Before our food is absorbed, it must be effectively broken down, and this is where digestive enzymes come into play. They are vital for breaking down proteins, fats, carbohydrates and essential vitamins at each stage of digestion, that are eventually converted into energy for growth and repair. A lack of digestive enzymes can lead to a series of conditions triggered by a low immune system, including bloating, food intolerances, vitamin deficiencies, and acne.
Why could I be suffering from a digestive enzyme imbalance?
Digestive enzyme insufficiency is much more common and there are a number of factors that can influence this such as:
Stress: Hormones released during the natural stress cycle affect the production of digestive enzymes.
Age: As we age our natural production of certain digestive or salivary enzymes reduce.
Hypochlorhydria (insufficient stomach acid production): This affects the effective breakdown of food in the stomach but also reduces the production of digestive enzymes further on down the digestive tract too.
Existing conditions: These include Crohns disease or liver disease which can also have an impact on how well we produce these enzymes.
How can I improve my gut health and boost digestion?
Beneficial bacteria: Help beneficial bacteria flourish by ingesting probiotic foods or supplements that contain the so-called ‘good’ GI bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms found in the gut that are also called ‘friendly bacteria’. Use of broad-spectrum antibiotics can reduce both good and bad bacteria.
Probiotics in the form of supplements or food can be helpful in re-inoculating the gut. Probiotic powders are versatile and argued by some experts to be more effectively utilised by the body in a free powder of liquid form. Our Multi Strain Biotic is high strength and contains a unique complex of 8 strains of bacteria in powder form to support shifts in bacteria or flora.
Prebiotics: Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso, kefir and tempeh are food sources of prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms already in the colon. In other words, prebiotics feed probiotics. Prebiotics are available in many foods that contain a fiber called inulin, including artichokes, garlic, shiitake mushrooms leeks, onion, rocket, chicory and edamame beans. Grains suchas barley, flax, oats, and wheat are also good sources of prebiotics.
Digestive Enzymes: Digestive enzymes are the catalyst of food digestion. Wild Nutrition’s Digestive Enzyme Complex is a unique blend of GMO-free broad acting digestive enzymes derived from natural fermentation of natural substances including Aspergillus oryze, used in traditional Japanese cultures to produce fermented foods.
This natural process produces a broad spectrum of enzymes required by the digestive system to break-down carbohydrates, plant fibres, proteins, fats and milk sugars. The advanced production method supports the enzymes resistance to gastric juices,
while retaining their digestive activity to aid digestive health. They can be used in the short or longer term but I would recommend seeking advice from a qualified nutritionist if short term supplementation is not working to investigate the reason for this.
Intestinal permeability ‘leaky gut syndrome’: Leaky gut is associated with many health conditions ranging from autism to auto-immune conditions. Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in a disease state, such as zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E), fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine found in lean proteins such as fish, chicken, lamb and fresh meat stocks and broths.
Aloe vera is polysaccharides and may offer soothing qualities. Slippery elm is categorised as a ‘mucilage’ and has been found in research to affect the reflux stimulation of nerve endings inthe gastrointestinal tract leading to increased mucus secretion (needed to protect the gutwall). Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in the mucosa (the lining of the gut) and supplementing can be especially helpful at restoring health gut permeability. It is easy and safe to use at good higher doses (around 5-10 grams a day).
Rebalance: Increased motility (the rhythmic flow again) of the colon during exposure to stressful situations, has been shown to occur in those with IBS. The gut is also known as the ‘second brain’ because it has many of the neurotransmitters also found in the brain. This explains well the idea of having ‘butterflies in your tummy’ or a ‘gut instinct’ and further explains the link between emotions and gut function. Psychotherapy in the form of relaxation therapy, biofeedback, counselling or stress management training has been shown to reduce symptoms of IBS. Pay attention to lifestyle choices and consider adaptogenic agents such as ashwagandha or Rhodiola rosea.