Enzymes for Better Digestion
by Angela Halderson
I spend a lot of time talking to people about their digestive health. Symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation can be painful and downright embarrassing. But what troubles me most is when I hear their doctor has told them these symptoms are normal. While some gas or some diarrhea can be common, recurring digestive symptoms are not normal.
When helping people with gas, a dietitian will ask if the gas is in the stomach or in the intestines. Gas in the stomach will be relieved by burping and can result from swallowing too much air while eating or drinking carbonated beverages. Most people today eat on the run which causes us to eat too quickly and to swallow air. This leads to uncomfortable gas in the stomach. The easy fix here is to avoid carbonated beverages and eat more mindfully. Find a quiet place to eat your meal and chew your food slowly, at least 20 times before you swallow.
If the gas is passed by flatulence, this can be the body’s inability to break down and absorb nutrients. This is a concern. After all, we are not what we eat, but we are what we absorb. If your system cannot absorb what you eat, this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and chronic disease.
Proteins like red meat, fried foods, grains, and legumes can require more digestive fire to break down and therefore can be more difficult for a body to digest. People also tend to eat too much protein and not enough vegetables. Too much protein, or meals that are too big, affect our digestive system in a negative way.
Digestive enzymes can help gas relieved by flatulence. Digestive enzymes are proteins that help break down specific food types: carbohydrates, protein, or fats. The body makes a wide variety of digestive enzymes, but as we age our bodies make less enzymes. Genetics can also play a role in our digestive process, as not every body creates enzymes to digest every food.
If you have uncomfortable symptoms of gas after your meals, you may want to try taking a broad digestive enzyme. A good digestive enzyme will help you break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Look for ingredients like protease, peptidase, bromelain, papain, lipase, amylase, cellulase, alpha galactosidase, and lactase. If you follow a low FODMAP diet, consider a digestive enzyme that contains alpha galactosidase, endo-inulinase, exo-inulinase, pectinase, and glucose isomerase.
A good quality digestive enzyme should also be void of common allergens: dairy, soy, nuts, and gluten. These same foods are also common food sensitivities, which can also cause gas, so it is important to read the product label. Be sure your digestive enzyme does not include GMOs, fillers, and food dyes. Remember, you are what you absorb!