Often find yourself reaching for the pink drinkable anti-acid with the catchy song…nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach? You get the point…so what does this actually mean? Essentially, you probably have larger health issues than you realize.
While over the counter drugs may temporarily ease your symptoms…they don’t address the possible underlying causes of the problems, and definitely don’t improve the body’s ability to digest food.
If digestion is incomplete, the body cannot extract all the nutrients from our food leading to several issues such as gas, bloating, inadequate uptake of critical nutrients, and even malnutrition in some severe cases.
Before I continue…it is important to note that not everyone needs a digestive enzyme supplement. For many, focusing on the mind-body connection via mindful eating, thoroughly chewing one’s food, drinking water, and boosting stomach acid can be enough to breakdown and digest foods.
If you are still experiencing poor digestion after all of that…you may be experiencing a decline in digestive enzymes and/or a microbiome imbalance.
While digestive enzymes are not the end all, be all answer to your digestive issues… they can help the gut properly breakdown food you are consuming and absorb the nutrients from the food. You may still have underlying GI issues, and if this is the case, I recommend working with a functional practitioner who can help assess and treat the root cause, which may be leaky gut or a variety of other persistent issues.
When all is working properly, the pancreas releases a wide variety of digestive enzymes to complete the breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrates. The liver creates bile, and gallbladder stores and releases it into the small intestine. Nutrient absorption occurs in the small intestine; there are over 130 billion microvilli (finger-like projections) per square inch of the mucosal lining of the small intestine. If all of these areas are not working well a variety of issues can occur, one major issues is nutrient deficiency.
You can get your blood tested for vitamin and micronutrient levels to ensure that your levels are adequate. You can also get tested for gut permeability (there are few who run this test, but you can look for specific labs that run the test and inquire if there is a practitioner in your area).
If you are considering a digestive enzyme, or one has been recommended by a nutrition professional ensure that it has a variety of enzymes in it.
Protease — breaks down protein
Lactase — breaks down milk sugar (called lactose)
Lipase — breaks down fat into individual fatty acids
Cellulase — breaks down plant fiber (cellulose) the indigestible polysaccharide in dietary fiber
Amylase — digests carbohydrates and starches
Bromelain — derived from pineapple, it contains powerful proteases
You can try taking digestive enzymes with every meal, with your largest meal, or how your nutrition professional recommends. Ideally, they should be taken right before you first bite, but if you take them within 30 minutes after a meal, they should still be helpful. If they have a negative effect, stop immediately. If you notice a positive benefit, that’s great! Keep taking them. If you notice no change, trial them for 30 days, if there are still no improvements try another brand…or you may not need them.
I highly recommend reaching out to a nutrition professional prior to starting an enzyme or to determine if you need them. Reach out to our Registered Dietitian if you have any questions!