Better Digestion with Broad-Spectrum Enzymes
By Hamilton Cabanilla, MA Certified Natural Health Practitioner, Enzymedica®
Millions of people experience gas, bloating, and occasional heartburn. At the very least, these symptoms may be uncomfortable, but for many, these symptoms are a challenge.
To better understand digestive distress, it is important to understand the role that enzymes play within the digestive system.
With the first bite of food, enzymes go to work. Amylase enzymes found in saliva break down starches into simple sugars. As food progresses through the digestive tract, other enzymes take part. Protease (which digests proteins), lipase (which breaks down fats), and cellulase (which breaks down cellulose, a type of fiber), work to further break down food. All enzymes have a specific function within the body determined by their unique shape and composition.
Many individuals experience digestive distress when there simply aren't enough enzymes to completely break down a meal. Gas and other symptoms are created as poorlydigested food quickly begins to ferment.
Understanding Food Intolerances and Enzymes
Enzyme deficiencies occur when there aren't enough enzymes to break down food. Some individuals may be genetically pre-disposed towards enzyme deficiencies, but for others, factors like age, diet, and lifestyle can play a significant role. If you've heard the phrase "I just can't eat like I used to," it may be due to an enzyme deficiency that has developed with age.
Lactose, casein, gluten, and phenols are generally the most common food intolerances. Food intolerance may be caused by a deficiency of a specific enzyme or damage in the intestinal lining.
Which Food Intolerances are Most Common?
Gluten: Gluten is a name for proteins found in the wheat endosperm, a tissue produced in seeds that surrounds the embryo, and is most found in wheatbased flour. Be aware that gluten can be found in many foods that contain unsuspecting flour or wheat. Digestive enzymes like DPP-IV can break down gluten to make it easier to digest for people with gluten sensitivity*. DPP-IV products are not intended for individuals with Celiac Disease, who should avoid gluten entirely.
Dairy: Individuals who have digestive difficulties with dairy products are usually sensitive to either lactose or casein. Lactose is a dairy sugar, and casein is a protein found in dairy.
Phenols: Phenols are chemical compounds found in nearly all foods. Some foods contain a greater concentration of phenols, like nuts, berries, wine, and chocolate. Beans and Veggies: Plant fiber can often be difficult to digest. A wide variety of enzymes may be used to break down complex carbohydrates like fiber.* The enzyme Alpha Galactosidase is used for digesting sugars from beans, grains, and raw vegetables.*
Many individuals who have one food intolerance often have multiple, and it can change as we age. This can make elimination diets difficult, and is a key area where digestive enzyme products may help.
What Can You Do if You Have a Food Intolerance?
For minor to moderate food intolerances, digestive enzymes can be a huge help.* Look for products that target the specific foods that you have difficulty with.
If you have significant challenges with problem foods, sometimes the only solution is to completely eliminate those foods from your diet. There are many resources online and in your local health food store on elimination diets.
While eliminating problem foods from your cooking at home may be an approachable task, be careful when eating out. If you are very sensitive to certain foods, you may experience difficulties with cross-contamination that may occur when foods are cooked on the same surface where a problem food has been cooked. When eating out, digestive enzymes can act as a buffer in case some "sensitive" food slips in your meal.
The Benefits of Eating Raw
Enzymes are produced within the body, but they're also contained in the foods we eat. They are sensitive to temperature, so when food is cooked, the enzymes contained within are destroyed. This is one of the reasons why incorporating raw food into your daily diet is crucial.
Because it isn't always ideal (or desired, depending on the individual) to eat a completely raw diet, many consider enzyme supplementation. Those with specific food intolerances can purchase enzyme products that are focused on the digestion of intolerant foods. Others, who want more complete digestive support, can take a product designed to break down the entire meal. Both approaches can be beneficial for digestive distress. When choosing an enzyme product, look for one containing enzyme blends. The best products on the market will optimize enzymatic activity by blending different strains of the same types of enzymes, for maximum effectiveness across the wide range of pH levels throughout the body. Also, make sure that the products you choose are free of excipients and fillers, as they are unnecessary.
Two go-to products to consider are:
Digest Gold™– a high-potency formula containing a blend of powerful enzymes optimized for maximum digestive efficiency. *
Digest Spectrum™– a full spectrum digestive enzyme formula to address multiple food intolerances.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease