Should we include digestive enzymes in our first aid kit?
Flatulence? Bloating? Heaviness after eating? Does it sound familiar?
Digestive enzymes and their power to improve digestion is certainly worth knowing a little about and may offer support as pubs, restaurants and social events open up later this year. We spoke with Fran Ballesteros, pharmacist and Vitae educator, about their role in the digestion process. It is also important to mention that whenever the problem is chronic and recurrent, it is essential to visit your GP or healthcare professional.
Starting with an easy question, what happens in our body when we eat?
The main goal of eating is to obtain nutrients for our body and that is why it is fundamental to process food from the very first moment it is ingested. We can talk about 3 different types of processing: a mechanical processing (the grinding of food with the teeth, or the peristaltic movement of mixing the stomach and intestine), a chemical processing (the acidic pH of the stomach that promotes the breakdown of chemical bonds, enzymatic processes at the intestinal level), and finally a biological processing (our intestinal microbiota that favours digestion and absorption of certain nutrients such as minerals and vitamins).
Why do we feel bad if we eat too much or we eat foods that are difficult to digest?
At the intestinal level, we are only going to absorb those nutrients that reach the small intestine in a form that we are able to absorb. Anything that we cannot digest, either due to a lack of prior processing (poor chewing, gastric acid or pepsin deficiency, enzyme deficiency, etc.) or because we have ingested excessively will not be absorbed properly. This process implies more work for our digestive system with the consequent discomfort of heaviness, bloating, etc. It can also depend on the type of food: fats are the ones that take longer to leave the stomach, so a large meal rich in fats will usually cause more discomfort than a lighter meal.
All these symptoms can have different causes, so each should be investigated separately. However, something very common is “partial digestion”, which could be connected to eating large amounts, which increases the workload of our stomach acid production and can result in hyperacidity, reflux and burning.
If food is not processed well at the stomach level this can reach the intestine partially processed, where our microbiota will have to work overtime to digest. This “partial digestion” can cause fermentation-type processes instead of digestive, which produces gas that can swell the digestive tract and result in bloating and flatulence.
What role do digestive enzymes play during the digestion process?
Digestive enzymes play a key role in protein digestion and break down the chemical bonds in order to make food more digestible. We have different enzymes in the digestive tract that help us process and digest different types of nutrients. It may happen that we have poor digestion due to a deficit of enzymes, so the use of food supplements based on digestive enzymes will facilitate the digestion process.
Vitae has a probiotic combined with digestive enzymes called Vitadigest, tell us a little more about it.
Vitadigest with digestive enzymes is a complete product that may help us in the digestive process. On one hand, it has 4 enzymes that favour the digestion of different nutrients such as proteins (protease), carbohydrates (amylase), fats (lipase) and a very specific one that helps us digest lactose and milk sugar (lactase). With these four enzymes we can improve the chemical digestion of food, in such a way that we promote its absorption without exhausting our microbiota. In addition, Vitadigest incorporates 3 bacterial strains present physiologically in the human intestine, L. gasseri, B. bifidum and B. longum, which can also support our digestive processes during the microbiological digestion of food. They may also support population of our intestine with beneficial bacteria, reducing many of the symptoms associated with poor digestion such as flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, etc. To sum up, it improves digestion and thanks to the digestive enzymes, the nutrients arrive more processed and that is why we eliminate the fermentation processes which are often the main cause of digestive discomfort.
If we are having a large meal, would it be good to support our digestion process with a supplement with digestive enzymes?
If we know that we are going to have a large meal we may prevent all those potential symptoms associated with heavy digestion (heartburn, flatulence, bloating, heaviness…) by providing an extra support of fast-acting digestive enzymes that help us to better enjoy our food. In the case of chronic digestive imbalances, that is, constant heaviness, acidity or flatulence, we should consider taking a probiotic with enzymes for a longer period of time in order to improve our enzymatic and biological digestion, and to eliminate long-term fermentation.
If you’re interested in additional digestive support consider purchasing Vitadigest from The Natural Dispensary and for 10% discount use the code TFT010. You may also consider purchasing a Digestive Health Nutrition Box from The Food Teacher™ Shop or contact the Clinic for a personalised Nutritional Therapy Consultations.
To find out more visit The Food Teacher™