Description: Digestive enzymes are made up of individual enzymes, each of which has a specific function in the breaking down of fats, carbohydrates, starches, or cellulose. Enzymes help break down food, and allow for nutrients to be readily absorbed and carried through the blood to the organs and cells of the body, resulting in proper nutrient absorption, improved health, and immune function.

What to look for: Digestive enzymes in powder or capsule form. A huge variety of enzymes are readily found in the marketplace, each performing different functions. For instance, Cellulase helps to break down cellulose, Protease breaks down protein, Amylase breaks down starch, and Lipase helps to break down fat. If new to digestive enzymes, start off with a formula recommended to you by a realiable alternative health practitioner, or a well-educated staff member in a reputable health food store. A quality blend would contain all or most of the following enzymes: A(alpha)galactosidase, Amylase, Beta-glucanase, Bromelain, Catalase, Cellulase, Glucoamylase, Hemicellulase, Invertase, Lactase, Lipase, Maltase, Papain, Pectinease, Phytase, Protease, and Xylanase.

Choose digestive enzymes that contain, at a minimum, the following components: Amylase, Protease, Invertase, Alpha-galsctosidase, Lactase, Phytase/Pectinase, Maltese, Cellulase, and Lipase.

Uses: Enhanced digestive capacity, utilization of nutrients in food and the ability to turn what we eat into efficient fuel. Our enzyme supply naturally declines as we age, and as a result, we may require supplementation to replace low levels of natural enzymes. Do a gentle enzyme experiment; for 3-6 months take digestive enzymes 15 minutes before or after meals that include protein, grain or starch. Enzymes are not required to digest a light fruit salad, smoothie or snacks; only full-size meals. Each of us has different digestive challenges; for some it may be protein digestion and assimilation; for others carbohydrates; for many it is the combination of two or three components that are difficult to digest. An example of this is a steak eaten with a baked potato with sour cream or butter, or, pizza with sauce, meat and cheese topping. These foods present difficult-to-digest complex combinations of foods, all of which are high in protein, carbohydrates, starch and fat; can be especially troublesome; and generally speaking for most adults, may not be appropriate to eat.

Digestive problems stemming from overeating, acid reflux, indigestion, poor food combinations, excess gas, belching, bloating, lactose intolerance, constipation or sluggish bowels, a feeling of heaviness after eating, or food “sitting” rather than moving properly through the digestive track, are all indicators of low digestive action and possibly an indication that enzyme levels require supplementation. Taking a couple of digestive enzymes before eating often proves to be a workable solution, and certainly less invasive than taking prescription drugs for digestive troubles.

Where to find: Health food stores and online resources, alternative doctors and other health care practitioners.

Avoid: Avoid digestive enzymes if you are pregnant, suffering from ulcers, or are protease-sensitive, unless prescribed by an alternative doctor. Avoid cheap imitation products that use filler ingredients rather than quality enzymes. Avoid depending on enzymes to compensate when eating bad quality food, or making poor food choice combinations, or eating junk food. For example, reconsider your selection if you find you need digestive enzymes to help you digest a meal that includes fried food such as French fries, protein as in a hamburger, and a shake as a dessert.

The smart solution to foods overladen with hard-to-digest combinations or foods heavy in fats, starches and proteins is to choose foods prepared by healthier methods; grilled or broiled rather than fried; big salads to replace heavy starches, and always including fresh vegetables as the obvious replacement for empty calorie foods such as bread. Another tip is to wait 1-3 hours after the meal to see if you really do need that dessert; or, if a piece or slice of fresh fruit might just do. If you find a lighter meal digests with ease, rethink your choices on a daily basis, opting for meals that you can digest without additional enzyme supplementation.