If you have already eaten and feel uncomfortable during hours after – think bloating, indigestion or cramps – you know how bad it is.
But if you could take a pill and finally have these problems become a thing of the past? Well, digestive enzyme supplements claim to ban gastrointestinal problems from bloating and cramps, so you can take your favorite meals without the unpleasant side effects. But do they really deliver?
What are digestive enzymes?
To understand what digestive enzyme supplements do, you must first realize that your body already produces digestive enzymes, which helps you (you guessed it) to digest your digestive enzymes. foods with usable nutrients. "The best analogy I can give is to pack for a trip: you can pack the perfect items, but if everything stays in the bag, it will do you no good," she says. Lauren Slayton, Dt.P. and founder of NYC-based nutrition practice, Foodtrainers. "Digestive enzymes are the key to decompressing your nutrients."
There are three main categories of digestive enzymes: amylases help break down starches and sugar, lipases break down fats, and proteases break down proteins. In these categories, there are several other enzymes responsible for the degradation of specific foods, such as lactase for lactose, sugar in dairy products and alpha-galactosidase for sugars in beans and cruciferous vegetables. .
As long as your body is able to produce these enzymes in sufficient quantities for the foods you eat daily, everything is fine. The problem, however, occurs when they do not do it.
Can you get more digestive enzymes naturally?
Slayton says that there are many ways to naturally get more enzymes. "Stress affects the production of enzymes for the worse," she recommends reading or meditating to inhibit stress, for starters.
Also try eating foods that naturally contain enzymes for digestion. According to the NIH, these foods all do business:
- Pineapple contains bromelain, a type of protease that helps break down proteins
- Mango contains amylase, to help digest the starch
- Lawyer at lipase to help digest fats
- Kiwi contains a protease called actinidain, which helps tenderize hard meat
- bananas contain amylases and glucosidades, which break down carbohydrates and complex sugars
- Ginger has a protease called zingibain
- Papaya to papain, another protease
- Kefir a lipase, protease and lactase
- miso lactase, lipase, protease and amylase
The speed at which you eat can also play a role. That's why, if you eat a meal very quickly, you will sometimes feel bloated and uncomfortable. "Saliva enzymes start to degrade food, so it's important to chew well!" Says Slayton.
What are the signs that a supplement can help?
If you have persistent bloating, diarrhea, cramps, or other gastrointestinal symptoms (such as undigested food in your stool), consider having a gastroenterologist or dietician experienced in digestive health. They can evaluate to see if a digestive enzyme can be helpful for you, says Rachael Hartley, RD, and founder of Rachael Hartley Nutrition in Columbia, South Carolina.
If you have lactose intolerance, for example, your body is unable to digest dairy products and you could benefit from a supplement containing lactase.
Slayton also says that if you're over 40, you can consider digestive enzymes because the body naturally stops producing as much as you get older. "If you suffer from Crohn's disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or celiac disease, digestive enzyme supplements can also help you."
Just be sure to consult your doctor before you start taking supplements because they will be able to determine, via lab tests, if your enzyme levels are low.
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What do digestive enzyme supplements contain?
If your doctor prescribes a digestive enzyme, it usually consists of high concentrations of a certain mixture of amylase, lipase and protease. These enzymes are usually made from pork pancreas and approved by the FDA.
Over-the-counter digestive enzymes are however supplements and not drugs, which means that they are not regulated by the FDA and you can not really be 100% sure that they contain everything you need. They promise.
You can get specific ones for lactose intolerance (like Lactaid) and bloating caused by beans (Beano), or you can get a more varied one including a number of enzymes in one tablet. These are for people with bloating and other common problems, but they are usually not as intense as those prescribed for people with serious gastrointestinal disorders.
How are digestive enzymes different from probiotics?
Digestive enzymes and probiotics have the same basic function, that is, they help you digest your food. But additional probiotics are usually beneficial for everyone (they help to nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut), while digestive enzyme intake is only helpful if you do not have one. naturally enough.
"You can combine digestive enzymes and probiotics, but digestive enzymes are suggested before meals, while probiotics are meant for an after," says Slayton. "In fact, a healthy microbiome encourages the production of enzymes, so these two elements work well together."
So, should you take a supplement or not?
It's a delicate issue and, unfortunately, there is not a single good answer, it's very individual. "What's wonderful about digestive enzymes, is that they can help many people tolerate foods that can trigger symptoms, which helps them benefit from a broader diet." , more varied and more flexible, which means a healthier diet! "says Hartley.
Slayton finds the question a little trickier and thinks that on the whole, it is better to cut the food know do not work for yourself: "You do not want to hide another problem or encourage eating a food that does not work for you," she says. "But for trips, holidays or times when you consume food it does not work well for your body, it's a good exception to take a supplement. "
So, if after reviewing all the facts, you still think that you might need a supplement to take your favorite meals, do not worry: the experts have drawn up a list of the best ones to add to your diet. All have a mixture of amylase, lipase and protease, as well as specific enzymes for problems such as lactose intolerance. They are therefore required to help a wide variety of ailments.
Best Digestive Enzyme Supplements
All-Zyme, Proteolytic Enzyme and Digestive Enzymatic Supplement
Bottom line: You can get natural digestive enzymes from a number of foods and lifestyle practices, but talk to your doctor if you think that a supplement might help you.