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How to Digest Protein: Your Health Depends on It

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  • Assist Dairy & Protein

    Assist Dairy & Protein

    Maximize the Absorption of the Protein You Eat, Minimize Waste or Toxicity

    • Enjoy dairy foods again!
    • Enjoy the benefits of milk kefir without the side effects of the casein
    • Aids in the digestion of proteins from animal foods, dairy foods, nuts, seeds and legumes
Enzymes that break down protein require an acidic environment.

Dietary proteins give you the basic building blocks you need to create tissue.

The proteins in food also support the nervous system, keeping the mind healthy and alert. But what happens when you are not able to digest protein?

What Your Body Needs to Digest Protein

In order to digest protein, the body requires two things:

  1. Stomach acid, or HCl (hydrochloric acid)
  2. Enzymes, which break down food

It’s important to understand that it’s not the stomach acid that breaks down food—it is the enzymes.

Enzymes rely on stomach acid to turn them on. Without stomach acid, enzymes remain dormant and inactive. Ideally, before protein reaches the small intestine, it has already encountered active enzymes and been broken down into amino acids within the stomach. But this doesn’t always happen.

You see, enzymes don't only require stomach acid. They also require a specific pH, which is the balance of acidity and alkalinity. Enzymes like the stomach to be very acidic.

Probiotics Are the Cornerstone of Good Digestion

Menstruation Pain Or Stomach Ache

A healthy inner ecosystem is nourished by probiotics. An imbalanced inner ecosystem may be too alkaline or too acidic and unable to break down protein, leading to digestive distress.

Your inner ecosystem—or the community of bacteria and yeast in the body—makes the body acidic or alkaline. Depending on which bacteria and yeast you harbor (and where), you can either be too alkaline, too acidic, or in just the right place to get the job done.

The enzymes within the stomach rely on a specific balance of acidity and alkalinity. Remember, enzymes that break down protein require an acidic environment.

Microbes living in the stomach can upset this balance to ensure their own survival.

These microbes, known as Helicobacter pylori, can make the stomach too alkaline. This means that they can steal your “digestive fire,” allowing whole molecules of protein to pass through the stomach and into the small intestine.

Once in the small intestine, protein and other pieces of food are met with the same problem. If the inner ecosystem is out of balance, the environment may be too acidic or too alkaline to activate enzymes.

When enzymes remain inactive, food stagnates or passes through undigested.

Unfortunately, the small intestine is a place where bacteria and yeast like to build up communities—if they can. But for most microbes, the small intestine is a temporary pit stop. It’s not meant for long-term housing. So when bacteria and yeast decide to live there, problems develop.

Otherwise known as SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), these problems include:

  • Heartburn
  • Irregular bowel movements, ranging from diarrhea to constipation
  • Gas and cramps after eating

This is where probiotics come into the picture. Probiotics are bacteria and yeast that do good things for the body (like kill the bad guys, fight bacterial overgrowth, and calm inflammation). When you eat probiotic foods, you give your gut the material it needs for optimal health.

How to Find Balance and Digest Your Protein

If you have been vegan for a long period of time, you may struggle to digest protein—especially if you have switched over to animal proteins. If you eat several meals a day that are high in protein (for example, some approaches to the Paleo Diet), you may not be digesting it fully.

To optimize digestion, follow Body Ecology’s food combining chart:

 ourplate (1)

We believe that plant foods are good for your gut and good for you.

Other factors that can affect how well you digest protein include:

  • History of antacid use, prescription or over-the-counter
  • History of antibiotic use
  • Overeating at mealtime
  • Drinking too much water before or during meals
  • Poor sleep
  • Stress, especially during mealtime

If you have trouble digesting protein, the best way to restore the balance of acidity within the stomach is with HCl and enzymes. HCl (hydrochloric acid) safely restores the acidic environment of the stomach while active enzymes begin to break down protein.

