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You are what you absorb, not what you eat. Let that sink in. Foods containing digestive enzymes Powders Capsules
Picture this: you decide to start eating healthier. Your grocery bill goes up. You start forgoing some of your old favorite foods. You spend more time preparing food. It was all a great sacrifice; however, it was worth it for having more energy, feeling more optimistic, and enjoying better overall health.
Now picture this: you make these great sacrifices only to find you feel... nothing. Nothing?
Not reaping the benefits of healthy eating may be caused by undigested food. Digestive enzymes are what help your body get what it needs from food - AKA nutrient absorption. This is why some people can optimize their diet to the extreme, only to find they experience minimal benefits.
Thankfully the story doesn't end there. If your body can't quite keep up with what you eat, there are some great digestive enzyme supplements on the market.
Digestive enzyme supplements can support many different food types – starches, sugars, proteins, dairy, and everything else on their plates. I discovered VitaPost Digestive Enzymes when looking for an all-rounder digestive enzyme supplement. This supplement offers all the key digestive enzymes and is a great general support for digestion.
What is Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive Enzymes is a dietary supplement offering everyday digestive support. I believe the claim on the bottle to offer "everyday digestive support" means this supplement is supposed to be used as a general digestion companion, not for treating or preventing diseases or allergies. This supplement uses a full range of enzymes in a broad-spectrum formula.
The key component to this supplement is - you guessed it - digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are produced naturally in the body to help the body break down food and absorb nutrients. The role they play in our health is very important. From the moment you smell a delicious fried breakfast and your mouth starts watering, the digestive process has already begun.
While digestive enzymes are produced naturally in the body, there are several reasons why people consider supplementing them. Stress and age both affect gut health and digestive enzymes, leading to some uncomfortable digestive symptoms.1
What are my options for digestive enzymes supplements?
There are several ways you can introduce more digestive enzymes into your life. The most popular options include enzyme-containing foods, powders/sachets, or capsules. Let's explore each option.
Some foods that contain natural digestive enzymes include pineapple, papaya, mango, honey, bananas, avocados, kiwifruit, ginger, as well as some fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and kefir. Including these foods in your diet may be an excellent choice for your overall health, however, it might not be the best choice for your digestive enzymes.
Something to be aware of is the potency of digestive enzymes within food is quite weak compared to the extract versions. For example, the bromelain in pineapple is mainly contained in the stem, the least edible part of the plant. Likewise, papain can only be sourced from raw (green) papaya or the sticky latex of papaya fruit. Even if you can bring yourself to tolerate bitter unripe papaya, the papain in raw papaya is not in a quantity that is expected to be of benefit. In other words, you will need to eat a sickening amount of unripe papaya to experience the same benefits of papain extract in supplements.
Long story short, even though a plant may contain digestive enzymes, it might not be in the edible part of the plant. The number of digestive enzymes may also be insignificant. It pays to look into the digestive enzyme foods to see where the enzymes are sourced from as well as their potency - you may be surprised.
It is a great idea to add more of the digestive enzyme foods into your diet. These plant-based foods have many health benefits. I would personally eat these foods for good health, not necessarily for digestive enzymes.
Another popular form of digestive enzyme supplement is powder. The powder might be in a tub to scoop out or a juice sachet. This is an option for those who cannot swallow capsules. As much as I am a fan of fruit juices, there is an obvious flaw in absorbing digestive enzymes through a powder or liquid form.
Remember when I said, it's not about what you eat, it's about what you absorb? Well, the same thing applies to your digestive enzyme supplements. Many digestive enzymes are quite fragile. The protein enzymes are particularly fragile - bromelain, papain, peptidase, and aspergillopepsin.
These fragile enzymes need as much help as they can get to survive your potent stomach acid. Bromelain pineapple fruit juice sachets and papain papaya smoothie mixes do sound delicious, however, they don't have the protection of a capsule.
The most common form of digestive enzyme supplement is a capsule. One benefit of capsules is they can contain a strong and varied concentrate of digestive enzymes. Powdered extracts tend to have extremely high concentrations of ingredients. This can be seen in the supplement label of Digestive Enzymes featuring a strong concentration of enzymes.
The other clear benefit of capsules is the protection offered. As mentioned before, many digestive enzymes are quite fragile and capsules offer a layer of protection.
A downside of capsules is some people may not be comfortable with swallowing them. If you can swallow capsules, I would absolutely recommend the capsule form of digestive enzymes.
Should I try digestive enzymes or probiotics?
When looking for gut health supplements, two common types are digestive enzymes and probiotics. How does one choose between these two?
A healthy diet is a varied diet. Digestive enzymes help people process foods they normally would be wary of, helping them enjoy a wide, varied, and flexible diet. On the other hand, probiotics exist to primarily support healthy gut bacteria (microbiome).
While both supplement options can ultimately support digestive health, they work in quite different ways. A healthy gut microbiome encourages enzyme production and digestive enzymes help the gut microbiome flourish.
My suggestion would be to go for Digestive Enzymes if you are looking for targeted, fast-acting digestive support or grab VitaPost Probiotic 40-Billion if you want to experience the all-rounder health benefits offered by a healthy gut microbiome. Digestive enzyme supplements tend to be cheaper than probiotic supplements, so you could always start with digestive enzymes as a trial.
