Who Should Take Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are protein substances that break down the food you eat. They also pull essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins from the foods you eat and deliver them to your cells, muscles, tissues, and organs where they are needed.
Enzymes go to work with your very first bite of food, as they’re released by saliva in your mouth. These enzymes help break down the food into smaller bits that can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. As food flows through the digestive tract, other enzymes are released until the ultimate breakdown of food occurs in the small intestine.
Research shows that digestive enzyme production starts to decrease by the time you’re 20. Then your body’s production of enzymes decline by about 13 percent every ten years. So by age 40, your levels of digestive enzymes could be 25 percent lower than they were when you were a child.
How do you know if your digestive enzyme levels are not adequate? Here are some signs that your digestive enzyme levels may be lacking:
Bloating and stomach discomfort, particularly after meals. When you don’t have enough digestive enzymes, the food you eat doesn’t get broken down properly, causing it to ferment in the stomach and small intestines. This can lead to uncomfortable bloating and abdominal discomfort.
Low energy. Your body relies on the nutrients in your food for fuel. Without enough digestive enzymes, these energy boosting nutrients don’t get absorbed. The result is low energy and fatigue.
Smelly poop. If you don’t have enough digestive enzymes, your body isn’t able to break down hard-to-digest protein in your stomach and small intestine. Instead, the protein passes into the colon. And that can lead to foul-smelling bowel movements.
Constipation. When the food isn’t broken down enough in your stomach due to low levels of digestive enzymes, it can stagnate. Then, it moves too slowly into your small intestine where it continues to stagnate. So by the time it squeezes into your colon, your stool is hard and difficult to pass.
One of the easiest ways to lift your digestive enzyme levels is with supplementation. But, when picking a digestive enzyme supplement, you need to consider the types of foods you eat. Here are the most common foods, and the enzymes that break them down. Be sure the digestive enzyme complex you select includes a wide spectrum of enzymes to support your digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Protease breaks down the protein found in foods like meat, nuts, eggs, and cheese
- Amylase breaks down complex carbohydrates, starches, and sugars found in potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and many snack foods
- Lipase breaks down fats found in most dairy products, nuts, oils, and meats
- Lactase breaks down lactose (milk sugars)
- Cellulase breaks down fiber in grains and vegetables
- Hemi-Cellulase breaks down certain indigestible components of plant fibers including legumes and vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli.
- Maltase helps convert complex sugars found in malt and grain foods to glucose
- Invertase (or sucrase) breaks down sucrose or table sugar