Symptoms of Undigested Food in the Small Intestine
- craving certain foods
- weight gain
- thyroid problems
- bloating, heartburn, gas, indigestion or burping after meals
- constipation or diarrhea
- hair that is dull, thinning, or falling out
- lackluster skin
- weak or cracked nails
- trouble getting up in the morning
- sleep problems
- arthritis or joint pain
- feeling too tired to exercise
- mood swings
- headaches or migraines
- hot flashes
- and, sometimes, fertility problems
Poor digestion also speeds up the aging process.
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes are, by definition, catalysts that enable molecules to be changed from one form into another. Digestive enzymes enable food to be broken down into nutrients in our bodies to produce energy, and repair and maintain our physical structure and function.
In nature, raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes necessary for their digestion. For example, a raw apple theoretically contains the enzymes necessary for our bodies to utilize its nutrients; however, if the apple is grown in nutrient-depleted soil, its enzyme content will be below par. And if the fruit becomes apple pie, sauce, or pasteurized juice, its enzymes are completely destroyed by heat.
Our bodies also produce digestive enzymes. However, says Cutler, "If we don't eat a predominantly raw food diet and don't chew well, we don't get enzymes from food, and our bodies can't produce enough." Given that most of the food Americans consume is not raw fruits and vegetables grown in nutrient-rich soils, most people could benefit from enzyme supplements.
Each type of food, such as proteins, sugars, starches, and fats, requires a specific type of enzyme, so it's best to get a formula that covers all the bases (see "Top 10 Enzymes," below). In addition, protease, which enables efficient protein digestion, can be used as a separate supplement to alleviate autoimmune and inflammatory conditions and pain. Customized enzyme therapy is used by some health practitioners to treat many health conditions, including cancer.
Digestive enzymes can also alleviate a major factor that increases risk for disease, excess weight, and obesity. "If you start digesting your food," says Cutler, "your body will be getting nutrients it never got, and you will feel balanced with less food."
How to Benefit from Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are safe for adults and children, says Cutler, and these are the best ways to use them:
Taking digestive enzymes between meals may help reduce discomfort and inflammation.
For optimum digestion of food and nutritional supplements: take plant-based digestive enzymes no more than 10 minutes before each meal or with your first bite.
For pain, inflammation or any autoimmune condition: take a protease supplement in between meals in addition to digestive enzymes with meals. Anyone with ulcers should consult a physician before taking between-meal protease supplements.
For health maintenance: take a digestive enzyme formula with two meals each day.
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