Choosing Between Supplements for Nutrient Absorption

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In an earlier post, we discussed the ways that certain nutritional supplements can help you make the most of the healthy meals you eat — which is great news, especially if you decided to make positive changes to your diet in recognition of National Nutrition Month this March. However, when you’re face with a broad range of nutritional supplements that claim they can they can help you absorb nutrients, it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you. Read on for more information about some of the top dietary supplements that support nutrient absorption, how they differ from each other, and how they can help you achieve your wellness goals.

Digestive Enzyme Supplements: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to nutritional products, the different digestive enzyme supplements are among the hardest to distinguish from each other. Many of these supplements can help you digest all three major macronutrients–carbohydrates, fats, and proteins–so if you’re comparing top-quality products, it’s hard to go wrong. At the same time, each option has unique benefits that may make it particularly well-suited to meeting your health needs. Consider these three types of digestive enzyme supplements:


  • Comprehensive pancreatin formula with betaine HCL. If you chose a pancreatin formula, it means that the enzymes in the supplement are derived from animal tissue. These supplements include a comprehensive suite of enzymes, including lipase (which helps break down fats), protease (which helps break down proteins), and amylase (which helps break down starch). Some formulators, including the developers of Prozyme, also add betaine HCL, which is an enzyme that further aids in both the breakdown and uptake of protein.
  • Aspergillus-derived digestive enzyme supplement. Some clinical studies suggest that enzymes from certain species of of Aspergillus (a common type of fungus) improve nutrient breakdown more effectively than animal- and plant-derived enzymes. Even though they contain some of the same enzymes (such as lipase, protease, and amylase), the enzymes in these supplements are less easily denatured than animal- and plant-derived supplements. As a result, they don’t lose their effectiveness as easily in the highly acidic environment of the stomach. If you haven’t had good luck with traditional digestive enzymes in the past, an Aspergillus-derived supplement like Digestazyme might be a better option for you.
  • Combination of digestive enzymes and bile. In your stomach, digestive enzymes work synergistically with bile to break down fats, protein, and carbohydrates. In order to support the natural environment of the stomach, some supplements combine digestive enzymes and bile. Bile-containing supplements have been shown to be particularly effective for people who have trouble digesting fats. You might also want to choose a digestive enzyme supplement with bile if you have had your gallbladder removed of if you are taking medication to lower your cholesterol. For an all-natural option, Ultrazyme is one of the top products on the market.

A Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) Supplement for Protein Breakdown

If you have low stomach acid (a condition known as hypochlorhydria) or no stomach acid at all (achlorhydria), it can lead to a wide range of uncomfortable digestive symptoms, including bloating, heartburn, and abdominal pain. One reason why a lack of stomach acid causes these problems is that stomach acid plays an important role in the breakdown of protein. Specifically, there is a particular protein-digesting enzyme, called pepsinogen, that is only activated in the presence of stomach acid. Without it, pepsinogen remains inactive, and you won’t be able to metabolize the protein from your diet. Therefore, if you’re one of the many patients with hypochlorhydria or achlorhydria (both of which are considered relatively common conditions), an HCl supplement can help improve your protein absorption.

Supporting a Healthy Microbiome: HCl Supplements, Probiotics, and Prebiotics

The bacteria in your gut also play a role in how well you are absorbing the nutrients you eat. For instance, if your stomach acid level gets too low, it won’t just prevent the activation of pepsinogen. It may also lead to overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in your gut. Among other negative consequences, bacterial overgrowth can lead to inflammation in the wall of your intestine, which interferes with the effectiveness of nutrient absorption. That’s another reason why an HCl supplement is essential for patients with low stomach acid.

However, low stomach acid isn’t the only thing that can interfere with the health of your gut microbiome. Scientists do not yet fully understand how genetic, environmental, and physiological factors impact the microbiome, so “bad” bacteria might be outcompeting “good” bacteria in your gut and promoting inflammation, even if you don’t have low stomach acid. In order to keep the “good” bacteria on top, you can try a probiotic supplement (which directly introduces “good” bacteria) or a prebiotic supplement (which provides fiber to feed the “good” bacteria that are already in your gut). That way, you can be sure you are absorbing all of the high-quality nutrients you are working hard to include in your meals.
You can find all of these supplements at Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness, and you can get expert nutritional counseling from our chiropractors. Contact us today for more information!

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