Digestive Health Protocols

by | May 28, 2017 | Articles, Conditions, Digestive Health

The Digestive Process

Just thinking of food starts the automatic process of the gut preparing for eating and digestion.  Nerve signals trigger an increase in saliva and stomach acid.  The acid surge triggers the release of pancreas enzymes further down in the small intestine.  We need stomach acid for the first stage of breaking down proteins and bile released from the gallbladder in order to break down fats.

If the stomach does not make enough acid then the above process does not flow well.  The foods may not break down quickly and thus remain in the stomach longer leading to a sense of being full soon or feeling full hours after a meal.  Stomach distension triggers the valve at the top of the stomach to relax thus allowing acid to reflux causing heartburn, typically a while after a meal.  The lack of acid may lead to less signal to the pancreas and thus less enzyme secretion.

If there is insufficient production of bile, or if the gallbladder has been removed then bile is not stored up for release to digest fats.  Symptoms of bloating after a fatty meal may occur.  Similar to low acid, low bile content may lead to incomplete breakdown of fats, which ultimately can cause poor absorption of nutrient fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.

A lack of acid, bile or pancreas enzymes may lead to symptoms of feeling full quickly, gas, bloating or loose stools.  Supplementing each of these components a matter of trial and error to see if they help symptoms.  It can also lead to partially digested foods traveling into the intestine where they don’t belong, causing inflammation or imbalances in the microbiome.

Betaine HCL Protocol

When using Betaine HCL for the first few times, please be sure to follow the directions carefully.  Always take Betaine HCL at the start of the meal.  If taken without food, stomach burning may result.

At the very start of the meal, take one capsule of Betaine HCL.  Monitor how your stomach feels during and after eating.  Should any burning or heaviness occur, or if burning has been present previously (before taking the supplement) and is now worsened with the use of the Betaine HCL, do not continue using this supplement!  This is an indication that your stomach is overproducing acid, or that your stomach lining may be damaged. In such cases, use an anti-acid or 1 tbs baking soda in small glass of water to normalize excess acid production and soothe the stomach lining.

If the first dose of Betaine HCL produced no noticeable stomach discomfort, try taking two capsules at the start of your next meal, again monitor for burning and or heaviness during and after eating. If taking two capsules produces some discomfort, but one capsule does not, restrict yourself to one capsule at the start of each meal. If the two capsule dose produced no discomfort, try three capsules at the start of your next meal.

If all goes well when taking three capsules at the start of each meal, stay with that dosage, most individuals will not require increasing the dosage to four capsules. Regular use of supplemental hydrochloric acid will in some cases “re-train” the stomach to produce higher concentrations of acid on its own. This process may take anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on the individual. The most significant indication that acid production is improving is that Betaine HCL supplementation can no longer be comfortably tolerated.

An Example:

After having used the Betaine HCL for several weeks, at a dosage of two capsules per meal, without any discomfort, Joan now notices that she feels a burning sensation when taking the two capsules. She therefore reduces her dosage to one capsule at mealtime. After several more weeks, even one capsule per meal produces burning and Joan discontinues altogether. This is a sign that the stomach has been re-trained to produce adequate concentrations of hydrochloric acid without the further need for supplementation.

Stomach acid is necessary to start the breakdown of proteins and then the protease enzymes from the pancreas continue from there.  When consuming meals that contain little or no protein, much less hydrochloric acid is needed by the stomach to process its contents. Please keep this in mind when using Betaine HCL as a supplement and modify your usage accordingly.

Bile Acid Protocol (e.g. Bilex)

Take 1 capsule prior to heavier meal (contains proteins/fats).  If there is no relief of symptoms then next meal, try 2 capsules.  Again, if not relied, try the maximum 3 capsules.

Bile is necessary to start the breakdown of fats.  It is an emulsifier much like a detergent.  Bile is normally stored in the gallbladder and released when a fatty meal is eaten.  After fats are emulsified then the pancreatic enzyme lipase is able to break down fat into it final form prior to digestion, fatty acids.

Bile acid does not usually need to be taken prior to a meal that is mostly carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, breads or pastas.

Enzyme Protocol (e.g. Ultrazyme)

Take 1 capsule prior to heavier meal (contains proteins/fats).  If there is no relief of symptoms then next meal, try 2 capsules.  Again, if not relied, try the maximum 3 capsules.

Enzymes are necessary to complete the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  They are normally made by the pancreas and go to work after bile and stomach acid start the breakdown process.

The dose of enzyme may vary depending on how heavy the meal.  For example, only one capsule may be sufficient prior to a meal that is mostly carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, breads or pastas.  For a beef and cheese burrito 3 capsules may be needed.

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