If you suffer from gastrointestinal distress (ie. gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation, etc.), you’re not alone. More than 100 million Americans experience digestive difficulties. Digestive enzymes can help by keeping your gut healthy. They are vital to the digestive process and work to break down the food we eat, so our bodies can absorb nutrients from our food. When your gut is healthy, your immune system functions properly, so the rest of your body’s systems can work well too.
Here are the five most important reasons you should be adding digestive enzymes to your diet:
- Enzymes are crucial to human survival– they are responsible for every chemical reaction in our bodies. For example, the intestinal cells of people who are lactose intolerant do not produce lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose. However, adding lactose to their diet can quickly solve the problem.
- The typical American diet depletes our enzymes– processed foods and all their additives, preservatives, and nitrates do not contain the digestive enzymes needed for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Our diet increasingly consists of these types of foods, causing an enzyme deficiency. Even if you eat plenty of good-for-you fruits and vegetables, if you cook them, their enzymes are destroyed. Your body is then forced to “borrow” enzymes from other parts of your body just to digest the food you’re consuming, again leading to overall deficiency.
- Even some healthy foods inhibit enzymes– for example, raw peanuts, egg whites, some nuts, seeds, beans and lentils contain enzyme inhibitors. They actually neutralize some of the enzymes produced by your body.
- There are factors that can speed up enzyme depletion – factors such as extreme temperatures (hot and cold), exercise and even illness can increase the rate at which our bodies use enzymes.
- Enzyme levels decrease significantly with age – Until recently, scientists believed that the digestive enzymes in our body are constant and last forever. Researchers now know that we lose digestive enzymes through sweat and body waste. Through constant use, enzymes lose their strength and ability to do their work. As we age, the organs responsible for producing our digestive enzymes become less efficient. In fact, studiesshow that, every ten years, your body’s production of enzymes decreases by 13 percent. So by age 40, your enzyme production could be 25 percent lower than it was when youwere a child. By the time you’re 70, you could be producing a mere one-third of the enzymes you need.