There can be many possible causes of digestive problems including the following: insufficient secretion of pepsin and hydrochloric acid in the stomach, deficiency of bile and pancreatic digestive enzymes (protease, amylase and lipase), deficiency of enzyme lactase leading to lactose (milk sugar) intolerance, gluten intolerance, and lack of probiotic bacteria.
- Digestive Enzymes are absolutely crucial for proper digestion and the unlocking of nutrients which preserve our life. Our body depends on countless enzymes which control thousands of biochemical reactions that keep us alive, vibrant and healthy. They promote proper digestion and absorption of nutrients and help to regulate body weight and metabolism. Digestive enzymes are also essential for the elimination of waste products and toxins. Unfortunately, most enzymes normally found in fresh and raw plant foods are mostly destroyed by heating. But even with the healthiest, unrefined and rich in nutrients diet, if our body has trouble breaking down and absorbing nutrients, due to lack of its own enzymes, we really can’t reap the benefits. Deficiency of digestive enzymes and also insufficient production of stomach acid (HCl) may lead to malabsorption of nutrients and numerous health conditions including constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, skin problems, tiredness, fatigue, underweight, overweight, allergies or food intolerances. Try formulas with a variety of digestive enzymes as they will improve the digestion and eat fresh raw sprouts as they are 30 times higher in digestive enzymes than other healthy foods!
- Amylase, Lipase and Protease: Today a growing number of health conditions are also linked to poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients caused especially by the deficiency of Amylase, Lipase and Protease regarded as the most vital among digestive enzymes produced in our body. Amylase is required to digest carbohydrates into simple sugars such as glucose, Protease breaks down protein into amino acids, and Lipase is in charge of fat break down. Since deficiency of these digestive enzymes is believed to be a common problem today addition of Amylase, Lipase and Protease in various formulas can be very beneficial in improving digestion of macronutrients and reducing constipation, bloating, gas and other gastrointestinal problems.
- Lactase enzyme may bring relief to people suffering from lactose intolerance, which is another very common problem. It is caused by the deficiency of lactase which is required to digest lactose (milk sugar). As a result, lactose can’t be fully digested whenever dairy products are consumed and it leads to various unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, wind, cramps, nausea and diarrhoea.
- Digestive enzymes work even better when they are combined with viable bacterial strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium one of the most important types of friendly bacteria found in the digestive tract, colonizing mainly the large intestine and colon. Bifidobacteria are considered extremely important to the health of the gastrointestinal tract. They may play a vital role in aiding the absorption of nutrients, strengthening the immune function, fighting Candida, preventing flu and colds, and eliminating various intestinal problems including wind, gas, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
- Bromelain is a type of proteolytic (helps break down proteins) enzymes, found in pineapple fruit (especially in stems or cores). Bromelain is composed of several endopeptidases and compounds like peroxidase, phosphatase, glucosidase, escharase cellulase, and protease inhibitors. It is a powerful digestive aid effective in the entire digestive system including in the presence of stomach acid and also in the alkaline environment of the intestines. The activity of Bromelain is measured in GDUs (Gelatin Digesting Units) which indicate the proteolytic (protein digesting) activity. Bromelain is effective against various digestive and gastrointestinal problems simply because it is an enzyme that helps to digest proteins. It also supports the absorption of nutrients. It is known to ease colon inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease by reducing the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines which damage the gut lining. Due to the fact that Bromelain actually heals the gastrointestinal tract lining, it is beneficial for the following GI problems: Inflammatory bowel disease (Ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s disease), Heartburn, Dyspepsia, Gastric ulcers (caused by helicobacter pylori), Constipation, and Diarrhoea.
- Betaine hydrochloride (Betaine HCl), usually derived from beets, is an amino acid and supplement for helping food to be fully processed in the stomach for optimum nutritional benefits. Betaine HCl promotes healthy stomach acidity, gastric function and the digestion of protein as it activates pepsin used to break down proteins into amino acids. Betaine hydrochloride helps absorb vitamins – increasing their bioavailability. Betaine also helps regulate homocysteine levels as it is used to convert homocysteine in the blood to methionine. Elevated homocysteine levels, which increase with age, are linked to heart issues and blood clots. In the body, betaine can be created by choline in combination with the amino acid glycine. Just like some B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B12, betaine is considered to be a methyl donor that aids in detoxification and liver function.
LIFESTYLE AND DIET RECOMMENDATIONS
- Try avoiding foods containing gluten for 2-3 months to find out if it helps.
- Consume your meals with good spices such as marjoram, fennel, cumin, oregano, cayenne to improve digestion.
- Chew your food properly and eat slowly.
- Don’t drink water or other liquids with meals. Drink 3 times a day about 3 glasses of water between meals (2 hours after meals - 1 hour before meals).
- Try to avoid foods that may cause digestive problems. That includes spicy, greasy, fatty and processed foods, caffeine, any acidic beverages, foods with lactose (cow’s milk and dairy), acidic foods (meat, fish, fried foods, etc.), artificial sweeteners, products with spirit vinegar.
- Avoid: Overeating, caffeine (coffee, cola, black and green tea), decaffeinated coffee, chocolate (very acidic), alcohol, sugar, glucose, fructose syrup, refined foods, white flour products, white rice, refined salt.
- Don’t eat within less than four hours of bedtime.
- Don’t lie down after meals. Light physical activity such as walking is most beneficial after meals.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki, MPH
Diet & Nutritional Supplements to Improve Gut (Colon) Health
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