BiotiQuest® Gut Health & Probiotics Blog with Martha Carlin

On Keto? Can digestive enzymes make it better?

Martha Carlin | Apr 10, 2023 | 7 minutes read

Living the keto life can support many health benefits. But it can seem difficult to eat a high fat diet and keep going when you find yourself in that in-between stage of feeling bloated and gassy before you're fully keto-adapted. 

It can be tiring and uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Digestive enzyme supplements aka keto enzymes might just be what you're looking for to optimize fat digestion.

Food is made up of macronutrients - fats, proteins, and carbs - along with micronutrients which can either be fat-soluble such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, or water-soluble such as vitamin C and the B vitamins.

Your digestive health relies on how well your gut breaks down the macronutrients in your food and makes more nutrients available for absorption via the intestinal lining. A healthy breakdown of food can help you avoid symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating.


Is it worth it to go keto? Benefits of a ketogenic diet

First used in 1920 to treat epilepsy in children, a ketogenic diet (KD) is high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbs. KD can consist of foods with up to:

  • 60 to 70% fat,
  • 20-25% of protein, and
  • 5% carbohydrates.

The keto diet has been associated with numerous health benefits which include but are not limited to:

  • Lowering total cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Reducing blood sugar (HbA1c)
  • Decreasing systolic and diastolic blood pressure 
  • Improving insulin resistance
  • Enhancing cognition
  • Weight management
  • Better sleep
  • Mental clarity

Let's find out how you can benefit from a ketogenic diet and get past digestive distress which can take the form of keto gas, keto bloating, and/or keto diarrhea.


Possible digestive problems when starting keto

The digestive process starts in the mouth and finishes with bowel movements. At each stop along the way, enzymes such as lingual (mouth), gastric (stomach), and pancreatic lipase (released in the small intestine) continue the digestive process of stripping dietary triglycerides down to their smallest parts and getting the full nutritional value from your food.

Lingual and gastric enzymes prepare lipid (fat) molecules for the action of pancreatic enzymes and the eventual breakdown into fatty acids. 

Transitioning from a carbohydrate-rich diet to a diet high in fat and protein can be a drastic change for your body and lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Acid reflux
  • Diarrhea
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Constipation

One of the main factors that contribute to digestive distress as you adjust to eating such a high in fat diet is low levels of digestive enzymes that can process lipids and protein. Additionally, lack of certain gut bacteria that have been associated with lipase activity in the gut can add to indigestion.

What is the reason behind keto bloating and gas?

One of the main effects of a keto diet on your digestive health is the slow movement of food through the GI tract due to a lack of dietary fiber, and an increased demand for digestive enzymes and bile from the liver to digest the additional lipids and protein in your diet.

Insufficient digestive enzymes lead to undigested food that starts to ferment and produce gas as it stays in the digestive tract for extended periods of time causing you to feel bloated and gassy.

Fats are the main source of energy for keto dieters and lack of proper digestion and leftover undigested fats can leave you feeling chronic fatigue and experiencing either diarrhea (oily diarrhea due to undigested and unabsorbed fats) or constipation. 

Along with fatigue and diarrhea, you might also have other symptoms such as muscle cramps and excessive thirst, collectively known as the keto flu. Keto flu symptoms gradually fade as your body adapts to keto.


Can digestive enzyme supplements relieve keto bloating?

Pancreas produces and secretes many enzymes in the gut that help the breakdown of food into its smallest building blocks - fatty and amino acids - which get absorbed via the intestinal lining. 

In case of an insufficient internal supply of digestive enzymes, a keto-appropriate digestive enzyme supplement might help you with digesting all of your food which can help relieve symptoms of bloating and gas.

Digestive enzyme supplements, which specifically target lipid digestion and are derived from different sources such as ox (cow), porcine (pig), and fungal sources can help you break down that extra bit of dietary fat.

