Chances are, you’re passing over one of the best supplements to add to your daily regimen–Digestive Enzymes. These powerful little helpers can make all the difference for digesting and metabolizing your food.
“The more live foods we eat, the more ALIVE we feel. The more dead foods we eat, the more DEAD we feel.” -Lindsey Duncan
Digestive Enzymes…they are probably something you have heard of, have a vague idea about what they are, but you may still be a little in the dark with what they ARE and why they are needed. Well, good news, we are going to shed some light on these powerhouses, why they are so important and essential not only for good gut health, but essential to life overall, and why you should be taking an enzyme supplement if you aren’t already.
SO WHAT ARE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES?
In short, they are your digestive system’s helpers/workers. They break down your food into small pieces so that the nutrients can be absorbed, assimilated and used by your body. Enzymes in general speed up the chemical reactions in your body and are responsible for a whole host of functions including breathing, digestion, nerve function and many other things. So, as we mentioned before, they really are essential to life. With regards to digestion, when you eat food, lets say a piece of chicken or a salad, your body really can’t do anything with it until it’s broken down. This is where enzymes come into play. It begins in your mouth as you chew your food. Your saliva actually produces enzymes and as you chew. Your food is already being digested even though it hasn’t yet been swallowed. This is why it is so very important to chew slowly and thoroughly. The Europeans really know how to do it–they have long dining experiences and then take a nap! They “digest and rest” which is what our bodies were designed to do. Now, we understand that this isn’t realistic or conducive to most people’s schedules, but the point is to slow down when eating. Have you ever noticed when you rush through a meal, eat on the go, or scarf something down you get bloated, gassy and just feel plain awful? Well that’s because your body is trying to catch up with what you just ate! So slow down, chew a lot and let your body have a chance to work with what you’re giving it.
DOES MY BODY NATURALLY HAVE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES AND WHAT CAUSES THEM TO DECREASE OVERTIME?
Well, just like anything else, our digestive enzymes must be taken care of and maintained because daily life can effect their level and overall function. Things such as the aging process, chronic stress, inflammation due to illness or disease and decrease of stomach acid can cause our bodies to produce less enzymes. Poor diets that consist of processed foods and lack nutritional value also decrease the production of enzymes because they basically use up your body’s natural supply of enzymes overtime. Your body needs a lot more enzymes to break down highly processed foods such as chips verses an apple. And overtime, if ones diet is comprised mainly of these types of foods, the bodies natural supply can definitely be diminished. So obviously, eating a diet of nutritious foods is the route to go if you want to have and maintain healthy enzymes.
In addition, medications can cause a decrease in enzymes because they can inhibit stomach acid and slow digestion. Need proof? Look up the side effects of most medications and “constipation” is one that will appear in nearly all of them. Antibiotics also decrease enzymes along with all of the good bacteria in your gut. This is why it’s recommended to always follow up with a good probiotic after taking any kind of antibiotic; this rebuilds the good and healthy flora in your gut. So as you can see, there are a plethora of things that can cause us to produce less and less enzymes over time.
SHOULD I TAKE A DIGESTIVE ENZYME SUPPLEMENT?
Well, we believe the short answer to this is absolutely! Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut”. So accordingly, taking a supplement that can help aid in proper digestion and keep your gut healthy is just good common sense. There’s been an influx of IBS and Leaky Guy Syndrome over the past many years. Prilosec and Zantac are used as widely as an after dinner mint, and there’s a reason for this. People aren’t taking care of the hub of their body, which is responsible for the whole ecosystem of our bodies. Contributing factors can be poor choices in diet, a lack of knowledge or understanding of what is needed for proper digestion, and even just the grind and stress of daily life. A healthy gut is responsible for a healthy mood and mind, good energy levels, adequate sleep and for assisting all of the other functions of your body to keep it running smoothly. Based on all of the important factors we’ve sited, for us, digestive enzymes are a must. We take them at home before meals and always have some on hand for when we are eating out. We feel eating a meal with, verses without, digestive enzymes is the difference between night and day.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A DIGESTIVE ENZYME SUPPLEMENT?
Since digestion has a lot to do with acid you’ll want to find an enzyme that contains hydrochloric acid (HCI). When we think of acid in the body, we probably think acid is bad. Acidic bodies are sick bodies and this is assumed in all cases across the board. But on the contrary, acid in the digestive system is actually a very good and essential thing. In fact, if the digestive system gets too alkaline, you can run into a variety of problems. We need acid in our stomach to break down food. In fact, the acid is what contains some of the key enzymes. When your body starts to digest the food you just ate, the acid–comprised of mostly HCI and gastric acid (more commonly known as stomach acid), breaks down the food and also kills bad bacteria in the food. The nutrients from the food eaten, such as amino acids from protein, simple sugars from carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids from fats and even water are all absorbed into the intestinal walls and bloodstream. The HCI is crucial because its main role is to keep the stomach healthy by keeping it clean and sterile of bad bacteria. Even if we eat super clean and healthy, we all ingest bad bacteria or pathogens throughout the course of our daily life. HCI destroys these and helps us to be more resistant to disease and infection. So with all this being said, having adequate HCI levels is not only crucial for proper digestion, but also an important factor for overall good health. We suggest looking for an enzyme that contains at least 300 mg of Betaine HCI. Also finding one with Pepsin is very beneficial as this is the main digestive enzyme in the stomach which is responsible for breaking down proteins into polypeptides.
WHAT FOODS SHOULD I EAT/NOT EAT TO PROMOTE HEALTHY DIGESTION?
Well it’s probably pretty easy to guess–the cleaner you eat, the better digestion you’ll have, and the better you’ll feel. A good rule of thumb to remember is eating raw, live foods that have not been cooked is extremely beneficial because these foods all contain their natural enzymes and therefore, we are not robbing or depleting from our enzyme bank. On the opposite side of the spectrum, overcooked foods, dead foods, processed foods, chemical laden foods and all other fake foods are “enzymatically depleted.” Also remember eating foods rich in fiber and with high water content are great for digestion. Fruits like apples and berries and fiber choices like flax and chia are great choices. Also, sticking to lower fat foods like lean proteins is beneficial. High fat foods are harder for your body to digest and break down. Like we said, highly processed foods require not only more enzymes to digest, but also more energy from our bodies to break down, and can lead to unpleasant things like constipation. Eating clean, real foods will also decrease bloating which is an added bonus! So eat well and take your enzymes with at least two meals a day–your belly will thank you!!