More than Occasional Tummy Troubles
A healthy, fully functioning digestive system provides essential detoxification, immune system support, and energy from the proper breakdown of food. It is a well-known fact that over 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract.
Many times symptoms of compromised digestion do not become apparent until disease or chronic illness are present.
If the digestive system is unable to function properly, various symptoms can surface from something as simple as occasional stomach ache, acid indigestion, or flatulence to more serious chronic conditions such as food allergies or digestive disease.
When digestive problems begin to interfere with everyday life, a quick, over-the-counter solution may be the first line of defense. However, these remedies often only cover up symptoms and do not address the root of digestive distress. For long-term results, adding digestive enzyme supplements can provide the body with added digestive support in addition to alleviating symptoms.
What are Digestive Enzymes?
The majority of naturally occurring digestive enzymes are located in the pancreas. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes that complete the digestive process by breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and nucleic acids 1.
The small intestine then breaks down maltose so it can be directly absorbed by the intestines. The gallbladder emulsifies fats with bile to form pancreatic lipase. Each phase is needed to maximize absorption. At the proper levels, digestive enzymes bring essential nutrients which allow the body to fully utilize the building blocks of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and trace minerals.
This process eliminates or reduces the presence or growth of damaging bacteria, yeast, and parasites which cannot survive in the environment of a balanced gut. For a more detailed look at the function of each enzyme, see our Digestive Health article.
What Causes Digestive Enzyme Deficiency?
Everyone experiences digestive upset on occasion. Stress, busyness, eating on the run, and consuming processed foods are some common causes. But what happens when the body doesn’t have the ability to properly digest foods in the first place? An upset stomach can become the norm until more chronic symptoms—such as diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, or blood in stool—become present. When removing suspected foods or lifestyle factors do not produce relief, an enzyme deficiency could be the culprit.
A digestive enzyme deficiency can be either conditional or congenital. A conditional digestive enzyme deficiency can occur whenever the normal digestive process has been disturbed or traumatized. Frequent use of antibiotics, prescription or OTC pain killers (NSAIDs), eating under stress, or experiencing a severe injury or accident can induce an enzyme deficiency. The deficiency may or may not be reversed after eliminating external factors or allowing time to heal. The body may not be able to produce the enzymes it once did and the long term use of digestive enzymes may be required.
A congenital digestive enzyme deficiency is present at birth and is rarely curable. More widely known as food intolerance, common congenital digestive enzyme deficiencies include lactose and gluten intolerance. A lesser known congenital digestive enzyme deficiency is disaccharide intolerance, or CSID (congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency). Between 2005 and 2015, world-wide diagnosis of CSID grew from approximately 450 to nearly 10,000. It is thought to become as common, if not more widespread, than gluten intolerance and primarily affects those with Scandinavian or Viking heritage 2.
Digestive Enzyme Deficiency Management
The majority of damage occurs due to the presence of undigested carbohydrates, which can feed harmful bacteria, yeast, and parasites in the gut and can lead to a gamut of digestive-related problems.
In recent years, digestive enzyme deficiency has become more prevalent—or diagnosed more frequently. It is a health issue still widely misunderstood and mismanaged. Simply removing the offending food, such as lactose, does not always produce complete relief. This is because a lot of damage occurs over the weeks, months, or years an individual has consumed food or foods they are unable to digest properly. It takes time for the body to heal and find balance again. This is where adding a digestive enzyme supplement can help.
How Digestive Enzyme Supplements Can Help
Whether suspected or diagnosed, it is often up to the individual to manage their enzyme deficiency through diet, lifestyle changes, and supplementation. Choosing to supplement with digestive enzymes can be one part of achieving long-term success in managing digestive enzyme deficiency and the symptoms it presents.
Over time, the regular use of digestive enzyme supplements, coupled with digestive health strategies, can alleviate major symptoms, improve energy levels, help maintain proper weight, and allow individuals to consume a wider variety of foods.
Many factors require individual assessments—especially if digestive issues are present in infants. Digestive enzyme supplements alone are only one possible factor in the long-term success in managing and living with a digestive enzyme deficiency of any kind. Systemic enzymes may also be needed to support additional body systems, depending on the degree and source of the digestive enzyme deficiency.
Choosing Your Digestive Enzyme Supplement
A high-quality and comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement will substitute the deficient natural enzymes while also supporting every organ in the digestive system. It will not contain unnecessary additives or ingredients such as common food allergens.
Here at Energetic Nutrition, we offer a variety of digestive enzyme supplements for general digestion support as well as to support those with digestive enzyme deficiency. Here are a few of our most popular brands to get you started:
Our most popular digestive enzyme supplement, Vitalzym Digest offers complete support for digestive function and nutrient absorption. Containing 18 powerful enzymes, this World Nutrition product provides assistance in digesting protein, carbohydrates (starch, sugar, and lactose), and fat. Vitalzym contains invertase, an enzyme that breaks down sucrose, which is only available in select digestive enzyme formulas.
Digest Spectrum formula contains a unique combination of high-potency enzymes which offer support for those with intolerance to foods containing gluten, dairy, phenols, vegetables and beans.
Digestive Health is an additive-free, raw, vegan, plant-based formula that stimulates healthy digestion by supporting the stomach, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. While the Emerald Laboratories product is designed to provide general digestive support, it is also specifically formulated to assist in gluten digestion with the addition of DPP-IV (Dipeptidyl Peptidase).