Problems digesting food are super common. If you have already ruled out you do or don’t need HCL with the HCL protocol, you may want to see if you need extra digestive enzymes or ox bile with meals. This article will explain reasons you may want to experiment with these supplements, but keep in mind you probably also want to get a stool study to see how well you are producing digestive enzymes on your own. You can do this by working with a doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine or a Naturopath.

How do you know if you need digestive enzymes?

10 years ago if you had asked me whether people needed digestive enzymes I would have balked at the idea saying it was nonsense. But, after practicing medicine for many years and healing not only my own gut but the guts of many patients, I realized a lot of people actually don’t digest properly and have no idea how much better their body would feel if they actually knew what good digestion looked and felt like. With digestive enzymes you can really support gut healing and also assimilate more protein that you are eating. It’s one of my most prescribed supplements (I personally use the brand Bioptimizers Massymes because I trust this company of all companies out there who are selling enzymes. You can use the code DRMOLLY for a discount).

Symptoms Suggestive of Digestive Enzyme Deficiency:

  • Belly pain or cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Food intolerances
  • Digestive issues
  • Poor nutrient absorption
  • Undigested food found in stools
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Weakened immune system
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Skin problems

Using Digestive Enzymes:

You may want to try using digestive enzymes with meals, either based on symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, or, based on lab results. Digestive enzymes are normally produced by the pancreas, and help us to digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in our foods.

  • Start with 1 cap per meal.
  • Gradually increase from 1 to 2 caps per meal and watch for improvement of symptoms.
  • You may need to go up as far as 4 caps per meal.
  • If you feel burning or discomfort, reduce your dose, or eliminate enzymes for a day or so, and then reintroduce at lower dose.
  • Things to look for are:
    • Less bloating and gas
    • Less digestive discomfort
    • Improved stool consistency
    • Less undigested food in stool
    • Reduced diarrhea or constipation

How Do You Know if You Need Ox Bile?

Like pancreatic enzymes and stomach acid, bile is produced naturally in the body. Made in the liver and released by the gall bladder, bile acids help us to digest and assimilate the fats that we eat in our food. With a healthy gall bladder, bile is released into the intestines as needed, when we consume fat. If you have had your gallbladder removed, or if your gallbladder function is compromised (common with SIBO or digestive infections or if you are eating a ketogenic diet or are fasting and notice pain in your right upper abdominal quadrant), you may not be putting out enough bile to properly digest fat and absorb your essential fat soluble vitamins. I like the Seeking Health brand for ox bile.

Keep in mind, I would not recommend bile salts for people with hyperthyroidism (extra bile can increase conversion of T4 to T3 making you more hyperthyroid) or people with active diarrhea.

Symptoms Suggestive of Bile Acid Deficiency:

  • Oily stools (usually a sign you need a bile supplement)
  • Abdominal tightness
  • Indigestion
  • Bloating
  • Nausea after eating fatty foods
  • Constipation
  • Pale, yellowish or clay colored stools
  • Floating stools
  • Yellow skin (jaundice)
  • Deficiency in fat soluble vitamines (A, D, E, K)
  • Greasy or foul-smelling stools
  • Gas and belching
  • Nausea after eating fat
  • Very dry skin
  • Hormone imbalances

Using Ox Bile:

  • Start with 1 cap of Ox bile (125 mg) per meal containing fats.
  • Gradually increase as high as 3 caps per meal.
  • If you notice that 3 or more caps noticeably change your symptoms, Ox Bile is also available in 500 mg capsules.
  • Look for reduced gas, bloating, and improved stool consistency and color


I hope this article helped you figure out whether you need extra digestive supplements! Getting your digestion right is one of the most important first steps to optimizing your health. After determining that you need these supplements, you will need determine your personal dose for digestive enzymes and Ox Bile. Also, each person will have a different dose that works best for their needs, and that dosage may change over time, as digestive function is restored. Determining the right dose for you is not something we can test with a lab so there is some trial and error involved. Finally, if supplements like this are not helping, you may need to get a stool study to find out if you have a parasite, dysbiosis, yeast overgrowth or other digestive ailment.

To learn more:

If you want more comprehensive guidance, consider taking my online course, “Your Healthspan Journey” I taught at Stanford for 3 years which is truly the ultimate masterclass in health optimization.

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