Am I Breaking Down My Food?

Gut health is critical to overall health.  Health begins…and ends…in the gut.  In almost all cases of chronic illness, treating the gut first can lead to profound and significant changes.  In this 6-part series we will discuss 6 questions you should be asking about your gut health.  Your answers to these questions can direct you in restoring your health.

What you eat becomes you. Good food is important, but what happens if you don’t break down your food properly?


As a clinician that has helped thousands of patients restore health, I realized early on that gut function plays an important role in improving health.  Literally every day at the office there are patients that have complaints of headaches, chronic neck pain, low back pain or shoulder pain.  Ignored and overlooked are the symptoms of constipation, irritable bowel, gas and bloating.  Why are these overlooked?  Oftentimes it is because they are told by their medical doctor that it is “no big deal” or “not to worry about it”.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  An unhealthy gut can lead to a chronic cause of inflammation and pain.  An unhealthy gut can lead to a rapid degeneration in brain function.  In short, an unhealthy gut causes an unhealthy you.

When dealing with patients that have been everywhere, or tried everything, all to no avail, I start really addressing underlying digestive function issues.  I have found that considering these 6 questions that we will be discussing leads towards treatment plans that work and improve the patient’s health.  

First Question When Investigating Gut Dysfunction

Are digestive enzymes and acid production adequate to break food down to its component parts and make the food particles small enough for absorption?

The mechanical and chemical break down of food is the critical start of the digestive process.  If you can absorb and use what you eat then you can lack the nutrients in the food.  Unfortunately there are many things that disrupt the mechanical and chemical digestive process.  Things like…

  • Chronic stress which shuts digestion down, decreases stomach acid production, and leads to poor enzyme activity
  • Not chewing food thoroughly
  • Taking acid blocking medications that prevent absorption of important trace minerals
  • Choosing highly processed foods that inflame the gut, damage the lining and steal important nutrients from your body

All of these things can lead to disruption in getting the food particle size down small enough to be used by your body.

Symptoms of Inadequate Acid or Enzyme Production

If you are dealing with low stomach acid that is not sufficient for food break down, or decreased enzyme activity, or poor assimilation of foods there are many symptoms that you should be aware of.

  • Feelings of bloating immediately following a meal
  • Feeling “full” very quickly when starting to eat a meal
  • Feelings of bloating 15-20 minutes after completing a meal
  • Heartburn and acid reflux
  • Bad breath
  • Excessive flatulence and belching
  • Feelings of pressure or discomfort under your breastbone

Things You Should Consider

If you experience these symptoms, then you are most likely not breaking your food down properly.  This means that large food particles can actually rot in your upper digestive tract and lead to painful gas and bloating.  Gross to think about…isn’t it?  

You can safely assess your need for additional stomach acid by performing a challenge with betaine HCl supplements.  I use this in my office on all new patients presenting for clinical nutrition consultations.  I am surprised by the number of people that do not have adequate levels of stomach acid….even at young ages…and that respond very well to a small amount of betaine HCl supplementation towards the end of each meal.  This testing is much easier and less invasive than other ways used to measure stomach acid production and it deals with the functional cause of many gastrointestinal problems.  You shouldn’t try this if you have a history of stomach ulcers, however, since you are losing the important thick mucus lining that lines the stomach wall.

Taking pancreatic digestive enzymes can also be very useful.  Many individuals can take pancreatic enzymes with their meals and feel less bloating and discomfort after their meals.  I prefer a plant-based digestive enzyme support called Spectrazyme that works well in the many patients I have treated.  Those with digestive compromise and inflamed gut (those with leaky gut, Celiac disease, irritable bowel, etc) do very well with the assistance they get when taking Spectrazyme.

If you have gallbladder issues, or had your gallbladder removed, then you should consider taking gallbladder support supplements.  The gallbladder is an important organ that is often removed surgically because of decreased function.  I have had patients tell me that they went in to have their gallbladder tested and since it was only functioning at 30% or so, they were advised to have it removed.  Unfortunately, they were told that surgery is the only option.  They were not told that it is possible to naturally improve the health of the gallbladder and restore function.  It has never made sense to me that since the gallbladder is only working at 30% they will remove it, but doesn’t that mean it now works at 0%??  I prefer the route of first trying to nourish the gallbladder and restore function naturally.  The gallbladder support formula that I use most often is Lipogen.  While it is strong smelling, it works wonders for those dealing with gallbladder related issues.  If you have chronic right shoulder pain, or pain behind your right knee, you should consider a poor functioning gallbladder as a potential underlying cause.

A Word About Supplements

In this post, and in the upcoming posts, I am going to share with you certain supplements that I have had tremendous clinical success with.  I have used these products for over a decade and have had reproducible, measurable, and optimal results with their use.  Quality is absolutely critical and I do not compromise quality and safety for any of my patients, or any readers of blog posts.

If you are interested in ordering the same high-quality supplements I have used with thousands of patients, then you can visit our page informing you how to set up a secure, online account and save when ordering online.

Join us for the next installment of the 6-part series where we will discuss the importance of your gut barrier.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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