When Enzymes Can Help


In my last post on enzymes (Why I don’t Recommend HCL and Enzymes), I outlined why I don’t see enzymes as an essential part of the first stages of a good healing program. In short, we want, first, to bolster or assess our own bodily ability to produce enzymes before we supplement. Too many people jump right in to lots of supplements in the beginning, supplements that they may not need. We want our body to improve digestion and decrease transit time (to heal) on its own, if possible.

Enzymes, however, can be beneficial in the healing process. The caution from my last post on enzymes was to ensure that we are:

  1. Examining our diet, getting enough rest, and trying other, more established therapies, like probiotics, before we start another supplement; making sure we have a real imbalance before we start HCL (which can increase diarrhea in Crohn’s and colitis)
  2. Allowing time for other treatments, like the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, to work before we add another layer of treatment.

Those are my preferences—to use as few supplements as necessary to heal. With that said, enzymes have proven helpful to many people, and it’s worth outlining here, why and how they can be helpful.

The basic theory is, that if used properly, enzymes can:

  • Increase the metabolic energy available to the body such that the body can then utilize that energy to heal from disease, imbalance, etc.
  • In the case of digestive disease, using digestive enzymes can decrease the digestive energy burden on the body, which may help encourage healing.
  • Using digestive enzymes can also help to decrease the burden of undigested matter that reaches the colon, and assists your body in breaking down the food you consume, which can lead to better nutrition for those of us with active symptoms. Read the rest of this entry

9/2/14 Addition: I’ve refined my thinking about HCl and Enzymes since I wrote this post several years ago. I was seeing people start HCl and enzymes BEFORE they gave the safer and more universally reliable treatments like diet and probiotics a try–and it frustrated the hell out of me. That said, HCl and enzymes can be helpful, but they have a time and place. Ironically, I have found that my stomach needs supplementary HCl and it’s helped me a lot, but I started it well after I implemented diet (SCD), probiotics, Fecal Transplants (FMT), and other treatments.

Before trying HCl, I recommend you talk to a natural or integrative medicine doctor, and read the wonderful book, “Why Stomach Acid is Good for You” by Johnathan Wright.

In continuing with the supplement series, I decided to tackle what I consider to be a controversial recommendation: HCl and Digestive Enzymes.

Why I don’t recommend HCl and digestive enzymes:

I know many doctors and natural healing programs recommend supplementing with HCl and/or enzymes. Indeed enzymes are therapeutic and can be used for treating certain diseases, but for IBD, I still do not believe that we should supplement with digestive enzymes or HCl for the purpose of increasing digestion unless we know that we have enzyme, acid, or other production deficiencies. Many of us have been on acid reducers of some sort, and that may be a reason for investigating your acid production, but before you try buying HCL and enzymes, there are lots of natural ways to improve digestion. I recommend trying those first. Read the rest of this entry

Natural Anti-microbial Supplements for IBD

Plants have been used as primary medicine for millennia. In fact, anthropologists have found medicinal herbs in the a 60,000 year old grave of a Neanderthal man. Cultures throughout the world have detailed plans and systems for using medicinal plants. What modern researchers are finding today, is nothing new. In fact, over 50% of the modern-day pharmacy is derived from plant material.


General principles for all natural antibiotics:

  • Unlike conventional antibiotics, there are few side effects. Most have none at all. This is a great relief(!), especially if you’ve been suffering through the side effects of steroids or immune suppressants.
  • Unlike conventional antibiotics, they have multiple action (they work on microbes in and through many different mechanisms); Read the rest of this entry

[Note: I am not a doctor. Caution is the better part of valor here. Always be cautious when starting a new treatment, and never do it without the supervision of a doctor.]


Throughout this series, have alluded to my perspective on probiotic supplementation for IBD; I think it should be diverse. People with IBD should intake as many beneficial species as their body can handle.

Last week’s idea of a pathogenic community, a community of bacteria to which, because of its functional properties, our IBD-prone bodies react unfavorably, suggests that probiotic supplementation should encourage the building of an entire community of bacteria which are non-pathogenic to your body.

The question of how to best do that remains undecided in my mind. In my first post, I introduced Jini Patel Thompson’s approach using Natren probiotics; three or four (if you use B. infantis too) species, slowly introduced one at a time. This is a very good approach (the one I used) to beginning probiotic supplementation. It allows you to tell exactly how you react to each species, and allows you to tailor the doses accordingly (increase one, decrease another, etc.) However, it doesn’t meet my diversity criterion, and it didn’t work for me (more on this later).

Oh, what to do, what to do?

Evidence: Are Probiotic Mixtures more Effective than Single Strains?

The operant question here is, Do probiotic mixtures demonstrate more or greater positive health effects than their component strains, when administered separately? Read the rest of this entry

Micronutrients: Selenium and Iodine

Before I begin, I will give an update on my health in my next post. Thank you to so many for asking.

This post continues our discussion about supplementation. See my previous posts, in order, here, here, here, and finally here. Remember, we’re taking the executive summary approach, just the essentials.

The thyroid gland is one of the most important hormone glands in the body. If I had to single out one essential hormone for health and healing, it would be the thyroid hormone, T3. It is essential in RNA transcription. It plays an essential role in glucose production and uptake, bodily energy consumption, fat uptake and use, and it even is involved in heart rate and blood pressure. It is also essential for nervous system development in infants and embryos.

This post is about micronutrients, so I won’t go deeply into thyroid function here, but suffice to say, you cannot heal properly without adequate T3 levels. There are two micronutrients your body must have to produce T3—Selenium and Iodine.

Read the rest of this entry