Bloating, constipation, skin breakouts or allergies gotcha down? It could be due to lack of natural digestive enzymes. woman in front piano thinking about digestive enzymes Your gut is home not only to tons of bacteria (about 100 trillion to be exact—10 times more bacteria than cells in your body), but also home to thousands upon thousands of enzymes (you have approximately 1300 digestive and metabolic enzymes in one human cell alone).

What do digestive enzymes do?

Digestive enzymes help break your food down into nutrients so that your body can absorb them. Different enzymes are found throughout the digestive system—from the saliva in your mouth, to your stomach and pancreas.

The Natural Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are classified into 3 main types:
  • Protein specific (protease): Like pepsin, trypsin, chymotrypsin, bromelain, papain
  • Carbohydrate specific (amylase): Including lactase (for milk), sucrase (complex starches), maltase
  • Fat specific (lipase)
In addition, there are tons of other components that act like enzymes for nutrient absorption and/or help activate enzymes in the body, such as: Betaine HCL (increases stomach acid), bile (helps further break down fat), fructooligosaccharides and other pre-biotic sugars (help support the growth of friendly intestinal microbes, also inhibits the growth of harmful species).

How are digestive enzymes different from gut bacteria?

Food has to be broken down from things like chicken and spinach into its nutrient pieces: amino acids (from proteins), fatty acids and cholesterol (from fats), and glucose or sugars (from carbohydrates), as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This is the role of digestive enzymes. Gut bacteria also assist in the digestion of our food, but unlike enzymes that specifically play a role in breaking down food into nutrients, your gut bacteria determine how those enzymes work and how your nutrients are used in the body. Gut bacteria also dictate all the metabolic processes of digestion, elimination, immunity, inflammation and detoxification. woman getting sick lacks digestive enzymes

What happens if we don’t have enough digestive enzymes?

You can’t break your food down as well and you don’t absorb your nutrients. Without sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes.

How do digestive enzyme deficiencies happen?

A number of triggers may cause digestive enzyme deficiencies such as:
  • Gut infections (bacterial overgrowth, parasites, etc.)
  • Chronic stress (without relief, mentally or physically)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of water
  • Poor quality diet and foods
  • Nutrient deficiencies (eating the same things every day)
  • Lack of fermentable fibers (fermented foods) and prebiotic foods
  • Food allergies
  • Aging
  • Leaky gut
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Low stomach acid
  • Eating on the go
  • Not chewing your food enough
  • Toxic exposure (beauty, cleaning, hygiene, food supplies)
  • Antibiotic or long term medication use
  • Poor food hygiene (eating older food, not cleaning your hands properly)
  • Eating out often (industrial seed oils)

How do I know if I don’t have enough digestive enzymes?

Signs and symptoms are the best measure of your digestive function. However, sometimes you don’t realize how poor your digestion is because low enzyme function or unhealthy bacteria have been part of your health journey for a long time. Nevertheless, common signs of enzyme deficiency include:
  • Bloating after meals
  • Constipation
  • Skin breakouts
  • Allergies
  • Low immunity
  • Abdominal cramps/pain
  • GERD or heartburn
  • Needing laxatives, Gas-X or Tums often
  • IBS
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Hormone dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disease

What can I do to restore my digestive enzymes?

lemon water on the table to restore digestive enzymes You don’t have to be stuck with low digestive enzyme function or other gut issues forever. Here are 6 simple steps you can take now include:

1. Drink Water.

Ensure you are drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. Add lemon to boost your intake.

2. Get Your Beauty Sleep.

Our gut lining repairs as we sleep—aim for 7-9 hours each night.

3. Ditch Stress.

Chronic stress wreaks havoc on our gut repair and healthy digestive function. Our gut desires to be in “parasympathetic mode’ (rest and digest) for optimal function. Stress goes far beyond mental—it includes circadian rhythm dysfunction (staying up too late; eating at off times; shift work); over screen exposure; sedentary lifestyles; overtraining or under-training; nutrient deficiencies—just to name a few things.

4. Boost Stomach Acid.

Low stomach acid is a top driver of gut dysfunction. Stomach acid is essential for helping break food down from the start so your enzymes can go to work—but don’t have to work on over drive (if you don’t have enough stomach acid, your enzymes have ALOT more work to do). Boost stomach acid by adding 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar to water with meals, and/or consider HCL supplementation (a supplement of hydrochloric acid with pepsin + Betaine mimics the stomach acid found naturally in your gut). If currently taking a PPI drug, NSAIDs or pregnant, HCL is not advised until these are not the case; consult with your doctor or a practitioner about transitioning to a more natural version of stomach acid support.

5. Supplement Smart.

Take a daily soil based probiotic, prebiotic and digestive enzyme supplements to boost your natural production. These are like the “multivitamins” of supplements—the only essentials you need to absorb your nutrients and other supplements (if you take any) in the first place. Over time, you may find you can ween off digestive enzymes, but to start, taking 1-2 capsules with meals will make a tremendous amount of difference—given you go with a quality brand.

How do I know what digestive enzymes to buy?!

Buying cheap supplements is typically always a waste of money—you’ll almost never going to get the benefits you’re looking for.  Look for brands that have multiple strains of enzymes (not just one), along with numbers of how many strains are in each one (you don’t just want a generic “proprietary blend”), and a fair price. No, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on digestive enzymes, but that $10-$20 bottle at Whole Foods or Costco probably won’t cut it either. A few of my faves from reputable, pharmaceutical grade companies include: Transformation Enzymes: Digest, CarboG (if you eat starches or fruits often) Designs for Health: Digestzymes Biotics: Intezeyme Forte Experiment for yourself. You will feel the difference when you find the right enzyme for you.

6. Eat Foods with Natural Digestive Enzymes

Let food be thy medicine. Here are the top natural sources of digestive enzymes you can find in foods. Opt for 1-2 servings of digestive enzyme support foods daily:
  • Avocado
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Grass-fed Yogurt or Coconut Yogurt
  • Coconut Aminos
  • Green-Tipped Bananas
  • Pickled Cucumbers
  • Papaya
  • Mangos
  • Raw Honey
  • Pineapple
  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Coconut Oil
  • Bee Pollen
  • Cucumber
  • Cantaloupe
  Other digestion-boosting foods that stimulate digestive enzymes include:
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Bone Broth
  • Lemon & Lime
  • Artichokes
  • Fennel
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Cruciferous Veggies: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts (if not sensitive)
  • Prebiotic Foods: Cooked & Cooled Potatoes, Green Plantains, Onion
  • Chia Seeds
  • Grass-fed Ghee
  • Wild Caught Fatty Fish & Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil
  • Oregano
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Organic Organ Meats
  • Cilantro
  • Steamed Beets