Digestive Enzymes - expert answers from Dr Mike Murray, Chief Scientific Officer at Enzymedica

Dr. Mike Murray, one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine is regarded as a pioneer by his peers and has authored over 30 books including the best-selling “The Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine”.

He is Chief Scientific Officer at Enzymedica, a company known as The Enzyme Experts. Here are the most common questions people ask about digestive enzymes and Dr. Murray's responses.

* What are the most common signs someone's digestion is not working properly?

Flatulence, bloating or feeling of pressure in the abdomen, irregularity of bowel movements, undigested food particles in stools, abdominal cramps and other gastrointestinal symptoms may be associated with improper digestion.

 * What are digestive enzymes?

Enzymes are molecules that either build, or break down chemical bonds. Digestive enzymes are those that are utilised to eventually break down food particles into smaller, preferably single, molecules. The pancreas is the major producer of digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are also available as a dietary supplement from a variety of different sources. For example, bromelain and papain (protein-digesting enzymes from pineapple and papaya, respectively) are vegetarian. In my experience, the best results are found from multi-enzyme preparations that focus on the vegetarian and fungal sources. 

* Why are they needed to help with digestive function?

Insufficient or a complete lack of a digestive enzyme can lead to impaired digestion. For example, many people lack the enzyme lactase that digests lactose in milk. This makes them “lactose intolerant.” When they eat a food that has lactose in it, like milk or ice cream, it leads to symptoms such as wind, bloEnzymedica Digest Goldating, and maybe even diarrhoea. Taking the enzyme lactase as a dietary supplement can allow them to break down the lactose and completely avoid the digestive consequences. Taking a broad-spectrum multiple enzyme formula, like Digest Gold from Enzymedica, can provide tremendous support in the digestion of all types of food components such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

* Can we obtain them through the diet, or do we need to take a supplement?

 Digestive enzymes must be taken as a supplement.

* What effect can digestive enzymes have on our gut health?

The impact of digestive enzymes on gut health is enormous. Undigested food particles can wreak havoc on our digestive function, leading to a lot of digestive symptoms and discomfort. Digestive enzymes are critical to maintain the proper intestinal environment and feed the microbiome and the microbes that we harbour in our body. The number of microbiota - bacteria, viruses and funguses - that live on, or in, the human body is enormous. Estimates are that approximately 100 trillion microbial cells from 1,000 different species of microorganism live within, or on us, in a truly symbiotic relationship. To a very large extent the human microbiome plays an integral role in our overall health. To improve the microbiome and thus improve our health, many people look to probiotic supplements. Digestive enzymes are not yet as well-known as probiotics, yet they are vital to our gut to help with effective digestion.

 * If people are looking to buy a digestive enzyme product, what advice would you give in terms of quality?

The best enzyme formulas to use are from Enzymedica. We use a proprietary process called Thera-Blend™ that provides a mixture of digestive enzymes in their formulas, so that there will be enzymatic activity throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract. Most enzymes are effective or active within a very narrow pH range and since the pH of the human gastrointestinal tract varies from very acid to alkaline, most enzyme supplements are not effective throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract. So, while an enzyme supplement may be helpful in one part of the digestive system, it may be totally inactive in another.  Enzymedica’s Thera-Blend formula overcomes this problem by blending the best enzymes in a way that there is enzymatic activity throughout the pH range of our entire gastrointestinal tract. Lab tests prove Enzymedica Thera-Blend enzymes are 3 times stronger and work more than 6 times faster than other enzyme supplements.

Also read the ingredients label and avoid any products that contain fillers such as magnesium stearate, apple pectin or rice starch.  Looking at the label of a high-quality enzyme product, you will find measurement units you may not be familiar with. For example, the enzyme Protease is measured in HUT’s (Haemoglobin Unit on a L-Tyrosine basis). With most supplements, we are used to comparing products based on weight.  However, with enzymes we are interested in the activity and potency available.  It is important to recognize that there is no direct relationship between weight and enzyme activity.

*What enzyme supplement would you advise to help with indigestion?

Enzymedica Acid Soothe
I would recommend the digestive enzyme supplement Acid Soothe™ for occasional heartburn and indigestion. Most often, people reach for acid blocking medications to deal with indigestion, but this approach is somewhat shortsighted in that they are usually only treating the symptoms and not dealing with the actual cause. Also, these types of medications typically have a long list of possible side effects. They seem to block digestive symptoms, but only to cause even more severe health issues. A healthier alternative in dealing with indigestion, is to take a natural supplement that contains digestive enzymes to support the digestion of the foods that trigger heartburn and indigestion in the first place. Acid Soothe also includes a special form of zinc that has been shown to soothe and help strengthen the mucosal lining of the stomach to allow it to act as a buffer to gastric acid.

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*Food Supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and healthy lifestyle