Your gut health tells an important story about your overall health. Generally, those with an overgrowth of “bad” gut bacteria suffer from seemingly unrelated health conditions, such as acid reflux, aching joints, abdominal pain, and more.
The good news is that taking digestive enzymes can help your body digest foods more effectively and restore proper gut microbiome balance. Here’s what you should know about digestive enzymes and how they can boost your gut and overall health.
Overview of the Gut Microbiome
Remember, not all bacteria are bad. Some gut bacteria are very beneficial and help to break down the foods you eat so your body can make use of the nutrients in those foods. But when your gut bacteria become imbalanced and there’s an overgrowth of the wrong kinds of bacteria, you can no longer digest food efficiently.
When you can’t digest your food properly, your body doesn’t get all of the nutrients it needs from that food. That’s why a surprising number of people are currently dealing with nutrient deficiencies despite having access to a wide variety of nutritious foods.
That’s where digestive enzymes come in. Though your body should create its own digestive enzymes in an ideal situation, it may not be able to do so right now. If you have an overgrowth of the wrong types of bacteria, taking digestive enzymes may help boost your nutrient intake while you work to balance your gut microbiome.
Understanding Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes help your body digest the food it ingests. Digestive enzymes are naturally secreted by the cells that line the stomach, small intestine and pancreas. They’re also released by the salivary glands.
Different types of digestive enzymes break down different types of nutrients. Here are some of the most important digestive enzymes in the human body:
Some of these enzymes break down carbohydrates while others break down fats and proteins. If you’re deficient in any of these enzyme types, you may have a difficult time breaking down the corresponding food types. For example, lactose intolerance occurs when you have insufficient lactase in the small intestine.
Signs You Need Digestive Enzymes
You may benefit from taking digestive enzymes if you experience any of the following symptoms after eating certain foods:
Heartburn or acid reflux
Undigested food in your stools
Weight gain and obesity
Weak immune function
Depression and anxiety
These are all common indications that your body is not digesting foods properly. When this happens, you may be able to rectify the problem by taking digestive enzymes before or during meals.
Foods That Contain Digestive Enzymes
In addition to supplementing with digestive enzymes to help your body break down the foods you consume, you may also want to increase your intake of foods that contain natural digestive enzymes. These foods include:
Kimchi and sauerkraut
It’s best to consume these foods raw since cooking can inactivate some of the enzymes. If you aren’t used to fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut, it’s important to slowly introduce your body to them. Otherwise, you may experience additional intestinal upset. To begin, try taking just one teaspoon of these products along with other foods. Over time, you’ll be able to enjoy more fermented foods without the unwanted side effects.
When it comes to digestive enzyme supplementation, it’s best to take these supplements right before or during a meal. You don’t want to take them on an empty stomach if you don’t plan on immediately eating, since they can cause bloating and gas if not followed up with food. When taken as directed, digestive enzymes can aid your body in breaking down your food and getting the most benefits from it.