If you have any digestive reaction to food at all, quickly identifying the cause is important both for your stomach and your sanity.
Most digestive health problems are triggered by something – perhaps an episode of food poisoning, or sudden and acute gut-disrupting short, or long-term stress; it could be a particular food, or an overgrowth of a bacteria, or fungus. Regardless of the trigger, digestive enzymes mean it’s not necessary to avoid certain foods and suffer symptoms. Why not have a life of food freedom instead?
Digestion is a symphony of two parts. The first is called ‘mechanical digestion’ – this is the act of breaking down foods by force. We do this by cooking, blending, juicing and most importantly – by chewing. The next stage is called ‘chemical digestion’ which describes the release of saliva, digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bile fluids which all enter the gut to chemically digest the food. Actually, it doesn’t matter how much we blend, boil or chew food – we cannot make food molecules small enough for the body to absorb - enzymes do that.
Which enzyme, does what? Let’s take a look at the 3 most common digestive health questions we get asked here at Enzymedica UK.
Need to go to the bathroom urgently? -
Foods that generate an almost instant reaction, are usually carbohydrate sugars and starches such as lactose, sucrose and fructose. Our body digests carbohydrates with water. This is why some starchy foods, such as potato and rice, can make us feel like we are retaining water –we are.
Sugar, or glucose, to be more specific, is the end result of carbohydrate digestion. Some fruit, vegetables and milks, have specific sugars that need enzymes to process them. Lactose, for example, is a naturally occurring sugar in dairy that requires lactase enzyme to digest it properly.
Many fruits contain a sugar called fructose, which for some people, can generate an intolerance reaction as severe as lactose.
There are many sugars that can be found in our food, however, tend to be present in higher quantities in fruit and vegetables.
When the combination of water and missing digestive enzymes meet in the gut, either due to genetics, age, lifestyle, or medications, extra water is drawn into the bowel, triggering a sudden, watery diarrhoea.
The key enzymes for offsetting intolerance reactions to sugars, are lactase, sucrase, and maltase.
Can’t go to the bathroom? -
Constipation is a different kind of intolerance reaction and can take many days to manifest. It is often accompanied by migraine headaches, skin rashes, sleep disruption and a very uncomfortable tummy.
When we swallow proteins, they enter the stomach all tangled up and we need enough strong stomach acid to untangle them. Then they are broken down by protein-cutting enzymes called proteases.
If our natural proteases cannot break down the protein, either because we have low stomach acid, or insufficient digestive enzymes – protein molecules go on to make prolonged contact with the gut lining. This can generate an allergic reaction for some and inflammation, constipation, migraines and rashes for others.
Naturally occurring protein digestive enzymes are called chymotrypsin, pepsin, protease and trypsin.
Protein digesting support, suitable for vegans, can be found in high protease formulas, while stomach acid can be improved with Betaine HCL.
When supplementing with protein digesting enzymes, it’s important to look for a pH variable enzyme blend, such as Enzymedica’s TheraBlend™. This ensures that protein digestion occurs in all the necessary parts of the digestive tract, namely, the very acidic environment of the stomach, as well as the more neutral environment of the intestines.
3. Symptoms appear hours after eating? –
Difficulties in digesting fats can show up in various ways. For some, it may be loosened bowels and others, constipation. There are other clues:
- Lighter coloured, floating or shiny stools - if your bowel movement is very pale, a visit to a medical professional is recommended
- Nausea and heartburn after eating a meal, particularly one containing oily foods, such as fish, avocado, olives, butters, margarines, creamy or fried foods.
The gallbladder is the key organ for effective fat digestion. This pear shaped pouch is filled with a fluid called bile. When we eat, we squeeze a little bile out of the gallbladder and into the small intestine. This breaks up fats and activates our main fat digesting enzyme - lipase. While bile fluids break down fats from large to small structures, activated lipase enzyme breaks them down even further – releasing critical fat soluble nutrients such as Vitamin D, E, A and K.
When there is trouble digesting fats, the early signs are heartburn and nausea. Later, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea can occur, often up to three hours after eating.
Products in the Enzymedica UK range that are supportive of fat digestion, are LypoGold which contains a generous amount of the fat digesting enzyme lipase and Berberine, which stimulates bile release from the gallbladder.