Proper food digestion might be the most important function of our body. It can effect our nutrient absorption, our immunity, our brain function and so much more. Without it we really can’t be the happiest, best version of ourselves.
Digestive Enzymes are proteins produced largely in the pancreas, but some are produced in the small intestines as well. There are three main kinds of digestive enzymes that help our body break down and absorb fats, proteins or carbohydrates.
Kinds of digestive enzymes and their functions
- Amylase – breaks carbohydrates down into simple sugar forms like fructose and glucose
- Protease – breaks proteins down into amino acids
- Lipase – breaks fats down into fatty acids and glycerol
The Problems With Enzymes Under Stress
Unfortunately, sometimes different stressors can cause our enzymes to become damaged or denatured. As mentioned, enzymes are proteins and certain factors can damage the amino acid bonds, causing the enzymes to collapse on themselves. They no longer resemble enzymes, and no longer do their job.
In fact, our body may treat the denatured enzymes as invading organisms and spends energy to get rid of them!
When our body has an excess of invading bodies, it often triggers an immune response in the form of inflammation, and excessive inflammation is at the root of many digestive issues.
Factors that disrupt our natural enzyme production and health
Many of the factors contributing to the denaturing of our enzymes have to do with our modern times. Some of these factors are:
- Fluoride – found in toothpaste, and often in municipal water
- Drugs – over the counter and recreational
- Free Radical Damage – can be environmental or even from too much time in the sun
- Irradiation – foods and ingredients in food that have been irradiated are required to have a label. Have you ever looked for it?
- Food Processing
- Heating food above 118 F (cooking)
Factors that require our bodies to use more enzymes
Aside from these factors that damage our existing enzymes, we also have lifestyle factors that require our bodies to use excessive amounts of enzymes. Some of these factors are:
- Air pollution – inside and outside buildings
- Physical stress – illness, injuries and even everyday fatigue
- Mental and emotional stress – financial stress, relational stress, etc.
- Lack of sleep
- Fast food and highly processed foods
- Poor food combinations – believe it or not, carbs and proteins should not be eaten together. That’s right, meat and potatoes, or a turkey sandwich and so much more. This stresses the digestive system.
Many of us live under these conditions every day and may be living with an enzyme deficiency.
How to Boost Your Enzyme Intake and Production.
The first and most obvious it to not eat highly processed foods. Choose real food over fast food, processed boxed or canned food – these are all nutrient deficient food.
Eat lots of raw vegetables and fruit. If we can eat t least 75% raw, living food, we will do our bodies a great service. And your cooked food should be high quality, organic, and grass fed. I realize this isn’t always possible, but it is something to strive for.
Add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to foods before cooking to help break them down a little before they hit your digestive system. These add acids, probiotics, enzymes and antioxidants that in essence predigest the food a little as well as helping to neutralize free radical formation.
Eat foods naturally high in digestive enzymes like:
- Aloe Vera
- Lemons and Limes
- Ginger Root
- Coconut – fresh coconut, cococnut milk and coconut water – not canned
- Flax Seed
- Real Yogurt and Fermented Foods – beware fake yogurts that have no live cultures
- Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, like Bragg’s
- Non-GMO Papaya
- Chlorella – look for raw
- Spirulina – look for raw
Powdered raw wholefoods – real food – can help you easily add digestive enzymes to smoothies, salad dressings, protein shakes, and so much more! Remember to buy raw supplements and don’t heat them.
Other ways to boost enzyme intake
Another great healthy way to boost enzyme intake is to eat soaked or sprouted grains, nuts and legumes. The processes of fermenting, soaking, and sprouting begins the breaking down of our food to make it easier to digest so we get the most out of our food – and need fewer enzymes to digest it! This is why it is very important for nuts, grains, legumes, and cruciferous veggies.
Digestive Enzymes To The Rescue!
Does all of this seem a bit daunting? I agree – how can any normal person be that good all the time? I know I don’t follow the above suggestions all the time. I don’t eat enough sprouted or fermented foods. And I definitely don’t eat 80 of my food as raw. But, I do keep a bottle of digestive enzymes in my cabinet at all times for when my food doesn’t agree with me.
Who may benefit from a natural digestive enzyme supplement?
The simple answer is anyone looking to improve their gut health. The number one reason people have digestive issues is because they aren’t digesting their food properly or completely. A good natural digestive enzyme supplement can be very helpful in getting the most out of the food you eat all the time.
