Why You May Need Digestive Enzymes
Your gastrointestinal tract, along with you liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, processes the foods you eat, converting it into usable energy and individual nutrients that your body requires to function properly. The health of your gut strongly depends on the trillions of bacteria (microbiome) in your GI tract, along with parts of your circulatory system, nervous system and a variety of hormones to break down all of the food and beverages you consume, into usable compounds the body can then use for energy, growth and cell repair.
Gut health has a huge influence on your overall health.
During the digestive process, proteins break down into their component amino acids, fats break down into glycerol and fatty acids, and carbohydrates break down into simple sugars. Once foods break down into small enough components, the body absorbs the nutrients and moves them to where they are most needed. Many of our food and lifestyle choices affect how well our digestive system functions.
Dietary Choices That Can Disrupt the Digestive Process
As you probably know from experience, your food and hydration choices affect your digestive process. For example, when you consume sufficient high fiber foods and water, you help food move through the digestive tract (peristalsis) with ease, reducing your risk for constipation and other forms of GI distress. When the enzymes naturally present in our food are damaged, the body has a harder time breaking down what you've eaten. Enzymes that aid in digestion are naturally present in food, but when we cook and heat food, these enzymes are denatured and no longer can carry out their natural processes. Tip: To aid in digestion when eating cooked food, include a small portion (2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup) of raw or fermented vegetables with your cooked meal. Some excellent examples are sour pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi or a small vegetable salad.
Certain food combining can also put stress on our digestive systems. Most people aren't aware that meat and other forms of animal protein digest in an acidic environment, while carbohydrates and starches require an alkaline environment for optimal digestion. When we eat protein and carbohydrates together, like pizza, sandwiches, burgers or pasta and meat sauce, we end up putting digestive stress on the body. Tip: Add a small side dish of raw or fermented food with your protein-carb combo or drizzle some apple cider vinegar or lemon on your dish to boost your enzyme reserves.
Lifestyle Habits That Affect Digestion
Other lifestyle habits that can affect your digestive system are smoking and other forms of air pollution, sleep deprivation, chronic stress and certain medications. In short, how you live your life and what you feed your body can dramatically affect how well your digestive tract functions. Staying active, sufficiently hydrated and choosing a whole food, high fiber diet will serve your digestive tract and immune system very well.
Diet plus healthy lifestyle habits are essential to good digestive health.
Benefits of High Quality Digestive Enzymes
Even if you are eating a whole food, well balanced diet, exercising and moving regularly and sleeping enough, you may still benefit from including a digestive enzyme into your nutrition protocol. Digestive enzymes can take stress off of your stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. If you suffer from any digestive condition such as Crohn's disease, colitis, IBS, diverticulitis or constipation and diarrhea, consider taking a high quality digestive enzyme with each meal.
The use of supplemental digestive enzymes can support healthy digestion, enhanced energy, and less digestive stress. When you choose digestive enzyme supplements, choose a product that offers a variety of different enzyme subtypes, such as carbohydrate metabolizing enzymes, fat metabolizing enzymes, and proteolytic enzymes. They should function in the range of pH levels that may occur in the digestive system. Finally, highly bioavailable enzymes are best for gut health and improving nutrient absorption.
If you want to learn more about digestive enzymes and health on the molecular level, watch this interview with Wade T. Lightheart on digestive enzymes and enzyme therapy. And if you have questions about digestive health, nutrition, or healthful living, we encourage you to contact us at any time.