Updated: May 19, 2020
No matter how healthy your diet, without enough of the correct digestive enzymes in your system, your body can not properly break down the nutrients from the food to utilize them. The majority of our digestive enzymes are produced by the pancreas. Some are produced by the salivary glands and stomach, as well. In order for the body to absorb nutrients from the food, specific enzymes must be present. Fats are broken down into fatty acids and cholesterol, carbohydrates into simple sugars, protein into amino acids. Then there are other compounds, vitamins, and minerals that must be in a usable form, as well. Undigested food can seep from the gut back into the blood stream causing immune system reactions, food allergies/intolerances, and may be related to weight gain, digestive discomforts, ADHD, joint problems, sleep problems, trouble getting up in the morning, hives, depression, mood swings, cravings and many more issues. Sluggish digestion also speeds up the aging process.
So, how do you know if you are deficient in digestive enzymes?
It is best to act as a detective on your case.After a meal, if the food sits in your stomach feeling like a rock, or you have gas and bloating, you may be enzyme deficient.This is a fun one: check your stool.If you have oily stool, especially after eating a high fat meal, you might have an enzyme deficiency.If you see undigested food, you might have an enzyme deficiency.
We know that we live in a fast-paced, stressful world. Chronic stress can play a factor in production of digestive enzymes, as can pancreatic disorders, food allergies, gut health, low stomach acid and general inflammation.If you have never been tested for food allergies, you can start by embarking on a 30 day, elimination diet, removing the foods that are known to be common allergens or toxins: dairy, soy, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, corn, pork. After 4 weeks, slowly add back each one you wish to consume again every three days. You should be able to notice digestive, skin, or energy level signs if the food is a problem for you.Of course, we also offer food sensitivity testing and solutions in our clinic.
Along with removing allergens and toxins, eating plenty of vegetables will help bring your body to a proper pH level, which aids in reduction of inflammation. Raw fruits and vegetables contain their own necessary enzymes to aid in digesting them. Legumes and grains can act as enzyme inhibitors, and might be best eaten infrequently while trying to balance digestion.
Once you have pinpointed which foods your body is having trouble digesting properly, you might also wish to supplement with digestive enzymes. I recommend taking a high quality, broad spectrum, plant-based supplement no more than 10 minutes before each meal. Choose a brand that lists potency.
Here is a list of some enzymes and what they digest:
Lipase-fats found in oils, nuts and dairy
Cellulase-fruit, grain, vegetable and seed fiber
Lactase-lactose (milk sugar)
Peptidase-casein and gluten
Glucoamylase-maltose (the sugar found in grains)
Alpha Galactosidase-carbohydrates in legumes which cause gas