Will this help my lactose intolerance? What about my gluten intolerance?
Digestive Enzymes contains some enzymes that are used to digest gluten and dairy products. That being said, Digestive Enzymes is not intended to prevent or treat any disease. That includes celiac disease, wheat allergies, NCGS, dairy allergies, and other allergies and intolerances. If you are experiencing any of these diseases, I recommend setting up an appointment with your physician to discuss your options.
How does Digestive Enzymes work?
To the untrained eye, the formula for Digestive Enzymes reads like a magic trick; "Xylanase Phytase! Aspergillopepsin Amylase!" While reading the supplement facts won't cast a spell (sadly), the science-based ingredients in this formula could indeed offer magic-like effects for some people. The ingredients can be broken down into protein enzymes, carbohydrate enzymes, and other useful enzymes.
Foods containing digestive enzymes
The protein enzymes included in the formula include protease 1, protease 2, papain, bromelain, peptidase, and aspergillopepsin. These enzymes all work in support of breaking down forms of protein.
Several native cultures used pineapple in wellness practices, something that science is backing up more and more today.2 As well as being a tasty tropical fruit, pineapple is also rich in the digestive enzyme bromelain. While bromelain is found in the juicy flesh of the pineapple, it is mainly extracted from the much-less-desirable pineapple stem. The stem is a much stronger source of bromelain.
Papain is another extract from a tropical fruit. This time the fruit in question is papaya. Papain is made of a range of enzymes that can digest proteins, starches, and fats.3
Digestive Enzymes also contains both peptidase and aspergillopepsin. As well as being quite a mouthful, these enzymes have been shown to support the digestion and break-down of gluten.4 Gluten is common in so many great foods, making it well worth supporting your body’s gluten digestion process.
The West is obsessed with carbs - our diet revolves around them and our media despises them. Carbs have gotten a bad reputation over recent years, despite being the main source of fuel for the body. Whichever camp you are in, carbohydrates in many forms can take longer for the body to digest.
The Digestive Enzymes formula is made of several carbohydrate enzymes, including amylase, glucoamylase, lactase, beta glucanase, and invertase. Let's explore the functions of some of these enzymes.
Amylase is a starch-digesting enzyme. Our diets today commonly involve an excess of starches – most meals are based around a starch like potato, flour or rice. The body produces amylase naturally in the gut and saliva.
Many sugars are difficult to digest, and milk sugar (lactose) is no exception. The enzyme lactase breaks down lactose into the much more beneficial lactic acid. Lactic acid sets back bad bacteria and helps digest food. That being said, I certainly wouldn't consider this product as a treatment for dairy allergies or intolerance. Digestive Enzymes is not meant to prevent or treat any diseases, so if you are looking for an enzyme supplement for a food allergy, I would recommend you speak to a doctor instead.
Alongside starches and dairy, another common face in the Western diet is table sugar. As much as we love sugar, it doesn't love us back. Invertase helps invert table sugar into glucose and fructose, two simple sugars that are much easier to digest. Funnily enough a common source of invertase is candy. For many reasons, I won't be getting my dose of invertase from candy.
Lipase, cellulase, hemicellulase, xylanase, pectinase and phytase are some other useful enzymes included in the formula. This mix of enzymes helps break down a range of food types.
Lipase seemed pretty important as it was on the front of the bottle. I also noticed lipase mentioned in a lot of the gut health forums I am a member of, so I figured it must have some sort of scientific backing to live up to its hype.
Lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fats and oils. Many great recipes use a masterful blend of fats and oil. Sadly, a fatty diet comes with many digestive issues that make fatty foods less enjoyable. Lipase has been shown to reduce feelings of fullness when taken with meals.5
Cellulase, hemicellulase, xylanase, and pectinase are the enzymes for you if you enjoy a healthy serving of plants on your plate. These enzymes support the break-down of plant cell walls as well as plant fiber, which is notoriously tricky to break down.6
The rationale that manufactured foods are bad and whole grains are good gets muddied when phytic acid is added into the mix. This anti-nutrient is stored in many plants, and is commonly found in beans, seeds, nuts, and grains. Phytic acid can have a negative impact on iron absorption. Instead of ridding yourself of the perks offered by plant-based food, supplementing phytase is a much more rational approach. Phytase specifically breaks down phytic acid. Studies have shown including phytase in foods can support the normal absorption of iron.7
The combination of enzymes in Digestive Enzymes is quite promising. Protein, gluten, starches, dairy, table sugar, fats, oils, grains - I feel as if most of my meals wouldn't stand a chance against this formula! I can see the value in a broad-spectrum formula for everyday digestive support.
As much as the ingredients sound like a tropical smoothie, please don't break open the capsule and add the powder to your favorite drink. Some of the enzymes are quite sensitive and may be less effective outside of the safety of their capsule. I found the capsules to be a pretty standard size and easy to swallow.
Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001
Pavan R, Sapna J, Shraddha, Kumar A. Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain. Biotechnology Research International. 2012; 976203.
Altern Med Rev. 2008 Dec;13(4):307-14.
PLoS One. 2009; 4(7): e6313.
Gut Liver. 2015 Jul;9(4):464-9.
Starch/Stärke. 2011;63: 395-405.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 May;77(5):1213-9.
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