“Death sits in the bowels. Bad digestion is the root of all evil.” Hippocrates 400 B.C.
What are enzymes and what do they do?
Last week I did a post all about leaky gut and some of the best ways to treat it. L-glutamine and probiotics are usually the two main supplements that are taken when treating leaky gut. But there’s one more supplement that is usually forgotten about, digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes take the food we eat, then break it down into individual nutrients (amino acids, vitamins, minerals) so our body can actually absorb and use them. Without enzymes, you could eat the healthiest diet on the planet but your body would still be missing out on the benefits of the food.
We all manufacturer enzymes, in fact every process in our body could not be done without enzymes, that’s how important they are. They perform all the functions that we need to survive and controls the speed of all chemical reactions that occur in the body. They are the workers in our body. Without them, NO activity would take place. As we age though, we naturally produce less enzymes which is why supplementation is important.
For those of us with leaky gut, it is the absorption and utilization of nutrients that will help repair our gut lining and will assist in stopping leaky gut itself. And in general, help us get more energy since normal biological processes can occur. When food is properly broken down, that will ensure less irritation and inflammation of the gut lining. The large food molecules will then not pass through the holes in our gut lining and into the bloodstream which means less stress on the immune system.
Digestive enzymes also work to clean up the mucosal lining – and even your bloodstream when they pass through – by removing toxins, bad bacteria and damaged cells. This added help is fantastic as it gives your liver and immune system a much needed break!
They can also help the body get rid of pathogens that may contribute to leaky gut. This is because bacteria and parasites are made of proteins. And protein-digesting enzymes (protease) will be able to break them down and flush them out.
How do I know if I need them?
If you have digestive disturbances after eating- constipation, bloating, diarrhea, feeling full after a few bites, food intolerance, eczema and acne.
How do I get more enzymes?
There are certain foods that have a good amount of enzymes in them- sauerkraut, pineapple, avocado, bananas- which are always good to eat but unfortunately you would have to eat a large amount to make up for the deficiency. Cooking also destroys the enzymes naturally found in foods.
So what can I do?
First of all, eat less. Avoid dairy, sugar, grains, legumes and any other inflammation causing foods.
Eat probiotic rich foods- sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, etc
Address underlying leaky gut causes- stress, chronic illness, medications, alcohol
Most importantly, how you eat, and I don’t mean the type of food you eat, I am referring to the physical act of eating. Be mindful, chew slowly and properly. Digestion starts in the mouth so you want to chew the food to an almost liquefied state. So many people do the “eat and run”. They have 5 minutes for lunch so they scarf it down while driving or sitting at their desk. This puts the body under an enormous amount of stress so instead of producing enzymes to digest your meal, your body is busy using it’s resources to stop the “fight or flight” that you’re causing by rushing.
Take a digestive enzyme supplement. Try to find one that has multiple enzymes to break down fats, proteins, fiber and carbs. Take it with every meal according to the bottle directions.