Along with probiotics, digestive enzymes seem to be popping up more and more in drug stores, advertising campaigns and health-focused websites. A lot of people struggle with symptoms like constipation, gas, bloating and allergies, and these enzymes are thought to eliminate these problems (or at least make them better).
However, not all digestive enzymes are created equal and not everyone actually needs them! Like probiotics, you should seek the advice from a qualified health consultant to see if your symptoms are related to lack of digestive enzymes before taking them. And, like most supplements, there are certain brands that are much higher quality than others and your health consultant will help you navigate the abyss of nutritional products too!
A lot of people I know seem to jump right into using a supplement to deal with their health concerns. Let me clear something up – supplements are not a cure nor do they react in your body the way prescription drugs do. Supplements are aptly named because they are designed to supplement your diet and physiology with something you’re lacking – they won’t fix your problems (and many won’t do you much good if you’re not addressing the real problem).
Some supplements can even be harmful, depending on underlying health issues, prescription drug use, or other factors!
Since digestive enzymes CAN be very helpful for some people (I am a regular user of high-quality enzymes for my own health), let’s dig deeper into the facts about them.
What are digestive enzymes?
Enzymes are required for pretty much every biochemical reaction in your body; some are made by your organs while some are consumed via food. Enzymes help regulate hormones, manufacture neurotransmitters, break down food into its usable components, and improve liver function.
An enzyme is something that ends with the letters ‘-ase’, if you were curious!
Digestive enzymes are needed to break down macronutrients in food into a smaller component that can easily be absorbed and utilized in the body. Our digestive system naturally makes most digestive enzymes, which are secreted whenever we eat.
Sometimes, though, poor digestive function can lead to a depletion of these enzymes and we have to get help. Low digestive enzyme function can manifest as fatigue, acne, gas and bloating, and worsening of allergies. Low digestive function and low enzyme counts can be caused by not chewing our food enough before swallowing, eating large meals too often, or by eating the same foods over and over and over.
A Short Enzyme Lesson
The most common digestive enzymes include:
- Amylase – Helps to break down starch into its sugars.
- alpha-Galactosidase – Helps to break down specific “fermentable carbohydrates” into its sugars.
- Lactase – Helps to break down lactose into its sugars.
- Protease – Helps to break down protein into its amino acids.
- Bromelain and/or Papain – Help to break down protein into its amino acids.
- Lipase – Helps to break down fats into its lipids.
Who should consider taking digestive enzymes?
I want to reiterate the importance of seeing a qualified health care practitioner to help determine whether you even need enzymes (or any supplement).
People who experience regular bloating, cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, especially right after eating, may benefit from short-term digestive enzyme support. Or, if someone experiences these or other digestive symptoms after eating specific foods, they could be lacking in natural enzymes.
One reason for these symptoms is that the food may not be broken down enough in the stomach before it reaches the intestines, so the gut bacteria has to work harder to break down food into usable molecules. Other reason for these symptoms could be allergies, low stomach acid, gallbladder issues or candida overgrowth.
If you are planning to use digestive enzymes, make sure you read the label of ANY products you buy, especially without the advice of a professional. One website I like for purchasing and reading information on supplements and adverse health effects is National Nutrition – just click on the product you’re interested in and read through the information provided by experts.
Two critical things to understand about digestive enzymes are:
- Digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates are NOT recommended for diabetics, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or anyone with blood sugar issues. The enzymes will breakdown the carbs into sugars too quickly for the body to manage.
- Enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids can be problematic for people with ulcers, taking blood thinners or anti-inflammatories, or who are about to have surgery.
Possible Side effects
Digestive enzymes are not meant to be taken long-term. Depending on the client, I recommend digestive enzymes for 2 weeks to 2 months based on a thorough nutritional assessment. There are many lifestyle strategies to implement first for most people who have digestive issues and clearing these up usually improves digestive enzyme quantities.
Some possible side effects of taking digestive enzymes could be allergic responses or worsening of allergies, gas/bloating, or diarrhea.
Things You Can Do Now
I take digestive enzymes from time to time because I tend to eat too much at dinner, especially on the weekends (no, I am not perfect). I notice, over time, that my digestion becomes messed up so I consciously work to relieve my health concerns while also mindfully eating and implementing portion control; but, honestly, I’m not that good at either of these things!
My skin also stays clearer when I take digestive enzymes before meals high in protein. There are patterns that emerge once you really start to pay attention to your body!
If you have many of the signs of a digestive enzyme deficiency, start today by relaxing while you eat, think about your food before you start your meal, eat slower and chew well, and avoid drinking too much with your meal.
You can also eliminate common problematic foods like all dairy and gluten. If you grew up in North America, chances are you ate WAY too much dairy and gluten as a kid and have depleted those enzymes (if you notice that, overtime, these foods no longer agree with you, chances are you’ve lost the ability to make those enzymes – there are protocols that can help reverse this, though).
It’s tempting to jump at a new product that is directly marketed to your most irritating health concern but please wait before you start any new supplements. Make sure you read your labels very carefully and ensure that no other prescription drug or supplement is going to negatively interact with the new one. If you want expert advice on what supplements your body needs, contact me for a personalized assessment of your health.
Set up your FREE transformation consultation today to find out how I can help!
TIP: The enzymes in pineapple, papaya and kiwi aren’t as concentrated as those in supplements so, if you’re not allergic to these delicious fruits, try eating these on a regular basis if you suspect an enzyme issue.
Natural Medicines Database, Bromelain, Papain, Retrieved January 21, 2017 from https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com
Clear, beautiful skin is just one thing that digestive enzymes can help you achieve! What else can help you? Check out my free 10 secrets to clear skin today!