Types of digestive enzymes

Pancreas is a hand-sized organ that can secrete roughly 1-4 liters of pancreatic juice in a day. Different types of enzymes present in pancreatic juice are:

  • Amylase - to break down carbs into glucose
  • Protease - to break down proteins into amino acids
  • Lipase - to break down fat into fatty acids

Lipase is the only enzyme that can break down dietary triglycerides into its smaller forms and the pancreas can have a hard time keeping up with the demand for increased lipase needed during a keto diet. 

Although as your gut microbiome adapts to a high fat diet, lipase positive microbes might increase and facilitate further breakdown of additional dietary fat.

Is there a difference between digestive enzymes and keto enzymes?

Digestive enzyme supplements can be a blend of many enzymes to help you to digest different macros. They can have a mix of amylases, proteases, lipases, lactase (breaks down lactose found in dairy), alpha-galactosidase (breaks down complex carbohydrates found in beans and grains), or any mix in between depending on your dietary and nutritional needs. 

Additional supplements such as betaine hcl and ox bile can be helpful in supporting gastric and liver function to further improve fat breakdown and absorption.

Keto enzymes have lipases as the primary digestive enzyme and might have bovine bile as they specifically target fat breakdown. Lipase helps break down dietary fats into free fatty acids and glycerol.

Best keto digestive enzymes

A digestive enzyme supplement best for a keto diet should consist of specific enzymes like lipases and proteases, as they can help you break down the significant levels of fat and protein you'll be eating in your keto diet.

Do probiotics contribute to lipase activity in the gut?

Probiotics play an important role in nutrient absorption, strengthening the intestinal lining, improving immune function and curbing inflammation. A diverse gut microbiome supports multiple essential functions and can be instrumental in optimizing health.

Probiotic B. subtilis produces digestive enzymes such as two types of lipases lipA and lipB along with six different types of proteases and an alpha amylase. Lipase, protease and amylase facilitate the breakdown down of fats, proteins and starches, respectively. 

Additionally, an article published in Frontiers in microbiology discusses some initial evidence suggesting that specific probiotic strains of L. rhamnosus and B. longum might also have lipase activity in the gut.

Our probiotic supplement Sugar Shift comes with strains such as B. longum, B. subtilis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides (TBC0037™) that might help you better navigate your keto journey and help you curb sugar cravings. 

In addition to displaying lipase activity, B. Longum also has a protective effect on the gut due to its antimicrobial effects and might help keep pathogens under control as your gut microbiome changes and adapts to the keto diet. 

Leuconostoc mesenteroides (TBC0037™) principally convert simple sugars like glucose and fructose into mannitol. Mannitol has a protective effect on the gut lining and passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. 

Keto journey’s often start with the dreaded keto bloat due to a sudden fluctuation in diet and the gut microbiome.  As you start shifting to a high fat diet, your gut microbiome might benefit from additional probiotic support. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Do digestive enzymes help with keto?

Enzymes may help improve digestive function as you keto adapt, and they might also help with symptoms of gas and bloating.

What are keto digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes contain different types of lipases to help your body break down triglycerides into diglycerides and glycerol.

Are enzymes keto-friendly?

A digestive enzyme supplement that has been made for keto dieters will have zero carbohydrates and a keto appropriate blend of lipase and protease to help you break down your food at every meal.

Are Keto digestive enzymes acid stable?

Keto enzymes that come from a bovine source are gastric acid stable.


Keto and digestive enzymes

You already knew that maintaining a precise balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates is important to maintain ketosis.

But adding a digestive enzyme supplement that’s been designed to support a high-fat, low-carb diet might help you process the changes in your diet a lot more efficiently. Improved digestion and absorption of nutrients can help you manage your energy better and lead to greater success on the keto diet.

With gratitude,

Martha Carlin photo Martha Carlin, is a “Citizen Scientist”, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective , a microbiome company expanding the reach of science and BiotiQuest, the first of it’s kind probiotic line. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human disease. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.

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