DIGESTIVE ENZYME SUPPLEMENTS - AN IN-DEPTH LOOK
Known as the main hub for the intake as well as the processing of the food, our gut also serves as the center for fighting diseases and communication. From supporting mental health to the immune system to the nervous and digestive system, the importance of gut health cannot be emphasized enough.
The optimum functioning of the gut depends a great deal on the digestive enzymes. Often prescribed to people suffering from digestive health problems as digestive supplements, here is detailed information on the importance of digestive nutrients and how to pick the right one for you.
A LITTLE INSIGHT ON THE GUT:
The gut, known as the gastrointestinal tract (GI) or digestive tract, includes the parts of the body that are involved with food intake and output. The system includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, rectum, and colon. In addition to these organs, there is a world of bacteria residing inside the large intestine referred to as the microbiome. As much as a trillion bacteria live inside the microbiome of the large intestine that has a key role to play in gut health.
The bacteria living inside the gut are of two types in general; good and bad and are referred to as gut flora. The good bacteria live on fiber that we take in as part of food while the bad bacteria live on components of processed foods and simple sugars. A balance of both of these bacteria is crucial to ensure the proper functioning of the gut including both physical and mental health. Gut health influences physical diseases like diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and autoimmune illnesses as well as on the brain. As much as 90% of the happy hormone “serotonin” is produced inside the gut. This is why food cravings and emotional cravings have a direct link with the
HOW TO KEEP GUT HEALTH IN CHECK?
Your gut health depends entirely on what you eat. To maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria, here is what you should include in your daily diet:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and especially fiber on which the gut bacteria thrive. Try to include at least 3 servings of vegetables and fruits in your diet daily and that too of a variety.
- Legumes, seeds, and nuts: This food group is an excellent source of protein and fiber. Examples include lentils, black beans, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are a great source of fiber. You can choose from a variety of options from millet, oat, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bulgur, whole wheat, and cereals.
- Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods: Both of these types of foods are important for gut bacteria to thrive and for reducing gut inflammation as well as improving the immune system of the gut.
Examples of foods include:
- Prebiotics: Broccoli, garlic, flaxseeds, onion, banana, apple, and almonds.
2. Probiotics: Foods that are fermented such as kimchi, yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha.
- Supplements: If the gut flora in your body is disturbed due to some factors, try including digestive supplements in your diet.
WHAT IS A DIGESTIVE SUPPLEMENT?
People who have insufficient enzymes owing to any digestive system problem are prescribed digestive enzymes in the form of a digestive supplement. Today more and more people are consuming digestive supplements nowadays to keep their digestive health in check. Research from Mintel reveals that as many as 86% of all British adults have suffered some form of gastrointestinal (GI) problem or ailment* in the last year The most common of which are:
- Constipation or Diarrhea
WHAT ARE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES?
Enzymes naturally occurring in the digestive system that helps in the breakdown of food are known as digestive enzymes. The majority of these digestive enzymes are made by the pancreas and are protein in nature. These gut enzymes help the body in breaking down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. When the number of enzymes falls short of the required amount, it results in the insufficient breakdown of foods and as a result, the nutrients do not absorb properly in the bloodstream. This is known as “Malabsorption” which leads to nutritional deficiencies and digestive health problems like flatulence, bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.
WHERE DO THE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES COME FROM?
The majority of the naturally occurring digestive enzymes come from the pancreas and come into the small intestine. Whereas, some of the enzymes are made in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine as well.
There are three different types of enzymes for three types of nutrients:
- Amylase: Formed in the pancreas and mouth, amylase helps in breaking down carbohydrates.
- Protease: Formed in the pancreas and helps in breaking down proteins.
- Lipase: Formed in the pancreas and helps in breaking down proteins.
- Sucrase: Formed in the small intestine and helps in breaking down sucrose.
- Lactase: Formed in the small intestine and helps in breaking down lactose.
When not made in sufficient amount, the digestive enzymes are sourced via two sources:
- Animal: Sourced from the pancreas of cows, pigs, and lambs.
