Bloating is a very common and annoying concern; occasional bloating may be attributable to over-eating or consuming foods that do not agree with you. However, constant bloating could be associated with hormonal insufficiency, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances and high stress levels, to name just a few. At the centre of all of this is our digestive system:
How does your digestive system work?
Our bodies obtain nutrients from foods that are broken down efficiently by digestive enzymes, which are released as soon as we ingest food. The effects of improper digestion are widespread and include feeling lethargic, uncomfortable, a bulging stomach, bloating, rumbling or gas and wind.
It is often said that ‘you are what you eat’ and whilst this remains true to a certain extent, what is equally important is the state of your digestive system. Even if you were to eat a healthy, nutritious meal, if your digestive system is not functioning at its optimal level, then the body will not receive all the nutrients that it depends upon. Every single cell within the human body depends upon the supply of vital nutrients and an optimal digestive system depends upon the production of digestive enzymes.
What are digestive enzymes?
Enzymes are necessary for all functions carried out within our bodies. Currently, more than 3000 enzymes have been identified and experts believe that there are literally thousands of enzymes that have yet to be identified. Such is the complexity of the human body.
Enzymes basically act as catalysts working to quicken any process that they are involved in. Every organ, tissue and cells have their own specific enzymes designed to carry out appropriate processes. Without enzymes one would not be able to digest food, breathe, move or even think.
We are constantly being reminded about drinking plenty of water, eating high fibre foods and consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and yet large numbers of the population still experience constant bloating, gas and indigestion. The reason could be the lack of digestive enzymes. Our bodies require sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes to break down food as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. The foods we eat require to be broken down into smaller bits in order to obtain nutrients from them. They are generally grouped as containing fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fibres and other components. As soon as we ingest food, these digestive enzymes are released in the small intestine from the liver, gall bladder and pancreas. Digestive enzymes are specialised proteins and can be generally classified as:
Proteases to break down proteins
Lipases to break down fats
Amylases to break down carbohydrates
What affects our production of digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are produced naturally by the body but their production can diminish for several reasons including:
- Ageing – as we age, our production of digestive enzymes diminishes.
- Stress because our bodies are not equipped to digest food under stressful conditions.
- Poor eating habits such as not chewing food properly or rushing through meals.
- Imbalanced diets that do not have the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
- Eating insufficient raw foods which contain naturally occurring enzymes.
- Inadequate vitamin and mineral levels
- Exposure to artificial colours and preservatives.
With so many factors affecting digestive enzymes, is it a surprise that vast numbers of the population suffer from minor digestive concerns?
Most people neglect the first step of digestion and that is to chew food thoroughly. Chewing food thoroughly has great benefits by breaking down food into smaller particles that are easier to digest, by stimulating the flow of saliva which has its own digestive enzymes and the actual action of chewing sends signals to the pancreas and other digestive organs to ensure digestive enzyme production. By the same token, do not chew gum because this fools the digestive organs into releasing digestive enzymes resulting in possible glandular exhaustion.
If you do not have sufficient digestive enzymes then taking the above steps will have no major benefits from the relief of bloating, occasional constipation, reflux, abdominal discomfort and other related issues. I am not going to bore you with all the individual digestive enzymes and their role in great detail except to say that the use of a digestive enzyme supplement can help and may put less strain on the digestive system.
Why it’s worth considering digestive enzyme supplements
Studies indicate that the body’s natural digestive enzyme production starts to decline by the time you reach 20. These studies further indicate that digestive enzyme production decreases by an average of 12 percent with every ten years of age so that by the time you reach your forties, it is roughly 25 percent of when you are young. To make matters worse, hydrochloric acid production in the stomach also declines with age and this is crucial for activating all of the stomach’s digestive enzymes. This digestive enzyme depletion can not only result in many of the digestive concerns such as bloating and gas but it can result in nutrient depletion in the body and there are several studies that show that using digestive enzymes can increase nutrient absorption by hundreds of percentages.
How digestive enzymes reduce inflammation
In addition to playing a role in digestion, digestive enzymes also help to reduce inflammation in the body and speed healing after surgery. In general, protein digesting enzymes can help to prevent tissue damage, inflammation and swelling. Inflammation is linked to virtually every single chronic disease that affect our bodies including heart disease, poor cognitive function and joint function.
There are hundreds of digestive enzyme supplements on the market and many people find it difficult to choose which one to take. I am a great fan of Life Extension, a pioneering research based company and I have no hesitation in recommending Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes. This digestive enzyme supplement fits my criteria because:
- Super Digestive Enzymes contains a mixture of enzymes to break down all the food groups, without affecting the body’s own production.
- It contains the enzyme activity rather than just the weight of each ingredient.
- Super Digestive Enzymes are free from known allergens such as yeast, shellfish, artificial flavours, colours and preservatives.
- It can have health benefits, including helping to boost your immune system and increase energy levels.
Eating a balanced diet all the time is next to impossible for most of us on a daily basis. If we ate a diet of raw and whole foods only, which contain naturally occurring enzymes, then our bodies would not need to work overtime to produce more nor would we end up with digestive exhaustion. Instead we are, for all the reasons mentioned within the article, putting a huge burden on our digestive system.