Your body is designed to digest and absorb nutrients from the food you eat. You’ve probably heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” But more accurately, you are what you digest and absorb! A large part of this process involves creating hydrochloric acid and various enzymes to break down the food.

If you seem to have gas no matter you eat, or you suffer from heartburn or indigestion, or if constipation is an issue for you, it’s likely there is something wrong with your enzyme production. In order to be able to absorb nutrients, food has to be broken down microscopic particles. Anything that’s not totally broken down starts composting somewhere in your intestinal tract, leading to a number of problems. Undigested particles can also trigger your immune system and create inflammation if you have a leaky gut (more on this later).

But before you start taking enzyme or hydrochloric acid pills, let’s look at how the digestive process is supposed to work.

Digestion actually should start before you ever pick up your fork. Have you ever noticed that smelling something delicious can make your stomach growl? That’s your body realizing that food is on the way, and starting to produce digestive juices to get ready for it.

And as “woo woo” as it may sound, it’s important to look at your food and appreciate it before you begin eating. Gratitude for the cook, the farmer, the grocery store, a higher power or anything/anyone involved in the process of growing the food and getting it to your table is a powerful way to prepare your digestive system and brain to function optimally. It also has countless other benefits and feels good. It’s a win-win!

Next, chew your food thoroughly. Yes, just like your mother probably told you when you were little. This obvious and often overlooked mechanical step also stimulates the production of saliva, which contains the first round of digestive enzymes. It also stimulates and prepares digestive function further down the line by activating the part of your nervous system responsible for digestion.

Your stomach produces acid that begins breaking down proteins. This acid also signals your gall bladder to release bile, which breaks down fats into fatty acids important for brain function and hormone production among other things.

After this mixture churns for awhile, your pancreas releases enzymes that further break down the food in the small intestine.

If all has gone well, macronutrients have been broken down into micronutrients, which can be absorbed selectively into your bloodstream.

If not, well, that’s how you get those uncomfortable digestive symptoms we talked about earlier.

All of the different digestive actions are necessary for the whole thing to work. Remove or inhibit one piece, and the whole process suffers. And if digestion suffers, every aspect of health suffers.

There are a few diseases that affect enzyme production and cause deficiency, but one of the biggest causes is Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is ironic, because enzyme therapy is also crucial to heal leaky gut.

Depending on your situation, your healthcare practitioner may suggest the use of hydrochloric acid therapy, or other enzyme combinations. Proper use of supplemental enzymes can help to heal your body’s ability to once again create the enzymes it needs. Most importantly, though, figuring out the cause of the problem and then correcting all aspects of the digestive process is the key.