Upset stomach, heartburn and other digestive complaints are so common they command a row of remedies at every drugstore.According to one survey, 74% of Americans are living with digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating. Click To Tweet
So, the thinking goes, that makes them minor annoyances instead of major health hazards. But nothing can be farther from the truth.
For one thing, some digestive issues, such as gallstones, ulcers or inflammatory bowel disorders, can result in surgical procedures or have significant complications. But long-term digestive problems can also interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, leading to shortfalls that can undermine overall health.
The body uses enzymes to break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins into absorbable units. Providing these enzymes supplementally can support the body’s food-processing capacity, especially as part of a formulation that includes other digestive aids such as beneficial probiotic bacteria (and probiotic growth agents like FOS), trace mineral sources and such gastrointestinal circulation promoters as nattokinase.
Ongoing symptoms should be brought to a practitioner’s attention. But an enzyme supplement may provide relief of occasional intestinal distress and encourage more complete assimilation of food.
What It Is: An enzyme produced in the salivary glands and pancreas
What It Does: Breaks starches down into sugars that are then broken down into glucose, the body’s main fuel source; some amylases are used in brewing beer
What It Is: A substance first found in beets; “HCI” stands for hydrochloric acid, the main component of stomach acid
What It Does: Helps establish acidic conditions within the stomach and aids in fat and protein digestion; speak to a practitioner before use if you have severe esophageal or stomach problems
What It Is: A patented form of piperine, a substance found in black pepper (Piper nigrum)
What It Does: Not an enzyme as such, but an extract that enhances nutrient absorption
What It Is: An enzyme found in all parts of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus)
What It Does: Breaks down protein and has been found to increase nutrient bioavailability when taken with food; helps fight inflammation when taken on an empty stomach
What It Is: A group of enzymes produced by fungi and other microbes
What It Does: Helps break down cellulose, a form of indigestible plant fiber; also used in coffee processing
What It Is: An enzyme produced by the small intestine
What It Does: Breaks down the sugars found in milk and dairy products; dairy intolerance often occurs in people with irritable bowel syndrome
What It Is: A patented enzyme designed to help with digestion of peas, beans, lentils and related foods
What It Does: Breaks down sugars found in legumes that can cause gas and bloating
What It Is: A group of enzymes produced in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract
What It Does: Breaks down fats, enabling the formation of tiny fat droplets (micelles) that can then be absorbed by the body; promotes assimilation of such fat-soluble nutrients as vitamins A, D, E and K
What It Is: A group of enzymes secreted by the pancreas
What It Does: Facilitates the breakdown of carbs, fats and proteins; has been used to treat malabsorption caused by pancreatic dysfunction
What It Is: An enzyme extracted from unripe papayas (Carica papaya)
What It Does: Encourages the breakdown and assimilation of protein; also used as an anti-inflammatory
What It Is: A group of enzymes found in intestinal, pancreatic and stomach juices
What It Does: Converts proteins into absorbable amino acids; other uses include removing damaged tissue from wounds and fighting inflammation
NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing a supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.