What are digestive enzymes and what do they do?
Digestive enzymes are used by the body and the digestive system to break down the foods that you eat into the nutrients that you body needs to function in a healthy manner. Your body will produce 22 different digestive enzymes that it uses to break down the food that you eat. There are other enzymes that can be found in the foods that you eat, such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats. And, of course, they can be found supplementally as well.
Below are 5 things everyone should know about digestive enzymes.
1.) The more bitter your food is, the more enzymes you produce
Consuming leafy salad greens before a meal will increase the production of specific digestive enzymes and bile to help break down fatty foods consumed in your meal. Bitter herbs such as globe artichoke and black radish are also popular for their bile-stimulating properties. Greens in the grocery store that help secrete your own natural enzymes include dandelion greens, spinach, radiccio and endive. Always remember, bitter is better!
2.) Raw foods have their enzymes intact
Try to consume a high percentage of raw foods throughout the day in order to increase your natural intake of readily available enzymes in nature's best form! Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are all great sources of natural digestive enzymes and can be consumed prior to cooked food in order to aid the digestive process.
3.) Not all digestive enzyme supplements are created equally
You may be looking for a specific enzyme product such as lactase to help digest lactose, or DPPIV for those with mild gluten intolerances. You might also be lacking in bile salts, for which you can supplement with bitter herbs or a full-spectrum bile salt product. Consider going with a general multi-enzyme that includes enzymes for breaking down carbohydrates, fats, proteins, lactose and gluten to get daily support.
Related article: 8 Signs You May Need To Supplement With Digestive Enzymes.
4.) Betaine Hydrochloride can help boost your stomach acid levels
This helps break down food, prevent against bacterial or viral infections and can decrease the incidence of acid reflux! Apple Cider Vinegar is also a solid, widely-used choice for those looking to get the most out of their digestion! Be sure to take either Betaine HCL capsules, a multi-enzyme product containing Betaine HCL or apple cider vinegar at the beginning of your meal to insure optimal breakdown of nutrients.
5.) Plant enzymes and Pancreatic enzymes can differ greatly
Plant enzymes are derived from those harvested on natural molds and can sometimes cause reactions in those who are particularly sensitive or are suffering from Candida Albicans. Pancreatic enzymes are animal-sourced and therefore not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Finding the best one for you will depend on your personal situation!