The Importance of Digestive Enzymes
In order to break down food efficiently and effectively, your body needs a sufficient supply of digestive enzymes.
Some of these digestive enzymes come from the pancreas, others are produced in the stomach, and still others are secreted by the salivary glands and glands in the small intestines. Raw foods contain natural enzymes that make their digestion easier, but the more refined the foods are, the more digestive enzymes your body must produce on its own to absorb the nutrients properly.
Unfortunately, as we age, the gut becomes less efficient, and we naturally begin to produce fewer digestive enzymes. As a result, our digestive tract gradually becomes more alkaline, and it becomes more difficult for our bodies to completely break down the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the foods we eat. This process can lead to a host of digestive health problems ranging from excessive gas and bloating to food allergies and food intolerances.
What is the Difference between Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics?
Digestive enzymes function like solvents that break foods down into the components that allow them to be absorbed and used by the body. They work throughout the GI tract but are especially plentiful in the stomach and uppermost sections.
Probiotic bacteria which live predominantly in the lower GI tract, are living organisms that live symbiotically with us. Their benefits mostly come from the byproducts they produce. These substances (e.g., lactic acid) favorably balance the digestive environment, inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, and promote overall health. We inherit probiotic gut bacteria from our mothers, and these microorganisms may be permanently lost as the result of antibiotic use or poor diet.
How to Improve Your Digestive Enzymes
If your digestive symptoms are predominantly in the upper GI tract and not relieved by taking a probiotic supplement, the solution may be to re-acidify your intestinal tract through healthier eating habits and improve your overall digestive capabilities by supplementing with digestive enzymes.
- Try taking digestive enzymes about 30 minutes before meals and again about 10 to 15 minutes following a meal.
- When shopping for digestive enzymes, look for a product that contains enzymes to help you digest the three main types of nutrients: proteases (for proteins), lipases (for fats), and amylases (for carbohydrates).