- Plant: Sourced from fruits, fungi, etc. For example; Papain is sourced from papayas. Bromelain is sourced from pineapples.
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A DIGESTIVE SUPPLEMENT?
A digestive supplement’s benefits are not limited to digestion only. Here is a brief insight on why you should take a digestive supplement:
If you have an insufficiency of digestive enzymes as a result of any of the following conditions of the pancreas, you need to take digestive supplements from an external source to maintain optimal gut health. Here are the top conditions that lead to the insufficient production of digestive enzymes:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreatic Cancer
Other Digestive Issues:
You should take the OTC digestive enzymes if you suffer from:
- Crohn’s Disease
- Celiac Disease
- ulcerative colitis
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
For an instance; you must take Lactase supplements if you have trouble with the digestion of dairy and dairy products. The reason is a lack of an enzyme known as Lactase that aids in the digestion of a sugar known as Lactose present dairy products.
Improving overall Health:
Taking digestive supplements will improve your overall health apart from aiding in digestive symptoms. They help in:
- Management of Arthritis
- Reduction of inflammation
- Improvement of Immune System
- Improvement of Liver Health
- Providing ease in the side effects of cancer treatment
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO INGESTING DIGESTIVE ENZYMES?
Enzyme supplements are safe to use and must be taken in prescribed doses only. However, there are a few side effects to the digestive enzymes such as:
- Stomach Pain
In addition to these typical side effects, some people may develop an allergic reaction to the digestive enzymes. For example; Bromelain has an anti-platelet effect. So, people who are on blood thinners can be at an increased risk of bleeding with this enzyme.
If you are a lactating mother or pregnant, you must consult your doctor before starting on digestive enzymes.
GUT MICROBIOME - THE GOOD & THE BAD BACTERIA
The human gut is home to a whopping number of 100,000 billion bacteria. Collectively known as the microbiome, the bacteria weigh around 1.5 kg in total. The gut bacteria consist of 5000 strains and 1000 different species. All of these bacteria are divided into two large groups:
- Good Bacteria - Probiotics
- Bad Bacteria - Prebiotics
Maintaining a balance between the two is crucial for maintaining optimal gut health because 70% of the immune system is constituted by the gut. The gut bacteria start to form when we are born and develop in the initial three years of life.
PROBIOTICS - THE GOOD BACTERIA
Probiotics can be defined as “The microorganisms in our gut that help in maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in our bodies are known as probiotics”. In other words, probiotics help in keeping the bacterial balance in the body neutral. When you fall sick, there is an invasion of bad bacteria in the body that continues to multiply in number. This disrupts the whole balance of the body resulting in indigestion symptoms or sickness. In this situation, the good bacteria fight with the bad ones to maintain a healthy balance which makes you feel healthy and fine again.
However, there are other functions as well that are performed by the good bacteria such as;
- Supporting immune system
- Controlling inflammation
- Aiding in proper digestion
- Maintaining the balance of bacteria in the body
- Playing a role in making vitamins
- Helping in the absorption of medicines
Calling probiotics a gift from nature won’t be wrong. They are naturally a part of our bodies since birth and remain as it is for all our lives. Our bodies are naturally accustomed to maintaining this balance and there is no need for probiotic supplements. However, maintaining a healthy diet specifically, one rich in fiber helps in maintaining the balance of good bacteria or prebiotics inside the gut.
COMMON TYPES OF PROBIOTICS
There are a variety of microorganisms that are considered probiotics. However, some of the most common types of probiotics are:
FOODS AS PROBIOTICS:
There are a variety of foods that contain good bacteria and thus help in increasing the number. The most common example of food as a probiotic will be plain yogurt. Just like that, fermented foods are also a great source of good bacteria because they contain good bacteria that feed on the fiber or sugar present in the food.
