With the festive season around the corner and the overindulgence it brings, it seems apt to introduce the topic of digestion or strictly speaking the lack of it. You are definitely not alone if you experience occasional tummy troubles.
Supermarket checkouts and pharmacy shelves are stacked with antacids, laxatives, fibre products and so on – a telltale sign of the demand for these products! Bloating, gas, constipation, indigestion – the problem is frequent and endemic.
In fact, digestive distress has been reported to affect almost 40% of adults in New Zealand.
The link between enzymes and digestion
To better understand digestive distress, it is important to understand the role that enzymes play within the digestive system. With the first bite of food, enzymes go to work.
- Amylase enzymes found in saliva break down starches into simple sugars. As food progresses through the digestive tract, other enzymes take part.
- Protease (which digests proteins),
- Lipase (which breaks down fats), and
- Cellulase (which breaks down cellulose, a type of fiber), work to further break down food.
All enzymes have a specific function within the body determined by their unique shape and composition. Many individuals experience digestive distress when there simply aren’t enough enzymes to completely break down a meal. Gas and other symptoms are created as poorly digested food quickly begins to ferment.
The major culprit is our modern cooked diet which destroys the natural enzymes found in raw foods that aid in digestion. Stress, medications, illness, processed foods, ageing and environmental factors can all contribute to a reduced capacity to produce enzymes leading to impaired digestion and eventually poor overall health.
So why not simply just eat raw food?
Raw food provides only enough enzymes to digest that particular food and not enough to support digestion of other cooked or processed foods.
Although a totally raw diet may appear to be the best solution, it is generally not practical, and in most cases, not medically advisable. Many people find the fiber content in large quantities of raw food difficult to digest. Due to the risk of bacterial contamination, many foods should not be eaten raw, including meats, poultry, eggs and beans.
So how is enzyme supplementation beneficial?
Soothing Digestive Distress:
When undigested foods travel through the intestines they can irritate and potentially damage the sensitive intestinal wall. Over time, this irritation may reduce our digestive capacity and negatively influence how nutrients are absorbed. By promoting complete digestion, you reduce digestive distress on your system such as bloating and gas.
Increased Levels of Energy:
Research has shown that up to 80% of our body’s vital energy is spent on digestion. (Yuri Elkaim, author of Eating for Energy). By aiding the breakdown and absorption of foods, you can free up enormous amount of energy, increasing physical vitality and enhanced energy levels.
Improved regularity in Waste Elimination:
By enabling complete digestion and nutrient absorption, you are promoting a healthy intestinal environment to help alleviate constipation or irregularity issues.
Correct and complete digestion is a foundation of optimal health. If you experience digestive discomfort, you may find that digestive enzyme supplementation can have a significant improvement to help you break down food properly and enabling better nutrient absorption – resulting in less indigestion, gas and bloating.
How to choose a high quality enzyme supplement?
When choosing an enzyme product, look for one containing blends of enzymes. The best products on the market will optimize enzymatic activity by blending different strains of the same types of enzymes, for maximum effectiveness. Also, make sure that the products you choose are free of excipients and any fillers.