Gastrointestinal Disorders

The Purpose of Digestive Enzymes and Hydrochloric Acid (HCl)

Person holding stomach that is showing inflammation because of lack of digestive enzymes

Are you experiencing signs of malnourishment, bloating or diarrhea?

Even with all of the food that you consume, you’re strangely experiencing weight loss.

For those who experience issues within the gastrointestinal tract, these symptoms will appear if the individual lacks digestive enzymes or is experiencing Hypochlorhydria (low stomach hydrochloric acids). Digestive enzymes and HCl are two separate elements that work together to break down foods and maintain a balanced digestive tract.

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes take on a vital role in breaking down food particles such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the digestive system. A lack of them (or none at all) would result in poor digestion and the nutrients consumed to go to waste; potentially leading to a condition called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). There are three types of enzymes that our G.I Tract needs to function properly:

  • Amylase (breaks down carbohydrates, starch and other sugars)
  • Lipase (breaks down fats within the Liver bile)
  • Protease (breaks down amino acids and proteins)

What Happens If You Have Low Digestive Enzymes?

The process of digestion is extremely complex. In order for foods to be ingested and broken down properly, every part of the gastrointestinal tract has to be in sync. One small malfunction can throw off the whole system. A significant part of the process is stomach acid which is made up of hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, sodium chloride and digestive enzymes to digest foods. A lack of digestive enzymes automatically leads to malnourishment and other symptoms such as constant gas, bloating, diarrhea, and vulnerability to serious bacterial infections such as chronic pancreatitis (if it continues to go untreated).

What Are Hydrochloric Acids (HCl)?

Hydrochloric Acids are a huge staple of the gastric juice that breaks down our nutrients. Regardless of what some believe, digestive enzymes play no part in the creation of HCl. Instead, these are created by the parietal cells with a combination of water (H20), carbon dioxide (CO2), mixed with parietal cell cytoplasm to produce carbonic acid (H2CO3). Carbonic acid eventually forms into hydrogen and bicarbonate ions which transports into the stomach lumen. When both ions meet together in the stomach, this results in the creation of HCl. While the primary role of HCl is to break down, digest and absorb proteins, they are also useful in eliminating bacteria and viruses from the stomach. Another neat function of HCl is to activate pepsinogen enzymes to separate protein amino acids into small units.

Is it Possible to Supplement Digestive Enzymes or Induce HCl Secretion?

Short answer: yes. People who suffer with chronic gut health issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Colitis often have a digestive enzyme or HCl deficiency. In the case of digestive enzymes, most supplements contain lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose and sugar. It is recommended that prior to purchasing digestive enzyme supplements that one should speak with their practitioner on their dosage as these additives are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can be harmful if too much is taken. Other natural ways to increase the amount of digestive enzymes is the consumption of foods that contain them. These foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Honey
  • Mangos
  • Papayas
  • Sauerkraut

On the other hand, the mineral responsible for HCl Secretion is Zinc. For those who suffer with low HCl levels, supplements or foods that contain the Zinc mineral will help to return those levels back to normal. Examples of zinc-rich foods include:

  • Oysters
  • Beef
  • Yoghurt
  • Beans
  • Lobster
  • Seeds
  • Nuts

Treat Your Gut

Dealing with gut issues doesn’t have to be fatiguing. The gastrointestinal tract helps the body retain and store its nutrients and energy, and any minor problems within it can lead to chronic diseases that can even be fatal. At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we get to the root cause of digestive issues and encourage patients to treat their gut immediately when they begin to experience symptoms.

For anyone feeling constantly bloated, malnourished, nauseous or gassy, we implore that they call to schedule an appointment at their earliest convenience at 727-466-6789, and we’d be delighted to help naturally treat them back to health.

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