What's the deal with digestive enzymes?

Question: from Rosemarie

What’s the deal with digestive enzymes, do they really help? I feel uncomfortable most times when I eat and always have a problem with excessive flatulence. Sometimes I can feel myself inflating and even hear the sound like a balloon being blown up.


Answer: from Joanna

Hi Rosemarie

Digestive enzymes are used by the body to break down food into usable nutrients. There are around 22 different digestive enzymes, each of which has a different property. Enzymes are found in fruits, vegetables, meat and other foods, as well as being produced by plant matter, such as are used in supplemental form.

If someone is lacking in sufficient digestive enzymes, perhaps due to poor diet for example, supplemental enzymes can be useful to ensure proper nutrient digestion and absorption. Total Balance contains digestive enzymes to ensure that the nutrients are broken down and absorbed properly and fully through the small intestine.

With regard to your bloating and gas, this would suggest that either your diet isn't as good as it should be, that you have some dietary sensitivities, that you may be lacking in daily fluids (water, vegetable juice), or that you may have a digestive bacterial imbalance.

Excess swallowing of air upon chewing (aerophagia) can be another contributor. This can be helped by eating slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and not gulping food or drink.

Try to avoid certain foods containing the carbohydrate raffinose, including lentils/beans, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus. Also, try to avoid too much potato, corn, noodles, and wheat.

Your initial concentration should be on diet. Eat the right food types, eat them slowly and chew thoroughly. Take Total Balance and Omega 3/DHA to ensure a correct balance of nutrients, and to help reduce digestive inflammation. I would take these both at maximum dose.

You can add a probiotic, intermittently – a few weeks on and a few weeks off – to begin with to see if this helps to rebalance your internal bacteria levels also; and Aloe Vera juice – 2 capfuls per day to start – to help soothe digestive function.

Finally, good regular daily digestive exercise can help, such as stretches, to stretch and work the stomach and abdomen, yoga is excellent for this.

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