Why Your Body Needs Digestive Enzymes – Not Just For Digestion!
Written by: Drew Canole
Digestive enzymes – I bet you have heard of them before, especially if you frequent health websites like this one. Most likely you are here because you’re not sure whether or not you should be taking them!
Taking any sort of supplement without a clear understanding of why you’re taking them can be a problem, so you are in the right place.
So what are digestive enzymes exactly? Why are they important? Why should you take them in supplement form? We are going to answer all your questions right here in this post!
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Your body needs nutrients to survive and thrive, so you eat food. But your body can’t just take a chicken breast or a piece of kale and distribute it out to each of your cells. It first has to break down the food into specific nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, simple sugars, etc.) and then the body can absorb these and use them for its various needs.
Digestive enzymes are at the front of the line when it comes to breaking down your food! They are primarily produced by the small intestine and pancreas, but also exist in your mouth and stomach.
There are three main types of digestive enzymes:
1. Proteolytic Enzymes – the protein digesters
2. Lipolytic Enzymes – the fat digesters
3. Amylolytic Enzymes – the carbohydrate digesters
When you have enough digestive enzymes and they are working properly, you are able to get all the nutrients you need from the food you eat (provided you are eating nutritious foods!).
However, if for some reason, you do not have enough digestive enzymes or they are not performing their job properly, you can’t break down your food well. And even if you are eating healthy foods, you won’t absorb all the nutrients from them that you need.
You can understand why this can be a real problem!
Why Would My Digestive Enzymes Not Be Working Properly?
Disease is a major cause of poor digestive enzyme function, especially when it is a disease rooted in the pancreas (which is responsible for producing the bulk of digestive enzymes) and the intestinal tract.
The following are almost always accompanied by impaired digestive enzyme activity:
Stress is a natural human response that is important for survival. Chronic stress, however, is one of the leading causes of disease and at the root of a large number of health issues.
When the body is stressed, it enters a “fight-or-flight” mode. It puts more energy into the extremities, pumps adrenaline into the bloodstream and puts the senses on high alert. Focus is moved AWAY from digestion and other bodily functions that can be put on “hold” until the danger is passed.
The problem occurs when this “hold” is never turned off. A busy lifestyle, little sleep, overworking, poor diet, etc. can all put you into a state of chronic stress that slowly deteriorates systems in the body.
Chronic stress = decreased digestive function = impaired digestive enzyme activity.
Although the body naturally creates digestive enzymes, it also relies on the live enzymes found in raw foods. Around age 27, the human body starts to produce less enzymes than it did before. If you have lived your life mostly eating processed foods, overcooked foods and meals laden with sugar, then chances are good you will suffer from a lack of fresh enzymes. Once the body starts to create less enzymes, this becomes even more of an issue.
This may be why many people go through their teens and early twenties eating a poor diet, but feel mostly okay, only to hit mid-twenties and end up with a myriad of health issues.
- Inflammation in the digestive tract
- Food allergies
- Aging badly
- Low stomach acid
A result of poor diet and lifestyle choices is impaired enzyme function and chronic degenerative disease, including cancer and autoimmune conditions.
Signs That Your Digestive Enzymes Aren’t Doing Their Job
Are you one of many who is suffering from an insufficient amount of digestive enzymes? Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms:
- Acne, eczema, skin rashes
- Brain fog
- Headaches, migraines
- Mood swings
- Joint pain
- Trouble digesting fatty foods (floating stools are a sign of this)
- Liver disease
- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
If SIBO has developed, other symptoms may also arise including:
- Feeling heavy and/or bloated after meals
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
7 Tips To Correct Enzyme Deficiency
#1. Take Enzyme Supplements
If you are already deficient in digestive enzymes or have a digestive disorder or liver disease, then it may be beneficial to start taking enzyme supplements with your meals. They are always helpful, but are even more important if your meal contains little-to-no raw foods. They generally come as a pill. Look for Full Spectrum Digestive Enzymes. Sometimes you can also find them as part of a meal replacement shake or protein powder.
Don’t miss out on our new Complete Protein! Not only is it a protein supplement, but it also doubles as a multivitamin! Check out the details here.
#2. Improve Your Diet
Eat less foods that are inflammatory to the digestive tract like dairy, wheat, processed foods and refined sugars. Eat more raw foods, whole fruits and veggies, organic grass-fed meats, nuts and seeds, superfoods, healthy fats and probiotic-rich foods.
Note: if you have been diagnosed with SIBO then you should only been eating small amounts of probiotic-rich foods. Consult with your healthcare provider for specifics.
#3. Manage Chronic Stress
This is a must if you are serious about improving your digestive health. We live in a go-go-go world. A lot of us are stuffing down food during quick lunch breaks or while we’re on the move. Try to eat more European style; slow, thoughtful, conscious meals.
Daily meditation is also a great, scientifically verified way to reduce stress and improve health and longevity.
#4. Don’t Drink Water With Meals
Although it is cultural to drink a big glass of water with meals, it is actually quite counter-productive to good digestion. Doing so actually dilutes your digestive enzymes, making your body work that much harder to breakdown and absorb the nutrients in your food.
Try drinking water on its own in between meals instead of with them. Drink it no closer than 30 minutes before meals and not for at least 90 minutes afterwards. This will give your body the best chance at absorbing nutrients without interruption.
#5. Eat Fermented Foods Often/Take Probiotics
In most other cultures, fermented veggies of some kind are a part of most meals. This is incredibly beneficial for digestion and proper absorption of nutrients. Try to include more of these foods in your diet:
- Fermented vegetables
- High-quality yogurt (homemade is best!)
Also consider taking a daily probiotic supplement. Along with enzymes, the benefits of good probiotics for your health are nearly endless.
#6. Drink Ginger Tea
Studies have found that ginger root actually stimulates brush-border enzymes and helps to increase pancreatic enzyme activity. Try drinking ginger tea after meals and before bed for optimum results (1,2).
#7. Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is excellent for many reasons, one of which being how it stimulates the enzyme, lipase, which is responsible for helping to digest fats. It is made up of medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy for the body to absorb and convert into energy (3).
Your gut is at the center of your health and wellbeing. Taking care of your gut, whether you are sick or not, should absolutely be at the top of your priority list.
If you want to avoid illness, improve longevity, improve digestion, feel better after meals, increase energy, get better sleep and enjoy your life more, then it is time to take care of your gut!
If you are still not sure whether or not you should be taking an enzyme supplement, it might be worth giving it a try. Digestive enzyme supplements are very safe and you will be able to tell within a few days whether or not they are making a difference.
- Platel, K., & Srinivasan, K. Influence of dietary spices or their active principles on digestive enzymes of small intestinal mucosa in rats. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 1996; 47(1): 55-59.
- Prakash, U. N., & Srinivasan, K. Beneficial influence of dietary spices on the ultrastructure and fluidity of the intestinal brush border in rats. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010; 104(1): 31.
-This post contains affiliate links.
Drew Canole is a rockstar in the world of fitness, nutrition and mindset, with a huge heart for others and doing his part to transform the world, one person at a time.
As the founder and CEO of Fitlife.TV, he is committed to sharing educational, inspirational and entertaining videos and articles about health, fitness, healing and longevity. He is also a best selling author and the founder of Organifi, an organic, incredibly delicious greens powder, chock-full of superfoods to make juicing easy no matter your busy schedule.
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