Our bodies make up enzymes to digest the foods we eat. But we often “run out” of them as we age, and then we can no longer tolerate certain foods, like dairy. Then we suffer with gas, bloating and even pain.
The digestive system has an intricate relationship with all other systems in the body, including the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. If your digestive system cannot properly digest food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste products from the body, then it becomes very difficult to maintain optimal health.
Even if you eat an ideal diet, if you experience a great deal of stress, have an underlying medical condition, or are taking medications that affect digestive processes, you can experience digestive difficulties and have problems absorbing nutrients.
Digestive enzymes are proteins that facilitate the break down of food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) into smaller, absorbable components. Digestive Enzyme Supplements (DES) are a natural remedy for many conditions that have a root cause in the digestive system, including food sensitivity, allergies, behavioral disorders, and other health conditions that may be related to a nutrient deficiency.
There are plant-based DES. These are usually derived from pineapple (bromelain) or papaya (papain). Another source of DES is derived from microbes and includes varieties of lipase, amylase, protease, and lactase, which all have unique effects in the digestive process.
The medical premise for a DES is to facilitate thorough digestion of food and to prevent foodstuffs from lingering in the gut where they can generate unfavorable bacteria and yeast (at the expense of healthy gut bacteria). Digestive enzyme supplements may also enhance the nutrition received from the foods you eat, which is good for the whole body. Research shows that taking a DES can promote bowel movement regularity, reduce or eliminate other gastric disturbances such as reflux or gas, and ease the symptoms of food intolerance like lactose intolerance.
Digestive enzymes can be used by adults and children alike. Do not take digestive enzymes without the input of your doctor if you have active stomach or duodenal ulcers, inflammation of the bowels, bleeding disorders, or are scheduled for surgery.
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American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. “The Naturopathic Approach to Digestive Disorders.” November 1, 2012. http://www.naturopathic.org/article_content.asp?article=784
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Roxas, M. “The Role of Enzyme Supplementation in Digestive Disorders.” Alternative Medicine Review 13, no. 4 (December 2008): 307-14. http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/13/4/307.pdf