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What Are The Best Enzymes To Take For Improving Digestion

I received a great question this week from a client who wanted to know my opinion of taking enzymes. Let me come right out and say it.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes is a great idea, especially for those individuals dealing with digestive issues and/or high levels of inflammation. This is a subject that doesn’t get nearly enough discussion as enzymes are essential to digestion, nutrient assimilation, and health in general.

The majority of individuals today on the Standard American Diet (SAD) are sorely lacking in enzymes due to the following reasons:

  • They’re consuming a large portion of their dietary intake from processed and refined foods.
  • They’re consuming very few raw foods in their natural state.
  • The majority of meals, even those which aren’t processed and refined, are composed of cook foods which can destroy enzymes essential for digestion.

What’s the end result? If digestive enzymes are insufficient, the individual will likely suffer from less than optimal digestion, nutrient assimilation, and experience increased levels of inflammation.

More after the jump…

The majority of individuals will report they’re currently taking or have taken a multi-vitamin and mineral support supplement at some time. While reports vary on the benefit and need for these supplements, I personally think it’s a pretty good idea.

The upside seems to outweigh the downside so long as you’re not over-supplementing. The purists claim there’s no need for multi-vitamin and mineral supplements if you’re following a diet of mostly whole, natural foods.

That’s debatable, but since most people aren’t following a perfectly clean diet of mostly live foods, I’ll argue that supplementation is like a form of dietary insurance.

No, taking a multi-vitamin won’t make up for a poor diet of mostly processed and refined foods. Believing you can fill in the nutritional gaps left from following a poor diet by simply taking a few pills is wishful thinking. Ain’t going to happen folks.

However, taking a high quality vitamin and mineral support supplement in an otherwise decent diet makes some sense to me. My point in all of this is that we’re all pretty familiar with a multi-vitamin. Let’s be real, this is a multi-billion dollar industry, perhaps constituting the largest segment of supplement sales.

But how many people are taking enzymes or have even been made aware of the benefits?

It’s just not something you hear much about. Well let me make a case for why you may want to consider adding enzymes to your supplement regiment.

For starters, let me say this. I don’t believe we have a issues with macro-nutrient deficiencies in our diets. Macro-nutrients refer to the larger substrates of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Granted their are exceptions, but for the most part energy and calories can be obtained from even poor quality foods.

The issue as I see it is a deficiency in micro-nutrients. We’re simply not getting enough nutrients at the cellular level. This is something I spoke on this week in a previous post on Insulin insensitivity.

You could be receiving sufficient calories in your diet but still literally be STARVING at the cellular level. This will be true if the foods you’re eating aren’t healthy to begin with or they’re not being digested properly to assimilate the nutrients into your cells.

Sure, food quality matters, but so does your ability to digest food properly and get the nutrients to your cells where it’s ultimately utilized.

I’ve spoken at great lengths on this blog and videos on the importance of proper digestive function. If you’re trying to lose weight, digestive function needs to one of your primary concerns. You can cut calories all you want, but if you’re not assimilating nutrients effectively, you’re going to have a hard time restoring balance to your body necessary for long-term weight loss.

Cleaning up your diet is step one obviously. Depending on the amount of inflammation, build up of metabolic toxins and waste in your body, and other digestive issues, you may also want to consider an herbal cleanse of some sort along with probiotics.

The Advocare Herbal Cleanse is my preferred product that I frequently recommend to weight loss clients. Regardless of the product you choose, I can’t say enough about starting a weight loss program with a digestive system cleanse and foundational restoration.

Let me be clear though, I’m not talking about a colon cleanse or anything along those lines. What I’m referring to is getting your upper gastrointestinal tract cleansed and functioning properly. This is where the majority of nutrient assimilation occurs.

Once you’ve cleansed, detoxified, and got a good balance of healthy bacteria in your GI tract, the next step will be to assist your body with digesting foods and getting the nutrients to your cells.

Enter digestive enzymes…

Ok, let’s dig into the basics and then address some frequently asked questions.

What do enzymes do in the body?

While there are two main categories of enzymes that are worthy of looking at, digestive enzymes and antioxidant enzymes, we’re going to focus on digestive enzymes in this post.

Basically what enzymes do in the body is assist with breaking down substrates (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) into smaller units during the digestive process. While some enzymes work at the very beginning of the digestive process (in your mouth while chewing), such as amylase which helps break down carbohydrates into sugar, the majority of enzymes come into play later on down the line.

