There has been a recent influx of information regarding Gut Health. You may have read about the "gut-brain axis" or how much of an effect your microbiome bacteria has on your overall health... how you literally are what you eat.
The topic of gut health is everywhere because new studies are confirming that it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Research article after research article continues to come out with data supporting how your digestive health not only impacts your physical health, but your mental health as well. One component of digestion that is gaining more attention is the role of digestive enzymes.
What are digestive enzymes?
Our body produces thousands of enzymes every day that work hard to help speed up reactions inside us and get shit done without using a ton of energy, pretty awesome right? Half of the enzymes our body produces are used within the digestive tract, beginning in your mouth as soon as you take your first bite of food, all the way through your small intestine. These enzymes break down different types of food to help your body extract nutrients and filter them into your blood so they can be delivered to the rest of the body. The most common types of digestive enzymes include:
Lipase: break down fat
Amylase: breaks down carbohydrates
Proteolytic enzymes and peptidases: break down proteins
But, when our body doesn’t make enough of these enzymes, our digestion is slowed and leads to uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating, and cramps (we’ve all been there). This slowed and imbalanced digestion can cause negative effects throughout the entire body, especially if it occurs chronically. Luckily, you can help pick up your digestive system’s slack by consuming foods with digestive enzymes in them or taking digestive enzyme supplements. Papaya, pineapple, ginger and asparagus are common foods that contain various types of proteolytic enzymes.
What they can do for you:
So, what’s the big deal? Do these enzymes just help people not get stomach aches when they eat certain foods?
Well, yes and no. Remember how interconnected our digestive system is to the rest of our body? Research has shown that digestive enzymes can have a large effect on the immune and endocrine systems.
When the digestive system doesn’t have enough enzymes, it will steal some from the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to outside invaders. On the other hand, when we have an adequate amount or a surplus of digestive enzymes, our body uses them to help improve our inflammatory response and boost immunity. Several studies have shown that proteolytic enzymes effectively reduce inflammation throughout the body and even reduce pain and swelling in patients with osteoarthritis. Furthermore, these enzymes have been shown to shorten recovery time after surgery and reduce muscle soreness after workouts. Research has even shown specific digestive enzymes may have cancer-fighting properties! These little molecules in your gut really can make a big difference and consuming these enzymes naturally through foods or supplements can be a game-changer for your gut and mental health!
What About Thyroid Health?
Digestive enzymes have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties that can aid in healing hypothyroidism, significantly reducing symptoms of Hashimoto. Hashimoto is an autoimmune disease more common in women than men where the thyroid gland is not as active as it should be. This tiny gland may be small, but it has a major impact on your overall health. The hormones the thyroid produces help your body use and regulate energy. When the thyroid doesn’t make enough of these hormones, various aspects of your health can be seriously impacted.
An extra boost in nutrient absorption:
Leaky gut and food sensitivities are common symptoms of Hashimoto, so an extra boost in enzymes breaking down food can alleviate these symptoms and improve nutrient absorption, helping reduce possible vitamin deficiencies. Research shows that improving absorption of thiamin and B12 helps improve iron levels, diminishing hair loss and fatigue.
Saves you energy:
It’s common for those with hypothyroidism to have low stomach acid levels, making it much more difficult to break down proteins. Digestion uses a ton of the body’s energy, more than any other system. So, when things don’t go right and our bodies don’t have all the tools to breakdown food, the digestion system has to use even more energy, leaving us feeling slumped.
Like I always say, there is no magic diet pill that will solve everything. Listening to your body and treating any issues with natural remedies, like digestive enzymes, combined with other tools can make a big difference!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Supplemental digestive enzymes are not regulated by the FDA, make sure you are reading the labels carefully, purchasing from a reputable brand, and looking for other certifications such as Natural Products Association and USP Quality Supplements.
When shopping for Digestive Enzymes: look for a digestive enzyme that contains betaine HCL with pepsin and Ox Bile. I take mine right before every meal. And they are especially helpful when eating out!
Always be careful when buying digestive enzymes on Amazon! But this is the one I use: