If you’ve been putting great care into eating right, one thing that you’ll want to ensure you aren’t overlooking is digestive enzymes. It doesn’t help eating the best and most nutrient dense foods if your body is not able to reap the nutritional benefits that these foods provide.
Digestive enzymes are something that the body should be producing naturally, however in today’s world, not everyone does as it should.
Our natural level of digestive enzymes is often depleted due to either eating a nutrient-poor diet that’s full of sugar and other additives or due to high levels of stress that wear us out.
If you aren’t aware of your digestive enzyme status, it may not be long before you are noticing unwanted side effects.
What are enzymes and which ones do you need? To get a primer on digestive enzymes, check out this video below.
In short, digestive enzymes are enzymes that help with the breakdown of the foods that you eat on a daily basis, ensuring that your body is able to absorb the nutrients and energy they provide into the bloodstream.
There are digestive enzymes for just about every type of food that you can imagine, so even if you are short in just one enzyme, you may notice symptoms because of it.
What are some of the signs that you may be low in digestive enzymes?
Some of the main symptoms that you may experience if you are running low on proper digestive enzymes include:
· A feeling of bloating and indigestion (which comes due to the improper digestion and breakdown of the foods in the diet)
· Ongoing fatigue, due to lack of energy getting to the cells
· Nutrient deficiencies, often showing up in blood tests
· Diarrhea or constipation – both symptoms of IBS, which are often associated with an inability to break down certain foods (like dairy or gluten)
· Joint and myofascial pain
· Brain fog and an increased number of headaches
· Ongoing frequency of mood swings
· Skin related problems including rashes, acne, as well as eczema
If you are simply not feeling as good as you think you should, it’s worthwhile to consider whether digestive enzymes may be causing you to feel this way. Could they be the root cause of your lack of well-being?
Let’s look at the main types of digestive enzymes that you should be getting into your diet so that you can see why supplementation is so critical.
Ever notice that you get serious gas after eating carbohydrates, especially beans? While beans are known to make people gassy, if you are getting extremely bad gas after eating just a small amount of these foods, it could be because you are short in the enzyme alpha-galactosidase.
This is the enzyme that helps to break down legume starch, reducing the formation of gas in the body.
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The next important enzyme you’ll want to have in your body is amylase, which is the enzyme that is associated with the consumption of starches. Starch provides the body with the main source of usable fuel, especially for exercise, so it’s hard to simply avoid consuming these starches.
If you are getting very gassy and bloated after consuming them however, it may be very off-putting. By using a digestive enzyme, you can get past this.
Cellulase is the enzyme that is used to break down and digest cellulose, which is found in dietary fiber rich foods. This includes the fruits, vegetables, as well as the grains and seeds that you are consuming.
Most people are currently not eating enough dietary fiber in their diet plan, so you may not even realize that you are short in this enzyme. If you start increasing your dietary fiber intake however, adding more fresh produce to your diet, you’ll soon become aware if you aren’t getting enough.
Gas, bloating, and more irregular bowel movements are all signs that you are suffering from a lack of cellulase.
When you think of sugar rich foods, what do you think of? Candy? Cake? Cookies? Most people do think of these traditional food items. And while it’s true that all of these do contain high amounts of sugar, they aren’t the only sources of sugar in the diet.
Sugar can also be found in grains that you consume, especially the refined grains such as white rice or white bread.
It’s glucoamylase that helps to break down the sugar found in these foods, reducing the chances that you begin to experience digestive distress.
If you are someone who eats a high carbohydrate diet due to higher levels of physical activity, you’ll really want to be sure that you are getting enough of this digestive enzyme in.
Sucrose is another form of sugar found in certain foods and comes from sugar cane. It’s another simple sugar in the diet, which breaks down rapidly and will impact your blood glucose levels.
Those who do not maintain high enough levels of invertase in their digestive tract are more likely to experience gas and bloating after consuming foods rich in sucrose.
As sucrose is found in regular table sugar and table sugar is so widely found in so many of the foods that we consume on a day to day basis, it’s one digestive enzyme that you do want to be sure you are getting enough of.
Obviously in an ideal situation, you would consume no sucrose and thus would need no invertase, however this is highly unlikely given today’s society. Sugar is hidden in so many foods that completely eliminating it would be very challenging.
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Most people are quite familiar with the enzyme lactase as being what digests lactose, which is a sugar that’s found naturally occurring in dairy products. One thing that most people don’t realize is just how high dairy products can be in sugar.
For example, your average glass of lowfat milk contains nearly 10 grams of sugar per serving. If you aren’t careful, this can really increase the overall sugar content of your diet quite considerably.