This doesn’t happen in your stomach, like sometimes mistakenly believed, but rather in your gastrointestinal tract and other organs. An example would be bile which is produced by your liver to help break down fats.

Enzymes which are most commonly lacking are those which help to break down proteins. In my opinion this is where supplementation should be focused. This leads me to the next question.

What are the best enzymes to take?

What follows is purely my position after looking at a lot of the research and forming some foundational beliefs. There will be those who may disagree with me and that’s fine. This is an open forum and you’re welcome to share your thoughts and opinions. For what it’s worth here’s my two cents on the subject.

The enzymes that have the most healing and rejuvenation effects are the protease enzymes.

Examples include:

  • Pepsin
  • Bromelain
  • Papain
  • Trypsin
  • Chymotrypsin

While these enzymes help to digest the protein consumed in food, the reason I believe they’re so beneficial in healing and rejuvenation has to do with their ability to act as scavengers per say on oxidized and damaged proteins.

We’re all familiar with oxidative stress and free radicals. While antioxidants certainly play a huge role in combating free radicals, think of protease enzymes as the clean up crew. They help to clear out the by-products of oxidative reactions in the body.

What are some whole foods which contain these enzymes?

Proteolytic enzymes can be found in both animal and plant based food sources. Here are a few examples of foods which contain proteolytic enzymes.

  • Bromelain: found naturally occurring in pineapples.
  • Zingibain: found naturally occurring in ginger root.
  • Papain: found naturally occurring in papayas.

Other foods which contain protease enzymes include cheese, vegetables, fruits, and numerous grains. I’ll note however that grains when processed and refined lose their naturally occurring enzymes.

Once again, I need to reiterate enzymes are widely present in live, whole foods. Those following a diet with lots of raw, live foods will have little problem getting these enzymes. However, since the majority of folks are consuming a lot of their food cooked or “dead” to begin with, the case for supplementation becomes worthy of consideration.

What is the best time to take enzymes?

While this continues to be a subject of much debate among health gurus, here are my thoughts. I always suggest taking enzymes on an empty stomach or just before a meal. This helps to give them time to reach your blood and become available.

Contrary to some suggestion, recent research confirms that digestive enzymes can make it through the highly acidic environment of your stomach and access the gastrointestinal tract. Enzyme capsules are my preferred choice.

How many capsules of digestive enzymes should I take?

For starters follow the recommendations on the product label, as dosages will vary between manufacturers. One to four capsules before a meal is usually sufficient. Depending on your individual needs, you can take digestive enzymes before one meal each day, like breakfast, or they can be taken before each meal.

You’ll want to experiment to see what works best. Some people do better with higher dosages so you’ve got to see for yourself.

Are there any specific brands of digestive enzymes that I recommend?

Just like with any product in the supplement industry, there are high quality products and there are poor quality products. There are two product lines I recommend for digestive enzymes. Advocare digestive enzymes and Natural Choice Products (NCP) digestive enzymes.

I’ve been a proponent of the Advocare and NCP product lines for some time now as I’ve found their products to be backed with extensive research and high quality standards for ingredients and manufacturing.

The Digest-Ease product by Advocare and Gastric Digest Enzymes by NCP are my preferred choices for digestive enzymes. I’ve taken these products myself and found very good results. In all fairness, I’m sure there are other good digestive enzymes supplements on the market as well, but these are my preferred brands.

I haven’t experimented much with other product lines because, well these products have worked well for me, and I’ve got pretty good confidence in both of these company’s manufacturing standards. I can’t say the same for other manufacturers unless I did a fair amount of research.

The thing about enzymes that you do have to be conscious of is their susceptibility to being destroyed by high temperatures. This is of far greater concern in processing (putting into capsules, formulating, storage, etc) than say a multi-vitamin. Let’s just say I certainly wouldn’t go “cheap” or the discount rack for my enzymes.

Click here to learn more or to purchase the Advocare Digest-Ease product.

Click here to learn more or to purchase the NCP Gastric Digest Enzymes product.

Bottom line…

To wrap this up I can’t really say enough about the benefits of digestive enzymes, especially the protease enzymes. If you’re dealing with digestive issues or have a high degree of inflammation (or both) the use of digestive enzymes in supplementation would rank right up there with probiotics.

Let’s just say they’re certainly worth your consideration in experimenting with to see if your digestive function and overall health improves.

Shane Doll is a certified personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. If you’re looking for a personal trainer in Charleston, you can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation without risking a dime. Over 1000 Charleston area residents have transformed their bodies following our unique burst training workouts and simplified nutrition programs. Experience the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Supplements.