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Guidance

How Digestive Enzymes Have Allowed Me to Enjoy Meals Again

Photo of Bloating Banded Bull Frog in a pond of water
PHOTO: 我的拍摄/WIKIPEDIA.ORG

My grandma always told me to chew my food— inhaling food wasn’t good for my stomach. Turns out she was right. Food needs to break down before you absorb its nutrients, and digestive enzymes ignite this breakdown. Without essential enzymes like amylase from your mouth, stomach, and pancreas, digestion cannot occur properly. While low digestive enzymes can bother anybody, people with digestive diseases, liver disease, and the elderly are more likely to experience digestive enzyme insufficiency.

The Big Bloat: What Low Enzymes Feel Like

Imagine that every meal feels like a 10-course feast. Afterward, you’re stuffed, immobile, and bloated. That’s what low enzymes felt like to me. I knew I was lactose intolerant, but I never thought the problem would extend beyond that.

I avoided dairy but still felt bloated after small meals. Fat-based salad dressings left me feeling greasy, and meat-heavy meals were even worse. Eating became a chore. I skipped meals and opted for protein shakes. You’d think after “liquefying” my diet, my symptoms would have improved. Nope. Eating made me nauseated, gassy, bloated, moody, irregular, and tired.

Photo of bloated man sitting on a bench PHOTO: LET IDEAS COMPETE/FLICKR.COM

My energy was in a major downswing, and strong coffee didn’t even touch it. I’d slop through the day taking supplements, hoping the B vitamins would give me an energy boost. Nothing. There was no way to kickstart my digestive system. Even superfoods felt only a fraction better than a fast food feast.

What do you do when you’re eating healthy but not feeling healthy? It took me half a year to solve the mystery. Contents going in didn’t match contents going out, so I investigated what was happening in the middle. Since eating healthy wasn’t enough, I examined how I digested my food.

Power Up Your Gut

All the signs pointed to low digestive enzymes. I’d never really known why, but my body craved slices of pineapple. It turns out that pineapple and papaya are potent fruits that stimulate protein breakdown; the enzyme in pineapple (bromelain) and papaya (papain) foster healthy digestion by subduing inflammation and allowing the body to absorb nutrients naturally. If papaya is too pricey, pineapple in the morning or after meals works wonders.

Photo of homemade fermented cabbage sauerkraut PHOTO: BGSMITH/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

I added digestion-boosting foods like kimchi (fermented cabbage) and herbs like ginger and peppermint to my diet. I cut out processed foods and alcohol to allow my digestive system to reset my gut flora. All of these tweaks helped, but they didn’t close the case.

I took lactase supplements to digest dairy, extending my enzymatic profile to include a full spectrum of digestive enzymes for breaking down carbs, proteins, and fats. I looked for enzymes naturally derived from plants and animals that replenished good gut bacteria. My diet contains plenty of animal protein and healthy fats, so I choose enzymes that process lipids and amino acids.

Vegetarian and vegan eaters can opt for digestive supplements that target plant-based diets. Catalytic enzymes break down fibrous fruits and veggies, so your body absorbs the proper amount of vitamins and minerals from them.

Most supplements suggest one to two pills before meals to prepare your body for digestion. If you forget things easily like me, taking two post-meal is better than being bloated. When purchasing digestive enzymes, look for naturally derived enzymes that break down each group of macronutrients.

Photo of opened bottle with digestive enzymes pills PHOTO: PELFOPHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

A Major Digestion Overhaul

Supplementing my diet with digestive enzymes restored proper digestion and eliminated the slew of symptoms I experienced. Eating became enjoyable again. Healthy greens felt refreshing. I ate meals and felt satisfied but not bloated, and my approach to my diet completely shifted. I was able to dive into exploring Thai curry and Peruvian ceviche without hesitation.

I suffered from acid reflux and a leaky gut for months before I supplemented with enzymes. Now, I enjoy my lunch once without worrying about what it’ll taste like a second or third time around. Not only that, but symptoms I didn’t attribute to my stomach started clearing up too.

Digestive enzymes revved up my metabolism, so now I had energy to spare throughout the day. My workouts intensified so I could run faster without tiring. My mood lifted. My joints were less achy than before. My body felt balanced.

I went through a trial and error phase for my needs, but once I discovered the issue, my symptoms resolved. Through a mixture of digestion-friendly foods, enzyme supplements, and patience, I was able to restore my digestive health. I’m cognizant of what I eat, but I’m no longer fearful.

Photo of family at the dinner table PHOTO: MOUNTPLEASANTGRANARY.NET

Summary

If you have digestive discomfort, inflammatory diseases, or low stomach acid, I’d consider testing out digestion-friendly enzymes. Nutrition has a critical impact on overall health and wellness, so it’s essential to obtain the most from your meals. Eating doesn’t have to be a chore. I use digestive enzymes to enjoy my food again while cutting back on over-the-counter drugs and medicines. It’s saved me many a bloated night and a pretty penny from no longer buying temporary relievers to mask my symptoms.

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