Anyone experiencing digestive symptoms can likely benefit from digestive enzymes even if your symptoms seem to appear to be in the large intestine or colon. Most often the root of the problem starts off long before the colon. It all starts where food is broken down…. Or in the case of an enzyme deficiency where food is not fully being broken down and thus contributing to a host of digestive symptoms further along the digestive tract. Undigested food in the stool and bloating after eating sugar, carbohydrates and starches common symptoms indicating an enzyme deficiency.
The function of digestive enzymes is to help with the breakdown of food so that the nutrients contained within the food can be absorbed. If you are not properly breaking down and absorbing the nutrients within your food then all that goodness needed to fuel your cells found in whole foods may not be fully absorbed resulting in malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies.
Digestive enzymes for bloating
Undigested foods, especially undigested starches are food for opportunistic bacteria to proliferate such as the yeast candida which contributes to those uncomfortable digestive symptoms such as gas and bloating. During fermentation a lot of gas is produced due to organisms such as candida fermenting undigested starches. Utilizing a digestive enzyme to help break down all the starches and sugar will help to prevent bloating as there will no longer be and excess of undigested starches to feed opportunistic bacteria.
Digestive enzymes for leaky gut
Bacteria that is meant to only be in the colon can migrate up into the small intestine if there is a fermenting party to be had with all that undigested food not being fully absorbed and instead sitting in the small intestine providing fuel for bacteria and candida. These organisms in excess can produce nasty endotoxins that impact the gut lining and is a contributing factor in developing leaky gut.
When the gut lining becomes leaky due to candida, certain bacteria in excess or undigested food, this opens the door way for food sensitivities to develop along with Inflammation, immune challenges and allergies. As you can see things are starting to get very messy!
Any kind of undigested food impacts the villi and microvilli of the small intestine causing the lining to become leaky. When a leaky gut allows undigested foods to pass through the intestinal lining in inappropriate sizes the immune system does not recognize the undigested food as a nutrient that can be used by the body and instead recognizes the undigested food as a foreign invader. The immune system then mounts an immune response against the undigested food by producing antibodies against what would have been a nourishing food if only it had been properly broken down to begin with. This is how food sensitivities and immune challenges can develop, due to an enzyme deficiency and poor digestive function.
Types of digestive enzymes and how do digestive enzymes work?
Digestive enzymes work by breaking down large macromolecules such as protein, fat and carbohydrates into their smaller building blocks so that they can be absorbed by the body.
The 3 main types of digestive enzymes are:
- Proteases and peptidases enzymes which break protein down into amino acids
- Lipase enzymes which break fat down into fatty acids
- Amylase enzymes which break down carbohydrates such as starches and sugar into simple sugars and glucose
While these are the main enzymes, there are many more enzymes that can help with the break down of specific sugars so that these sugars will be broken down and absorbed instead of providing undigested sugars for opportunistic bacteria to ferment and thrive upon.
The enzyme lactase acts upon the milk sugar lactose. For those people that don’t tolerate milk this can be due to the body lacking the ability to produce the enzyme lactase.
The enzyme phytase helps to break down phytic acid found in nuts, seeds and grains. Soaking and sprouting your grains and nuts prior to cooking also helps to deactivate and breakdown phytic acid which can be irritating to the intestinal lining. Phytic acid can also impair the absorption of minerals found within foods that contain phytic acid.
The enzyme alpha-galactosidase helps to break down complex carbohydrates in foods that can be difficult to digest such as beans, legumes and cruciferous vegetables. These foods can cause bloating and gas when not broken down appropriately.
When to take digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are best taken with main meals at the beginning of the meal or mid meal as they will help with the breakdown of that meal. The purpose of the amylase enzyme which is found in our saliva is to start the breakdown of starches in the mouth…. so always remember to chew your food well.
Supplementing with additional digestive enzymes can be very beneficial for someone who has difficulty breaking down and absorbing their food or experiencing digestive symptoms such as upper abdominal bloating and gas. . One of the best digestive enzyme supplement is Pro -Digestion Intensive by Seeking Health which includes 20 different enzymes to help with the breakdown of food.