Many people wonder exactly what are digestive enzymes. Digestive bacteria and fungi are naturally created and colonized by your small intestine and pancreas. Your saliva and stomach also manufacture the crucial digestive component. It is used by the body to break down food and turn it into nutrients that your system can readily absorb. If your body doesn’t produce enough digestive components then it cannot absorb sufficient nutrients.
Causes of Inadequate Digestion
Diseases frequently cause the body to produce only a limited supply of enzymes. Here is a list of a few common causes and disorders.
- Pancreatic Disorders: Disorders of the pancreas such as pancreatic cancer, and acute or chronic pancreatitis.
- Cystic fibrosis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Food Allergies
- Parasitic Infection
- Low Stomach Acid
- Chronic Stress
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Acid Reflux
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Chronic Diarrhea
- Chronic Constipation
- Leaky Gut
- Liver Disease
- Vitamin D Deficiency
- Vitamin A Deficiency
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Iron Deficiency
- Chronic Stress
Stress and Digestion
Stress takes a toll on all aspects of your life and your body’s physical functions. Digestion is one of the chief areas that suffer when you are under high levels of stress. Your body has a natural flight or fight response that is activated during times of chronic stress. In response, your body automatically shuts down or slows digestion and the secretion of all the necessary components needed to effectively absorb nutrients. Over time, your gastrointestinal tract can suffer from inflammation, which is why stomach ulcers are so common in individuals who live a stress-filled lifestyle. The colon will also start to spasm in response to stress which is why IBS and Crohn’s disease are all made worse by stressful situations.
Aging and Enzymes
Natural aging takes an effect on enzymes. The older you get, the more alkaline your gut flora becomes. The alkalinity and lack of enzymes cause nutrient deficiencies in the elderly.
Symptoms of Inadequate Digestive Enzymes
There are many physical indications that you might lack sufficient digestive enzymes if you just pay close attention to your body and its signs. Here is a list of common symptoms that might indicate your gastrointestinal tract is not functioning properly. You may experience one or two of these symptoms or you may be experiencing all of the symptoms.
Stool Changes: Stool that floats in the toilet is a sign that the stool contains too much fat. Fat floats. The stool is also often light in color.
Bloating — Stomach bloating after eating. Your stomach will feel overly full and physically uncomfortable.
Flatulence — Chronic flatulence.
Diarrhea — Diarrhea usually hits within an hour after eating.
Indigestion — Frequent indigestion.
Full Feeling — Feeling overly full even though you have only consumed a few bites of food.
Hard Abdomen — A noticeably hard abdomen after you have eaten.
Oily Stool –– Your stool has an oily appearance. Greasy or fatty deposits in the toilet bowl are another sign you can watch for that lets you know you are having a problem properly digesting your food. Fat in the stool is a strong indication that the body’s pancreatic enzymes are not sufficient.
Toilet Bowl Residue: Oily stool often leaves a noticeable residue in your toilet bowl, even after you flush.
Undigested Food: You might notice bits of undigested food in your stool. Often large chunks or just small particles. Once in awhile, a bit of undigested food is normal, but if you continually see food particles then there might be a problem.
General Feeling of Unease: Sometimes you just know something is wrong with your body and it is not functioning to its full capacity. Poor digestion and gastrointestinal problems are a key to feeling healthy and if something is amiss then you just don’t feel well on a day-to-day basis.
Fluoridated Water and Digestive Enzymes
Fluoride in your drinking water may decrease your pancreas ability to create enzymes. Drinking non-fluoridated water may restore your body’s ability to create enough digestive components.
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
You must have enzymes to properly digest your food and receive enough nutrients to maintain your health and energy. Without them, you will slowly waste away.
Here are a few other benefits:
- Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Prevents acid reflux
- Relieves stress in the digestive tract.
- Assists the body in digesting protein, sugars, casein, and lactose.
- Counteracts enzyme inhibitors found in foods such as beans, egg whites, peanuts, wheat germ, nuts, seeds, beans and potatoes.
- Supports healthy digestion.
- Reduces flatulence
- Relieves bloating
- Supports colon health
- Relieves constipation
- Reduces diarrhea
- Helps the body process difficult to digest foods.
- Promotes the optimum digestion of all nutrients from foods
- Relieves indigestion
Best Sources Of Digestive Enzyme
Here are four of the best digestive enzyme products:
- Fruits such as papaya and pineapples.
- Probiotics such as yeasts and fungi.
- Pancreatin which has been sourced from ox or hog.
- Gooseberry Extract
Testing for Digestive Enzymes
Your physician can run a stool test to determine if your body is digesting food nutrients sufficiently and how well your pancreas is functioning. Remember, that some medical tests are not covered by insurance. Many general practitioners do not readily offer such testing, so you might have to seek out a naturopathic doctor or alternative provider. You must always be proactive in your healthcare. Sometimes physicians don’t want to listen to you but you know your body. Often you can tell if there is something that is not right with your body and you must seek out a doctor that will listen to your concerns. Your physician should run the required tests to determine the physical cause of your problems.
