Gut Check: Enzyme Supplements Improve Digestive Health

Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 07:20 AM

By Rick Ansorge

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Poor digestion is epidemic in America. More than 95 million Americans suffer frequent symptoms such as bloating, gas, indigestion, and constipation.
 
Gut woes affect people of all ages. In fact, studies show that tummy troubles are just as likely to affect children under age 15 as adults ages 65 and older. To improve digestion — which is essential to overall health — an increasing number of Americans are turning to over-the-counter enzyme supplements containing proteins that help break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

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According to market-research analysts, enzyme supplements are soaring in popularity as more people discover that they relieve discomfort and boost overall health.

You should be completely unaware of your gut,” says Steven Lamm, M.D., clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine. “You should be unaware of your digestion and bowel movements. It should be effortless, seamless, and natural. You shouldn’t get bloated, gaseous, or have trouble with constipation.”

But the reality is that almost no one has a so-called “healthy gut,” Dr. Lamm tells Newsmax Health. According to Dr. Lamm, the two top reasons are:
 
  •       Modern cooked diets, which destroy the natural enzymes found in raw foods — especially fruits and vegetables — that aid in digestion.
  •        An age-related decline in body’s natural ability to produce its own digestive enzymes.
 
Other factors that can deplete our supply of natural enzymes include stress, poor sleep, illness, antibiotic use, smoking, alcohol abuse, and a diet rich in hard-to-digest processed, refined, and fatty foods.
 
“We’re seeing a large number of Americans who accept being bloated and gaseous and having irregular bowel movements,” Dr. Lamm says. “They’re not bleeding, vomiting, or losing weight, so they don’t fulfill the criteria of a disease like inflammatory bowel disease. But they’re clearly very uncomfortable.”
 
Enzyme Evolution
The first over-the-counter enzyme supplement — lactase, an enzyme that digests milk sugar – became available in the 1980s. It was a game-changer for people who didn’t produce the enzyme naturally and previously needed to meticulously avoid dairy products.
 
In the early 1990s another enzyme supplement was introduced, alpha-galactosidase, which helps people digest the complex starches in beans, cabbage, and broccoli. It prevents gas and bloating. The best-known such supplement is Beano.
 
The latest generation of enzyme supplements has broader applications. They often contain a full-spectrum blend that may include four key enzymes:
 
  •                     Protease, which digests protein
  •                     Amylase, which digests carbohydrates
  •                     Lipase, which digests fats
  •                     Cellulase, which digests fiber
 
Other products such as Enzymedica’s Gluten Ease 2x, which hit the market last year, contain the DPP-IV enzyme that helps digest gluten.
 
Such products aren’t aimed at people with celiac disease, who must strictly avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. Instead, they’re aimed at people with “gluten intolerance,” a condition associated with symptoms such as stomach aches, joint pain, fatigue, and headaches.

“A growing number of people have gluten problems,” Dr. Lamm says. “They need to reduce their gluten load and take some of the enzymes that help with gluten digestion.”

Dr. Lamm says he is gluten intolerant himself. He takes an enzyme supplement before indulging in two of his favorite guilty pleasures: pasta and bread. “It really does reduce the discomfort,” he says.

He also routinely takes enzymes, especially when dining out — when he doesn’t have strict control over the ingredients in his food. “If you went to dinner with me, you’d see that not only would I take enzymes, but I’d be handing them to you,” he says.

What You Can Do
Dr. Lamm’s advice to patients with digestive woes is simple: Change your diet to include more whole and raw foods, eat more slowly, and do a little detective work to determine if you’re having certain food intolerances.
 
“Try to eliminate certain foods and see if it makes a difference,” he says. “Milk, dairy, gluten, and fructose are common offenders. Also, try some probiotic and enzymes supplements. In 90 percent of cases, people who do all these things will see great improvements.”
 
The beauty of a digestive enzyme, he says, is that it can provide almost instant relief.

“Just try it for a day or two and see if you feel better,” he advises. “If you do, you know you’re doing the right thing.”

Editor’s Note: Get Dr. Fuhrman’s Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.

The complete version of this article first appeared in Health Radar. To read more, CLICK HERE.

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