Fermented foods gently bring the inner ecosystem back into a state of balance. We suggest always including a side of cultured veggies with your meal. Or instead of water, drink coconut water kefir with meals to assist in the digestion of protein-rich foods.

Just as Important? The Value of Relaxation

When it comes to weak stomach acid, heartburn, and poor digestion of protein—stress is one of the biggest offenders.

This is because stress hormones shut down the digestive tract. A surge of fight-or-flight hormones means that your stomach isn’t producing the acid it needs to turn on enzymes. It also means that the small intestine has slowed down, allowing food to stagnate.

Prayer, a moment of mindful silence, and the rituals we have before mealtime are an intuitive shift that the body needs to set stress aside and prepare for digestion. Turn off the television. Avoid eating in your car or while standing. As much as possible, give yourself time to eat and enjoy your food.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Protein in the diet provides essential building blocks to create healthy tissue. Your body requires stomach acid and enzymes to effectively break down protein. Without very acidic stomach acid, enzymes can't do their job. Inactive enzymes will allow food to stagnate or pass through the small intestine undigested.

When bacteria and yeast take residence in the small intestine, it can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms—like heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and cramping after eating. Probiotics are a must to kill unfriendly bacteria, fight harmful bacterial overgrowth, and soothe digestive inflammation.

Reignite your digestive fire by learning how to improve protein digestion:

  1. Start by restoring stomach acid with helpful digestive enzymes.
  2. Fermented foods like cultured veggies and coconut water kefir will bring the inner ecosystem back into balance and improve protein digestion.
  3. Make relaxation a priority to calm stress known to trigger heartburn, weak stomach acid, and poor protein digestion.
  • Assist Full Spectrum Enzymes

    Assist Full Spectrum Enzymes

    Break Down Food, Absorb Nutrients and Prevent Gas and Bloating

    • One of the most complete and powerful digestive enzymes available
    • Assures digestion of proteins over the entire pH range from 2.0 to 11.0
    • Fast-acting, high potency enzyme formula
  • Kefir Starter

    Kefir Starter

    Better Digestion, Boost Immunity

    Kefir has many benefits, including better digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It has been known for thousands of years for its anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties.

    Kefir is an ancient cultured food, rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Kefir means "feel good" in Turkish, and that's just how you'll feel after drinking a glass in the morning! Easy and fun to make at home, it is superior to commercial yogurt. An absolute must after antibiotic use!

    Unlike yogurt, kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and is simple and fun to make at home. To make kefir: Mix one packet with 1 quart of warm milk, cover and set at room temperature for 18-24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy!

    Each packet yields 1 quart of kefir, and can be reused up to 7 times. This means you can create 10 ½ gallons of kefir from one box!

    • Digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates
    • Has anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties
    • Rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins
    • An absolute must after antibiotic use
  • Veggie Culture Starter

    Veggie Culture Starter

    Resist Infections, Enhance Digestion

    • Ideal for appetite and weight control
    • Ideal for pregnant women
    • Ideal for children with Autism and ADD
    • Curbs cravings for bread, sweets and dairy
  • Assist Dairy & Protein

    Assist Dairy & Protein

    Maximize the Absorption of the Protein You Eat, Minimize Waste or Toxicity

    • Enjoy dairy foods again!
    • Enjoy the benefits of milk kefir without the side effects of the casein
    • Aids in the digestion of proteins from animal foods, dairy foods, nuts, seeds and legumes

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  • Renae

    I really need help digesting fats and proteins.
    I ordered, and tried for one week, Assist Dairy and Protein, but I had very uncomfortable burning in my stomach once the food was digested and my stomach was empty.
    This happened when taking just one capsule. I was careful to take the capsule at the beginning of a meal, but the burning would get worse as the day progressed and I wasn't seeing an improvement with my digestion. I finally had to stop taking it.
    From my research this tells me that I don't need HCL, but I still desperately need help with protein and fat digestion.
    Any thoughts?

  • Monika

    Thank you for this article. Is there a way to test whether or not you are digesting proteins?

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