What Kinds of Digestive Enzymes Should you Take?
You will find a wide variety of digestion supplements available. Usually, they are a single or multiple enzymes. If you have not visited a physician and had a diagnosis made about what type of enzyme your body is lacking, then it is advised that you take multiple enzymes to cover all bases. This way you won’t lack one and if you take additional enzymes that your body does not require, it’s okay too.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Enzymes
Quality — A cheap price might indicate an inferior supplement. When it comes to buying supplements going super cheap is not always the best choice. You often get what you pay for which will be a poor quality product. However, there are often sales on supplements so try to familiarize yourself with the brands to determine what is the best quality to buy.
Reputation — Many supplement manufacturers have a good reputation for producing quality products.
Source — When buying enzymes you must consider the source. There are three major sources of digestive enzymes: fruit, animal, and plant.
- Fruit Sourced — Fruit sourced components in the supplement usually come from pineapple or papaya. They work very well for some people but are typically considered a weak enzyme. They might not be sufficient for someone who seriously lacks adequate enzymes.
- Animal Sourced — Animal sourced are usually listed as ‘pancreatin’. Vegans and vegetarians should steer clear of anything that says pancreatin on the label because these have been derived from animals. They work well but often have a problem with break down.
- Plant-Sourced — Plant-sourced is derived from a fungus. They are extremely stable and have a broad spectrum of functions which makes them ideal for just about anyone. The fungus is also easily used by the body’s digestive system for superior results.
Multiple Enzymes — The majority of people will benefit from multiple types of enzymes so you should check the label of whatever supplement product you are purchasing to see the various types that are included in the products. Look for proteases, lipases, and carboydrases on the manufacturer’s label. You will usually see many other types of bacteria and fungus listed on the manufacturer’s label but these the are three most important to help your digestive system function well and also guarantee you are absorbing valuable nutrients from the foods you ingest.
- Proteases: Proteases break down the proteins in food so your body can more readily absorb and digest their nutritional benefits.
- Lipases: Lipases work in your system by breaking down the fats in the food you consume for easier digestion.
- Carbohydrases: Carbohyrases such as amylase, work in your system by breaking down the carbohydrates in the food so it is more quickly and efficiently digested into valuable nutrients that your body requires for optimum function.
Some manufacturer’s labels will also commonly list these additional enzymes.
- Amylase: Amylase helps break apart the complex sugars found in many foods and forms them into smaller molecules that the body can more readily absorb and utilize.
- Trypsin: Trypsin is used to break down the proteins found in foods, which helps the body turn it into amino acids.
- Lipase: Lipase has the ability to break down complex fats so they form into glycerol and small fatty acids.
- Pepsin: Pepsin is a key compound in breaking down the proteins found in foods like eggs, dairy products, and meats. It helps form them into smaller peptides that the body can use.
- Trypsin: Trypsin is another compound used by the body for the conversion of proteins.
- Lactase: Lactase is needed by the body to digest milk sugar which is commonly referred to as lactose.
- Cholecystokinin: Cholecystokinin is actually a hormone that the small intestine secretes. The gallbladder depends on it to effectively contract and release bile. It is also used by the pancreas.
Strength and Potency — When you look at the manufacturer’s label on the product you should see numbers that indicate the strength and potency of the supplemental product. If the supplement bottle’s label does not have any strengths listed then you should be cautious because this typically indicates that the product is a proprietary formula and weak. You should avoid purchasing supplements that lack the needed potency to make a difference or change in your overall health. They are a waste of money and lack the strength to increase your body’s levels or change the way you are physically digesting and absorbing the nutrients from the food you consume.
Ingredients — It is always very important to check the ingredients on all supplements you purchase. Make sure they do not contain unnecessary things such as sugars. You should also look to see if they are gluten or dairy free if you cannot physically digest dairy or gluten. Many people suffer from nut allergies so, for them, they should read the label to make sure that no nuts or nut oils have been added to the product or that it was not produced in the same location as nut processing.
How to Take Digestive Enzymes
Now that you have purchased your digestive supplement you are probably wondering how you should take them. Normally, the label on the digestive supplement will have directions on how to use the product and the proper dosage. However, everyone is different.
The product is designed to help your body digest food so you should take one or two capsules before you eat a major meal. Many people experience the best results when they take the supplement thirty minutes before sitting down to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Usually, you do not need to take the supplement if you are just consuming a light meal or a snack.
Listening to Your Body to Determine Dosage
As with so many supplements, you will want to listen to your body after you take it to determine when and how much your body requires. You should not exceed the manufacturer’s suggested dosage without first consulting with their physician. If your digestive symptoms improve and you start to feel better then you know that you are taking an adequate level each day and you can continue to maintain your body’s digestion with the addition of the supplement.
Common Side Effects
Supplementing your diet with an enzyme supplement is very unlikely to cause any side effects. However, in very rare cases some people have reported constipation, bloating, cramps, diarrhea or nausea.
Taking a digestive enzyme supplement is beneficial to your overall health and the function of your body. It can aid in digestion and help your system more readily absorb valuable and key nutrients to improve your overall system.