The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Todd Pesek, MD.
As I stated in this article on the importance of digestive health, I believe the statement, “you are what you eat” is only partially true. I think it’s more accurate to say, “you are what you absorb.”
During digestion, essential nutrients from the foods you eat are broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream, but sometimes this process is inefficient, resulting in nutrient deficiencies and uncomfortable side effects.
Having a balanced microbiome full of friendly bacteria is key to good health because it facilitates digestion and also supports the immune system. This is why it’s important to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, as well as fermented foods.
Taking a probiotic supplement is a good place to start if you’re looking for additional digestive support, and if your goal is to optimize your gut health, digestive enzymes may be the answer.
What are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are natural proteins in your body that help you digest food. Their job is to break down large molecules of food into smaller ones that can be easily absorbed.
The three main types of digestive enzymes are:
- Amylase: Breaks down carbohydrates (i.e. fruits, vegetables and starches) into simple sugars
- Lipase: Breaks down dietary fat in dairy products, nuts/seeds, oils and meats into fatty acids
- Protease: Breaks down protein from plant and animal foods into amino acids.
Signs You May Need an Enzyme Supplement
As we age, the acid in our stomach naturally becomes more alkaline, resulting in a decrease in the production of digestive enzymes. In addition, certain digestive diseases— acid reflux, low stomach acid, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis – may also warrant the use of supplemental digestive enzymes.
You may also be a candidate for a digestive enzyme if you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis.
- Acid reflux/heartburn
- Morning fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Joint pain
- Mood swings
Types of Digestive Enzyme Supplements
A variety of foods naturally contain digestive enzymes. Consider adding some of these to your cart on your next trip to Heinen’s.
- Raw sauerkraut
- Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- Raw honey
Heinen’s Wellness Department carries a nice variety of enzyme supplements to meet your digestive needs. To help your body process different types of nutrients, choose a supplement that provides multiple enzymes to cover all of your needs and take as directed, preferably ten minutes before a meal. Digest Spectrum by Enzymedica is a good choice.
It’s safe to say that immune health and digestive health are interconnected. After all, 70% of your immune system is located in your gut. To promote the growth of healthy bacteria, a soil-based probiotic supplement containing a minimum of 10 diverse strains and 30 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) is a good place to start, but adding a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme before meals can help optimize your digestive health and thereby strengthen your immune system.
Please check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplements.