Digestive Enzymes: What They Are, How to Take Them & The Best Digestive Enzyme Supplement
Here’s why digestive enzymes are so important to your overall health and well-being and why you may need to supplement them if you’re not digesting your food properly.
Common symptoms and signs of low digestive enzyme production and more serious health conditions that can result from longer term pancreatic enzyme deficiency.
Also, what to look for in a good digestive enzyme supplement, special enzymes that increase its effectiveness, and when to take digestive enzymes to prevent bloating, bad gas and other gastrointestinal problems.
What are Digestive Enzymes?
The food you eat needs to be broken down in your digestive system to absorb its nutrients: protein into amino acids; complex carbohydrates into simple sugars; fats and oils into fatty acids; as well as various other compounds, like minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and many more.
Digestive enzymes are special substances, produced primarily in your pancreas and small intestine, though also in your saliva glands and stomach, that break down your meals into individual nutrients so that your body can absorb them properly.
The most important of these enzymes for digestion are the proteases for breaking down proteins, lipases for digesting fats, and amylases for carbohydrates. There are many others though to deal with the wide variety of substances in the food you eat.
If you don’t produce enough of these enzymes during digestion then you will have problems breaking down your food and assimilating the nutrition in it. This leads to low energy, mental fatigue, nutritional deficiencies and many other health issues.
Poorly digested food in your digestive tract can also result in a variety of gastrointestinal problems, of which bloating, abdominal pain and excessive gas are just the earliest warning signs.
Common Symptoms of Low Digestive Enzymes
If you’ve minimized indigestible carbohydrates in your diet, are chewing your meals properly and low stomach acid isn’t an issue, yet you’re still experiencing digestive problems, then it’s likely you lack the enzymes to properly break down the meals you’re eating.
Some of the most common symptoms and signs of low digestive enzyme production include:
- Bloating, abdominal pain and intestinal cramps after eating meals.
- Offensive gas, particularly in the evening and early morning.
- Regular belching, indigestion and heartburn.
- A heavy sensation of the last meal you ate sitting in your stomach like a rock for hours.
- Feeling nauseous when you start eating or full up after only taking a few mouthfuls of food.
- Signs of undigested food in your poop when you go to the toilet or regular floating stools.
- Both constipation and diarrhea can be symptoms of poor digestive enzymes, depending on the food eaten and the current state of your intestinal environment.
In the longer term, digestive enzyme deficiency robs your body of the nutrition it needs and can result in more serious and difficult to treat health complications such as:
- Food allergies and poor immune function.
- Low energy, chronic fatigue and sudden weight loss.
- Ongoing anxiety and depression.
- Gut microbiota dysbiosis.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and autoimmune conditions.
Clearly it’s very important to address symptoms of low digestive enzymes, like bloating, abdominal cramps and offensive gas, early to avoid much more serious health problems later on.
Better Meals or Digestive Enzyme Supplements?
The more you can simplify your meals, the more easily they will be digested and provide the amino acids, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, antioxidants and healthy fats your body needs to operate properly.
Instead of eating fast food or a supermarket ready meal, usually full of heavy processed meat, unnatural vegetable oils and gas-causing grains with gluten, try and stick to more basic and nutritious meals.
As an example, a healthy source of protein like salmon, mixed with a few low gas vegetables, such as leafy greens, bell peppers, cucumbers and tomato, perhaps a little natural coconut oil or olive oil for satiety and spices for taste.
It can also be very beneficial to eat the protein in your meal first, before tucking into the heavy carbohydrates. This is because protein requires the release of pepsin into your stomach to digest it and eating carbs first delays this process.
If you first finish a big plate of fries and only then start eating your meat, it’s very likely to sit in your stomach like a rock without the pepsin needed to digest it properly.
If you do decide to eat difficult to break down junk food meals occasionally, then your digestive system will appreciate all the help it can get.