Aside from general digestive health, there are a number of conditions that may be helped significantly with digestive enzymes. Note that many of these are not considered digestive problems. Some of these are:
Stress – Too much stress, whether it is emotional, physical or mental, can actually impair our digestion. When we are under a lot of stress, our body spends a lot of time trying to deal with it and spends less time on other functions. We actually produce fewer digestive enzymes when we are under a lot of stress. For this reason, it is really a good idea to take digestive enzymes when we are feeling particularly stressed.
Leaky Gut – Then the cells in the lining of our gut are not healthy, they allow gaps to form and undigested food can leak out. Our bodies actually recognize this undigested food as a foreign invader. It creates an immune response from our bodies and can cause of inflammation that may spread throughout the body. Digestive Enzymes can be very beneficial in healing the gut lining and helping people get the most nutrition from their food. The food list above is highly recommended for people with IBS.
Fibromyalgia, Migraines, other unexplained pain – As noted above, the inflammation from leaky gut doesn’t stay in the gut, it travels throughout our bodies and can be the cause of many other pain and illnesses. This includes muscle and joint pain, and headaches, as well as anxiety and poor mood. It may not be the only cause, but can be a contributing factor.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Anxiety, Sleep disorders, Brain Fog – Most people don’t know this, but most of our neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, actually come from our gut and not our brain. With this knowledge, it is obvious how gut health and brain health are related. When the gut isn’t healthy, we don’t produce enough neurotransmitters to feel awake, happy and relaxed.
Something else to keep in mind – inflammation in the gut triggers inflammation in the nervous system. This can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and memory problems. Increasing our neurotransmitters and decreasing gut inflammation can help improve our mood and mind. And taking digestive enzymes can help with this.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – People with IBS do not completely digest their food. Research suggests some digestive enzymes are very helpful, while other research suggests not all enzymes are helpful. Look for pancreatin or pancreatic enzyme formula for the best results.
Bloating, Gas, Constipation, and/or Diarrhea – OK, these are all obvious digestive issues. If you experience these regularly, eating foods high indigestive enzymes, or taking a good, high quality digestive enzyme supplement prior to eating can be very helpful in preventing these problems.
I don’t personally have these problems often, but when I experience them after eating, I take a digestive enzyme supplement to quicken the relief.
Immune and Autoimmune Issues – Another little known fact is that 80% of our immune system is in our guts. Poor gut health means our immune system cannot function optimally, and can cause all kinds of health issues. Stress and poor diet are the perfect recipe for Autoimmune disorders. By addressing the root cause, some people have successfully reversed their autoimmune problems. Digestive enzymes can be very beneficial to help heal the gut and reverse the damage.
Supports Weight Loss and Healthy Weight – The enzyme Lipase is responsible for breaking down fats during digestion. It is easy to see how this enzyme can help. Having enough of this enzyme, along with all the others, may aid weight loss because they can speed up the digestion process.
Enzymes are important for metabolism, too. Our food needs to be broken down into it’s essential building blocks in order to be properly metabolized.
When a digestive system is streamlined with plenty of digestive enzymes, it helps create a happy environment that needs no inflammation and eliminates poisonous stagnation. these conditions can lead to a decrease in weight.
Top Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
- Below is a short list of some of the top benefits noticed by many people who improve their digestive enzyme consumption.
- Reduces stress on the entire digestive system.
- Reduces Inflammation and encourages a healthy microbiome in the gut.
- Improves digestion and nutrient absorbtion.
- May reduce food sensitivities and allergies.
- Supports an improved immune response from our bodies.
- Great for metabolism and creation of cellular energy
Are you ready to try a good, Digestive Enzyme Supplement?
Here at Nourishing World, we sell a few really great, natural digestive enzymes supplements.
The first two come from Smidge. This company doesn’t use fillers or toxic flow agents and is a very clean company.
Smidge Digestive Enzymes is a great choice for anyone who wants to get more out of their food. Try their regular digestive enzymes for help digesting sugars, fats and proteins.
The HCL + Enzymes is specifically formulated for people who need a bit more stomache acid (HCl) to help break down their food for proper digestion. Try their HCL + Enzymes if you need a little extra hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and pepsin to help break down your food.
Veganzyme from Global Healing is a digestive enzyme supplement specifically formulated for those on a plant based diet or people sufferering from food allergies.
This is a dairy free, multi enzyme formula that helps promote optimal nutrient absorption.
Get the most out of your food!
Bottom line? Try a great natural digestive enzyme supplement and see if you feel better.