The All-Natural Power Of Digestive Enzymes

The All-Natural Power Of Digestive Enzymes

Painful bloating, a bubbling stomach, foul-smelling gas—almost all of us are familiar with the unpleasant aftermath of eating something our bodies can’t digest properly. For those of us who have more frequent or severe issues like this, eating food becomes less of an enjoyable event. And if you find that you resonate with this experience, you might benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation!

What are digestive enzymes, and why would you need them?

Digestive enzymes are essential to your nutrition and overall health because they play a significant role in breaking down the foods you eat. They do this by speeding up the chemical reactions that turn nutrients from food into materials your digestive tracts can absorb. If your body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, you can’t fully absorb nutrients from your food, leaving you malnourished. Insufficient enzymes also lead to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, excessive gas, bloating, foul-smelling stools, weight loss even if you’re eating well, and cramping after eating.

There are three main types of digestive enzymes to break down different nutrients.

  • Amylases break down carbohydrates and starches.
  • Proteases break down proteins.
  • Lipases break down fats.

Where do digestive enzymes come from?

The great thing about digestive enzymes is that they’re all natural. Some of your organs, including the pancreas, gallbladder, and liver, release them. The largest share is in the pancreas since the pancreas’s main role is to produce digestive juices. Saliva also has digestive enzymes to help break down your food before you even swallow it!

You can also find digestive enzymes in natural sources outside of your body.

For example, pineapples have digestive enzymes called bromelain, a type of protease. Bromelain is often used as a meat tenderizer or as a health supplement for people who have trouble digesting proteins.

Papayas are another natural source of proteases, but they have a different type called papain. Like bromelain, papain works as a meat tenderizer and as a health supplement. Excitingly, studies show that papaya is an excellent choice as a natural (and delicious!) remedy for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), especially for constipation and bloating symptoms.

You can also seek out other enzyme-rich foods like mangoes, honey, bananas, kefir, kimchi, miso, and more to aid your digestive processes.

How digestive disorders cause enzyme insufficiency

A few digestive disorders can prevent your body from making enough enzymes. These cause malabsorption, malnourishment, and the gastrointestinal symptoms mentioned above.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is when the pancreas, the primary source of digestive enzymes, can’t produce enough digestive enzymes. EPI happens when another condition like pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, or cystic fibrosis damages the pancreas so that it can’t do its job effectively. This condition can be aided by prescription or over-the-counter digestive enzymes.

Lactose intolerance, a condition that about 68% of people have, is when the small intestine doesn’t make enough of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose (a sugar) in dairy products. If a lactose-intolerant person eats dairy products, the undigested lactose goes straight to the colon instead of getting absorbed, combines with the bacteria that live there, and causes gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Lactase supplements can be taken right before a dairy-containing meal to mitigate these symptoms.

Integrating digestive enzymes into your life

Digestive enzyme supplements come in the form of pills, powders, and liquids. They’re meant to act just like the natural enzymes excreted by your pancreas, so you should take them just before you eat so that they can work their magic as the food reaches your stomach and small intestine. If you’re having a larger meal or if you’re a slow eater, you can take half the dose before your meal and the other half halfway through.

As with any wellness tip, do further research and consult your healthcare provider for proper dosing recommendations before implementing these into your life. If you have frequent or persistent digestive issues or signs of EPI, see a doctor to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

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