They’re not a permanent solution, but from time to time a good digestive enzyme supplement, like this doctor formulated bestseller, can provide a huge improvement to digestion and help prevent bloating and offensive gas.
Should You Supplement Your Digestive Enzymes?
If you are currently experiencing regular intestinal problems and symptoms of low digestive enzymes, like belly bloat, tummy pain and bad gas, then check whether one of these flatulence causes could be the problem.
Then again, popular fast food and supermarket meals are usually so poor, from a digestive standpoint, that almost everyone would benefit from taking digestive enzymes when eating ‘foods’ like this.
Broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplements contain proteases needed to break down tough proteins, lipases for fat digestion and various other enzymes required for a range of different carbohydrates and other food compounds.
If your gastrointestinal system is functioning at its best, you eat only healthy foods and avoid common sources of digestive problems, then you probably don’t need them. Unfortunately, this is true for very few of us living a busy modern life.
What to Look for in a Good Digestive Enzyme Supplement
A good digestive enzyme should have plenty of protease for breaking down protein. This is probably the most important element if you eat a lot of protein rich foods. Papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapples can also help with this job.
Then there’s lipase for fat digestion, amylase for starches, cellulase for fiber and various other enzymes to break down difficult to digest elements in food.
Peptidase for gluten and phytase for breaking down mineral-depleting phytic acid in grains are other good enzymes to look out for.
The Best Digestive Enzyme Supplement to Take
Unless you have special requirements due to an unusual diet, it’s generally recommended to look for a high protease, yet broad-spectrum digestive enzymes that covers a lot of bases and comes from a reputable company.
These are the best broad-spectrum option I’ve found and they’re great value on Amazon.
They have lots of protein digesting enzymes and a good mix of other ingredients, like lactase, phytase, peptidase and alpha-galactosidase, rarely found at such high levels.
You can pull up the second picture top left to see a close up of the ingredient label and check the full enzyme list. There’s even special codes for up to 20% off in the last of the 7 pictures.
This vegan and non-GMO bestseller also has 13000+ highly positive customer reviews, a money back guarantee and is made in the USA in an FDA registered facility. Highly recommended.
When to Take Digestive Enzymes
To work out the best time to take digestive enzymes check to the product’s instruction label. While some should be taken shortly before eating, most digestive supplements are designed to be taken with a meal.
You don’t want to have them too early, as they may clear the stomach before food arrives. You also don’t want to have them too late after eating, as they have less time to do their work.
How Often Should You Use Digestive Enzymes?
It’s better to use digestive enzyme supplements occasionally, for big and difficult to digest meals, especially ones with lots of protein, rather than for every meal, unless your digestive functions are seriously impaired.
In this case, a knowledgeable healthcare professional should be consulted as there may be serious gastrointestinal issues that need to be addressed.
The healthier your diet, the easier it usually is to digest your meals properly. Good nutrition also creates the right conditions for proper stomach acid and natural digestive enzyme production.
On the other hand, a processed diet of low-quality foods is not only extremely difficult to digest, each meal like this further depletes your pancreatic enzymes and leads to lower stomach acid for even more digestive problems.
Broad-spectrum digestive enzymes can help improve food breakdown in the short term. In the longer-term, feeding your body natural foods that are high in nutrition is the best way to ensure good digestion for better overall health.
Treating Poor Digestion and Gastrointestinal Problems with Digestive Enzymes
Low digestive enzymes can be a weak link in the digestion process for many. Common symptoms, such as abdominal pain, belly bloat and offensive gas, may lead to much more serious health complications if not addresses.
Simpler and healthier meals will help, but if you do want to have the occasional less than healthy meal then try using a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme, like these ones I have in my kitchen, just before you eat.
There are more natural remedies for flatulence, bloating and other digestive problems here on Flatulence Cures.
It’s also well worth looking at simple changes you can make to your diet for less gas problems here with 7 smart food swaps for non gassy foods and better digestive health.
This article may contain affiliate links to products I've researched and recommend. As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to the consumer.
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