It might seem like a simple task for the body to be able to digest and process a meal that you have just eaten, but it is not always without issues.
The truth is, digestion is a strenuous process for the body, and if your digestive health is not as robust as it needs to be, you will soon find yourself experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. That is why digestive enzyme supplements have seen a rise in popularity recently, with many people taking them regularly to ease digestive pain and discomfort that can arise after a meal.
So, what exactly are digestive enzymes? They might not be top of your list of supplements, but there is compelling evidence that proves it is time to take digestive support seriously. Quite simply, digestive enzymes are protein catalysts (think of them as chemical scissors) that break down our food into its component parts, called micro-nutrients. Once broken down into these tiny particles, the nutrition from our food can be absorbed effectively via the gut lining, into our blood stream. Enzymes are vital for our digestion and consequently to all cell activity within the body.
This may sound like a bold statement, but let’s rewind to that moment you take your first mouthful of food at mealtime. The mouth is the first digestive organ that food enters, with the chewing action alerting the rest of the digestive system that food is on its way. The digestive system then releases a spectrum of different digestive enzymes to tackle and break down each food group; however, there are many reasons why the release of your own supply of enzymes may not be adequate, resulting in uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms.
Taking a digestive enzyme supplement is an easy solution to ease symptoms such as bloating, wind, indigestion and constipation. To shed some light on this overlooked aspect of our nutrition, we caught up with Nutritionist and Consultant to Enzymedica UK, May Simpkin, who reveals what you can expect from taking a digestive enzyme supplement with your meals.
Digestive Enzymes – Beat the Bloat
One of the most common causes of bloating happens when we eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as bread, rice or pasta. In addition to these foods, many vegetables also contain cellulose and carbohydrates that are difficult to digest. These undigested food particles can remain in our gut for too long and begin to ferment, giving off gases that cause that uncomfortable bloating sensation after eating. Taking a digestive enzyme supplement will promote more effective digestion of these foods and consequently help to alleviate bloating.
Digestive Enzymes – Prevent Wind
Some people find that eating certain foods causes a build-up of wind. Whilst this does not necessarily indicate an intolerance to that food, it can suggest that there is a deficiency of a specific digestive enzyme. For example, wind is most frequently associated with the consumption of beans and pulses, like lentils and chickpeas, and this is often due to a deficiency or absence of an enzyme called alpha galactosidase, which is needed to effectively break down these legumes during the digestive process. Consequently, food waste effectively builds up and then begins to ferment in the gut, giving off gases. Taking a digestive enzyme that contains alpha galactosidase will help to break down the carbohydrates in legumes into simpler sugars, making them easier to digest.
Digestive Enzymes – Support Detoxification
When proteins are digested, they are broken down into amino acids which are important for liver function. The digestive enzyme protease is vital for the proper breakdown of proteins, and without effective protein breakdown, liver detox is impaired as the detoxification in the liver relies on the amino acids released from protein foods, along with co-factors such as zinc. An efficient digestive process will ensure effective release of not only the amino acids, but also other key nutrients necessary for detoxification.
Digestive Enzymes – Alleviate Constipation
When foods are not digested properly, undigested particles make their way to the colon where they cannot be easily eliminated. This causes a build-up of waste that then ferments and putrefies and over time, this waste becomes more compacted, resulting in constipation. Improving digestion will prevent undigested food reaching the colon and creating a blockage. Constipation is often associated with meals that are high in fat or protein, which contain complex nutrients that require an effective digestive system to help break them down easily. A digestive enzyme supplement which contains adequate lipase and proteases enzymes will help you more easily digest the fats and proteins in your meal.
Digestive Enzymes – Feel Less Tired After Eating
The digestive process requires significant energy to process food. It is understood that between 70 – 80% of our body’s vital energy is spent on digestion alone. By aiding the breakdown and absorption of foods, you can free up enormous amounts of energy, increasing physical vitality and enhancing energy levels.
Raw vegetables and fruits contain naturally occurring digestive enzymes, so we need less energy to digest them. However, in foods that have been cooked or processed in any way, their naturally occurring enzymes have been de-natured and are not available to us.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes means the body does not need to work so hard to produce the enzymes required for the digestion and processing of food, thus releasing energy for other systems in the body. I recommend Digest Gold from Enzymedica UK, a full spectrum enzyme formula containing 13 different vegan enzymes plus ATP, Magnesium Citrate, Phytase and CoQ10. Not only does ATP help boost nutrient absorption, but it’s also a supercharger for enzymes, assisting your body to break down food even more easily. The Digest Gold formula works across all acid and alkali levels in your digestive tract and helps to decrease the energy demands of the digestive process, so you can better absorb the nutrients from the food you eat and remain energised.
Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases.
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Levine ME, Koch SY, Koch KL. Lipase Supplementation before a High-Fat Meal Reduces Perceptions of Fullness in Healthy Subjects. Gut Liver. 2015 Jul;9(4):464-9. doi: 10.5009/gnl14005. PMID: 25287168; PMCID: PMC4477989.