Lactase is necessary for the breakdown of any sugars found in dairy products including milk, yogurt and cheese.
If you’ve ever heard someone say they are lactose intolerant, what this really means is they don’t possess enough of the digestive enzyme lactase to deal with all the lactose that they are consuming. As a result, they are facing issues such as gas, bloating, and digestive distress after eating dairy rich foods.
Usually, by adding a quality digestive enzyme such as MassZymes to their diet plan that includes lactase, they can get past these issues and start feeling better again. This allows them to include dairy products, if desired, in their diet and reap the calcium and potential protein benefits they have to offer. One study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences noted that when subjects received digestive enzymes, their tolerance for dairy products was greatly improved.
While milk isn’t the best choice of dairy products due to the high level of sugar it contains, other dairy products such as plain Greek yogurt and lowfat cottage cheese are much better options.
Lipase, as you may have guessed, is the digestive enzyme that is going to break down the lipids that you eat, hence the name.
If you do not have enough lipase in your digestive tract, you may find that you get a less than pleasant reaction from consuming high fat foods. You may notice that you are feeling heart-burn, indigestion, bloating, and you could also experience diarrhea.
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Protease is the digestive enzyme that is utilized to help with the breakdown of protein rich foods, so it is a critical part of anyone’s diet.
Since you must consume protein rich foods in order to stay alive, if you are shunning this element of your diet plan, you’ll be reaping the consequences.
This said, if you’ve ever been around someone who is on a high protein diet, you may have noticed that they suffer from gas like you’ve never seen before. Certain high protein rich foods tend to be especially bad offenders such as whey protein powder and eggs. If you or someone else you know is eating a high amount of these, chances are, they are relatively smelly to be around.
Making sure that you are using the right digestive enzyme product that contains high enough levels of protease will help you avoid the unwanted smell.
Because there are so many different amino acids in the diet, it’s a good idea to get a blended digestive enzyme, such as what MassZymes provides. You would want a combination of alkaline, neutral, as well as acid based proteases.
This digestive enzyme is one that can help with the breakdown of plant fibers, so it is an especially important digestive enzyme for anyone who is a vegetarian, or who simply consumes a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
It will work in combination with cellulase to get these foods broken down in the body and ensure that you are able to eat these foods without problem.
Finally, the last of the 10 digestive enzymes that you’ll need to be consuming in your regular diet plan is peptidase. This is a digestive enzyme that is responsible for helping with the breakdown of casein in milk and protein powder as well as can help with the breakdown of gluten.
If you feel like you have a gluten intolerance, it may be worthwhile to look into supplementation with this enzyme. This said, do note that it’s not a cure for those who are suffering from celiac disease.
This is a very real and serious condition and requires proper medical treatment and modifications to your diet plan. If you suffer from celiac disease, this is beyond what a digestive enzyme can assist with.
Finally, before we leave off, there are a few more enzymes that are worth mentioning. These enzymes will help you further break down specific foods that you are consuming and allow you to feel your best.
Pectin is a particular type of dietary fiber commonly found in certain fruits. For instance, apples are rich in pectin and it’s actually the type of fiber that helps considerably with appetite control. You might find that after you eat an apple, your appetite is lowered for a few hours and this is largely thanks to the inclusion of pectin.
If instead you find that you feel bloated and have an upset stomach, it could be that you don’t have enough pectinase in your system. Adding this as a digestive enzyme may help.
Another enzyme that’s responsible for the breakdown of plant fibers is hemicellulose. This enzyme is going to help to break down the cell wall in those plant fibers, enabling the body to utilize the nutrients found in the plants and then excrete the rest through the bowels.
Phytase is a digestive enzyme not talked about enough given how important it is. Its role in the body is to assist with freeing up the minerals that are bound to phytic acid in plants.
Without this digestive enzyme, you may not take in the minerals that so many plants have to offer, which can then lead to mineral deficiency in the body.
So there you have a closer look at the main types of digestive enzymes that your body needs on a day to day basis. It’s quite the number.
While you can get digestive enzymes naturally from eating certain foods such as pineapples, the problem is you’ll be hard pressed to get all of these digestive enzymes in without supplementation. This is why turning to a supplement instead can be such a wise choice.
Using a very well-balanced digestive enzyme product such as MassZymes, can quickly get your levels to where they need to be for you to see optimal results with your nutrition protocol.
Do you have any experiences with digestive enzymes? What difference did you find it made when you added these products to your diet plan? Please share your story with us below.
Ojetti, V., et al. “The effect of oral supplementation with.” European review for medical and pharmacological sciences 14 (2010): 163-170.