Digestion is a complex process of breakdown of food into simpler substances or nutrients for easy absorption by the body. This process is facilitated by heat and certain chemicals produced by our body called digestive enzymes. Since the process of digestion occurs in multiple stages, at each stage, these digestive enzymes contribute to the breakdown of certain macro and micronutrients.
What are natural digestive enzymes?
Our body produces a number of enzymes. Most enzymes are proteins and some of these are involved in the process of digestion. They speed up the digestion process by helping the breakdown of complex macromolecules into smaller molecules. Every enzyme has a different target nutrient to break down and make it available for the body.
Digestive enzymes are secreted at every step of the digestion process. The salivary glands produce amylase enzyme in the mouth that kick-starts the digestion process. Mainly, the digestive enzymes are produced in the pancreas and small intestine. Other enzymes are produced in the mouth and stomach.
Why do we need digestive enzyme supplements?
When the body is unable to produce sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes or when the enzymes fail to function properly, this leads to several digestive issues such as bloating, chronic constipation, and inflammatory bowel syndrome. The undigested food passes on to the intestines, which becomes the breeding ground for the bad bacteria. This can cause colon related problems. In such cases, it is advisable to take digestive enzyme supplements for smooth digestion.
What causes digestive enzyme deficiency?
Our body requires digestive enzymes to digest food. But in some cases, the production of these enzymes is restricted due to some disease such as pancreatic cancer, celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. It can also be caused due to old age or low acid production in the stomach. Some other habits that affect the enzyme production are chronic stress, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
Due to low production of enzymes such as amylase, trypsin, lipase, pepsin, and lactase, the body is unable to absorb nutrients even from a healthy, balanced diet. This leads to weakness or other severe conditions when left untreated. In such cases, the body requires digestive enzyme supplements to help the natural enzymes work properly.
How to detect digestive enzyme deficiency?
The best way to detect digestive enzyme deficiency is to carefully observe the stool. If the stool contains signs of undigested food, it might be a case of digestive enzyme deficiency.
Sometimes, undigested fats, in the form of an oil slick, are also visible in the stool, which indicates inefficient digestion process. Some other indicators are constant bloating, chronic indigestion, and constipation. The people who suffer from enzyme deficiency frequently get a feeling of the presence of undigested food in their stomach. And they do not feel like eating very often. In some severe cases, it causes acid reflux.
How to take digestive enzymes?
The digestive enzyme supplements come in the form of chewable tablets and pills. These tablets are available in single enzyme or multiple enzyme variations. As the name suggests, the single enzyme tablets contain one enzyme which focuses on the digestion of any one nutrient. The multiple enzyme tablets, however, contains a combination of enzymes. and help in digesting more than one nutrient in the body.
These tablets are required to be taken just before meals. Most people take 1 or 2 tablets before their heaviest meals of the day. Only in extremely rare cases, a patient is required to take these supplements before snacks. These tablets can be taken up to 30 minutes before a meal. Most of the digestive enzyme supplements are available as over the counter medicines. You can try and see if they work for you and improve your digestion.
How are digestive enzymes helpful for us?
Apart from aiding in the digestion process and optimal nutrient absorption, digestive enzymes are also known to be effective in reducing gas, bloating, indigestion, and constipation. It also helps in processing foods which are difficult to digest. If the body does not produce sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes, it starts producing excessive amounts of hydrochloric acid to digest the food. An enzyme supplement can stop the acid overproduction and bring it under control.
Which digestive enzyme supplement to take?
Although most of these supplements are available as over the counter medicines, it is advisable to not make it a habit and consult a doctor if the problem persists. Digestive enzymes from companies like Now Foods, Zenwise Labs, Nutrilite and Doctor’s Best are available online. If you are taking digestive enzyme supplements, make sure to consult your doctor once before consuming them. Your doctor will be the best person to tell you which one will be the best for your system.