead to recurrent SIBO.
For all of these reasons, taking a good quality digestive enzyme can be a game-changer and we highly recommend giving it a go.
RECOMMENDED DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
We love HoloZyme™ by Healthy Gut, which is the only digestive enzyme on the market with a patented Absorption Technology which activates each specific enzyme to turn on at the right time, making HoloZyme™ more likely to work for you than other digestive enzyme you might have tried unsuccessfully before. I’ve tried a lot of digestive enzymes before, and to be quite honest, I had given up because none of them helped me. HoloZyme™ is the only one that reduced my bloating and made me feel like I was finally digesting my food.
HOW DO YOU TAKE IT?
To help with food digestion, take at the beginning, during OR immediately after a meal.
Start with 1 capsule with each meals. If you don’t notice any difference, increase to 2, 3 or even up to 6 capsules with each meal if your digestion is extremely compromised. Only increase every 3 days to give your body a chance to adapt. If you’re very sensitive, you can open the capsule and start with a very small amount sprinkled on your food.
Tip: As mentioned above, you can also take digestive enzymes on an empty stomach (before bed), to reduce systemic inflammation and as a biofilm buster. You can ramp up in the same ways as described above, but be mindful that you could experience some die-off reactions at first, because of it’s biofilm busting ability.
SECOND: LET’S LOOK AT BETAINE HCL
Q: Do you feel heavy after eating a high protein meal?
Q: Do you feel like your food sits in your stomach for hours.
A: If yes, you may have low stomach acidity, and could benefit from Betaine HCL. Please note that from our experience, about 70% of people with gut issues see improvements in symptoms from taking betaine HCL, so it could be worth a try, even if you answered no to the questions above.
WHAT IS BETAINE HCL
Betaine HCL increases the acidity in your stomach (lowers the pH). Although some people have TOO MUCH acidity, a lot more people have TOO LITTLE stomach acid. Even if you have acid reflux / heart burn, you might actually have too little acidity in your stomach… more on that below.
Correcting issues with stomach acidity is absolutely key and can often be the magic bullet!
WHY DO YOU WANT MORE ACIDITY
The acidity in the stomach is one of the very first steps of digestion, and it triggers a chain reaction for all of the other digestive processes —release of pancreatic enzymes, closing of sphincter to prevent reflux, etc. So when there is low acidity in the stomach (a pH that is too high), the whole system falls apart!
It’s also your first line of defense against bacteria, parasites, etc. If the acidity in your stomach is not high enough to kill the bugs, they will accumulate in your digestive tract, causing a lot of problems, even potentially leading to SIBO.
Stomach acidity is essential for good digestion, especially for protein digestion.
RECOMMENDED BETAINE HCL
There are many great options available and they will all work to improve digestion. However, our favourite is HCL Guard™ by Healthy Gut, because it also contains a few other powerful ingredients, such as intrinsic factor (essential for vitamin B12 absorption), ginger (to stimulate motility, including the migrating motor complex) and DGL to protect your stomach lining.
HOW DO YOU TAKE BETAINE HCL
Start with 1-2 capsules (if 1 is not helping, increase to 2. Most people will need 2) with each main meal for a trial period of 1-2 weeks. If you have a small snack, you do NOT need to take it.
- If you feel burning after taking just 1 capsule, or have any other bad reactions, stop taking immediately. You can take 1 tsp bicarbonate soda in water to reduce the burning sensation. If you experience burning with 1 capsule, this means that you either don’t need it, or your stomach lining is very irritated/inflamed and can’t handle the increase in stomach acid… even if you do in fact need more! HCL Guard might be a better option for you if that’s your case, because it includes DGL to protect the stomach lining.
- If you notice any improvement in your symptoms (less bloating, better bowel movement, more energy, etc), continue taking at the same dose.
- If you don’t notice any improvement in your symptoms after 1-2 weeks, you could try increasing the dose. However, we’re not big proponent of the typical recommendation to ‘increase until you feel burning’ as some people never feel the burning. You could however increase to up to 4 per meal, as some people do seem to need that much to experience positive results.
- Do not take betaine HCL if you have a current or a history of ulcer.
- Do not take if you are currently taking NSAIDS
- PPI or other anti-acid medication will negate the effect of the betaine HCL as they have the opposite effect.
There are other ways to increase stomach acidity, such as apple cider vinegar, digestive bitters and unbuffered vitamin C. However, we’ve found that people with more severe digestive issues tend to get better results with Betaine HCL. Once your digestion improves, you may swap to one of those instead as a maintenance.
CAN YOU TAKE BOTH DIGESTIVE ENZYMES AND BETAINE HCL?
Absolutely! In fact, many people with severe gut issues will do best when taking both of these for a while, until their digestion improves.
Taking the right digestive support, either digestive enzymes or Betaine HCL, can help not only to reduce your symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or reflux, but will also help you absorb more nutrients, heal you gut lining and re-balance your gut bacteria.
That’s what we call a win-win-win!!
For all of these reasons, taking a good quality digestive support supplement can be a game-changer and we highly recommend giving it a go.