Here are top-fermented foods ideas to add to the diet:
- Kombucha Tea
- Fermented pickles
Probiotics are also available as supplements and can be ingested in a variety of forms such as:
- Pills or Capsules
However, it is recommended to consult your doctor before starting on the probiotic supplements. You must discuss the potential side effects or harmful effects of the probiotics beforehand. Especially if you have an underlying health condition, it is necessary to be monitored for harmful effects of it in advance.
PREBIOTICS - THE BAD BACTERIA
Commonly known as bad bacteria, prebiotics can be defined as “Naturally occurring non-digestible food components that help in promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in our guts.”
Prebiotics are the food for the good bacteria residing inside your stomach. Carbohydrates in nature, the prebiotics are not easily digested by the stomach. Hence they move to the lower digestive tract where they become the food for the already residing good bacteria where they are broken down.
The function of prebiotics is not only to feed the good bacteria. Instead, they come with many additional benefits such as:
- Prebiotics help in the absorption of calcium.
- Inside the colon, prebiotics help in the formulation of cells that line the colon.
- They help in quicker fermentation of foods which in return prevents you from constipation.
- They improve the glycemic index of the foods.
- Prebiotics help in the prevention of some chronic diseases like colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and obesity.
- Prebiotics help in relieving constipation.
- Prebiotics have a cholesterol-lowering effect.
PREBIOTICS AS FOOD SOURCES
Prebiotics are naturally found in several whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Some of our top picks in prebiotic-rich foods are:
- Green vegetables
It is very easy to include prebiotic-rich foods in your diet as you have got quite a variety to choose from. However, if you want to top up your intake, you can add prebiotic supplements to your diet. It is advised to check with your doctor before starting on the supplements. You need to check the labels carefully as some of them may contain some non-prebiotic fiber types.
COMMON TYPES OF PREBIOTICS
Prebiotics are of different types out of which some of the most popular ones are:
- Pectic- oligosaccharide
- Non-carbohydrate oligosaccharide
- Resistant Starches
Do not look for these names when looking for the prebiotics on the ingredient list, try looking for the name “Inulin” (A type of fructooligosaccharides) or simply prebiotics.
PICKING THE RIGHT DIGESTIVE SUPPLEMENT FOR YOU
The main purpose of the digestive enzymes is to help in breaking down the food into small particles. This breakdown of food helps in the efficient soaking up of the ingredients from the food components. If the food fails to break down because of some reason, it results in multiple digestive system issues like flatulence, diarrhea, bloating, gas, stomach pain, and abdominal distention. In such cases, ingesting digestive enzymes in the form of digestive supplements is often recommended by healthcare professionals.
You must take into account the following three characteristics while picking the right digestive supplement for you:
Quality: Do not compromise on the quality when choosing the digestive supplement for you. Make sure you look for supplements that are vegan, non-GMO, and free of chemicals. Above all choose a reputable brand that offers products backed by clinical research and has been lab-tested by a third party. Find the best quality digestive enzymes here.
Types & No of Enzymes: Before you make your pick, make sure to read about the types of enzymes as well as several enzymes. Choose a supplement with a minimum of three types of enzymes in it. This kind of broad-spectrum supplement helps in breaking down multiple nutrients at the same time.
Source: Digestive enzymes are sourced from both animal and plant sources. Our recommendation would be to choose plant-based enzymes as they are better for the environment as well as for your body.
Here are a few points that will help you pick the right digestive supplement for you:
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you must look for plant-based supplements having a mix of protease, lipase, and amylase just like this one here.
Make sure to choose a supplement that comes with a higher number of activity units aligning with your symptoms. For example; if you suffer from protein indigestion, then you must choose the one with higher protease activity units like this Pea-Nutriti
With the gut constituting about 70% of the immune system of the body, it is very important to maintain optimal health. This can be done by taking a healthy and balanced diet along with maintaining a fair balance of gut microbiota i.e. prebiotics and probiotics. If the balance in the microbiome gets disturbed as a result of any digestive issue, you must include digestive enzyme supplements in your diet to enjoy proper health and well-being. Make sure you read the labels before you make your pick and do not forget to consult your doctor.