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Many people do not realize that feeling sleepy after a meal or not being able to digest certain kinds of foods may be signs of enzyme deficiency.

One of the first and most obvious signs of enzyme deficiency is poor or disturbed digestion. This includes excess purifying gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, constipation and/or diarrhea.

As we age, the enzymes produced by our bodies decrease in number and activity level. A lack of enzymes can contribute to an increase in pain, inflammation and loss of stamina. It also hinders the body’s ability to resist infection and heal wounds. Let’s explore the role of enzymes in the larger scheme of things.

What are Enzymes?

Enzymes are large, protein-based molecules that catalyze (i.e., regulate the rates of) chemical reactions. Almost every action and reaction in our body is dependent on enzymes; all cells require enzymes to survive and function.

With respect to digestion, enzymes play critical roles in breaking down proteins into amino acids, fats into fatty acids, complex carbohydrates into simple sugars and complex fibre into smaller fibre units. In other words, they allow for the complete absorption of valuable nutrients. Digestive enzymes also remove toxins from the bowel, relieve constipation and help condition the line of the digestive tract.

How to Increase Enzyme Intake

We obtain enzymes externally from the food we eat (food enzymes) and internally from our digestive organs (digestive enzymes). But when food is cooked or processed at temperatures greater than 118°F or 48°C, the enzymes in the food are destroyed. With ageing, injuries, illnesses and stress, we need to eat more enzyme-rich foods and/or supplements to make up for enzyme deficiency. 

The first use of enzyme supplements to aid digestion dates as far back as the 1890s.

Taking a comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement will help the body break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fibre, making it possible to benefit from the nutrients found naturally in those foods. So, how do we choose such an enzyme supplement?

What to Look for in a Good-quality Digestive Enzyme

Plant-based enzymes are the most popular enzymes found in natural food supplements. Their safety and efficacy have been well documented over many decades of use worldwide. Within the enzyme category, the top three are amylases (breakdown starch), proteases (breakdown protein) and lipases (digest fats). Then come the cellulase, hemicellulase and phytase (breakdown fibre). 

Of all the choices, plant-based enzymes are the most active or potent. This means they contain the highest active units and can break down more fat, protein and carbohydrates in the broadest pH range than any other source. 

When shopping for digestive aid, be sure to find a patented, broad-spectrum, non-GMO enzyme that contains fibrazyme. Fibrazyme is a blend of fibre-digesting enzymes that maximizes fibre and cereal digestion along with the absorption of essential minerals. This blend is shown to be a necessary addition for optimal nutrient absorption from high-fibre foods or for those taking mineral supplements with meals.

What to Expect When Taking a Digestive Enzyme

Plant-based enzymes are vital to developing and maintaining a proper digestive system. They can be taken with meals to aid in the digestion of all foods or between meals to feed and fortify the body as a whole. 

If you have problems with indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation or reflux, a digestive enzyme supplement can help. Digestive enzyme supplements help to break down foods more thoroughly, and fewer digestive complaints occur.

Given the relatively low cost per serving/dosage of these enzyme formulas compared to the reported benefit overall, consumers can choose to make enzyme supplementation a part of daily meal intake.

RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc. Pharm is a holistic consultant with more than 40 years of experience in both conventional and natural medicine. Currently, she counsels and lectures on holistic health and mind/body vitality, formulates new health products, as well as offers group workshops in community-building. Know more here!

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