Digestive Enzymes: What are they and why are they important?

I didn’t really know much about digestive enzymes until I started to research Candida overgrowth. During my research I discovered that enzymes are important for the breakdown of food and often food intolerances are because certain digestive enzymes have become inefficient [1]. Since my early twenties I had learned that I had developed an intolerance to dairy. I was living in London at the time and it was all the rage to go and get a food intolerance test. The test came back positive for dairy and at the time it made sense because I was frequently suffering with loose bowels. For years I followed a no dairy diet, but when I was suffering from Candida overgrowth I became intolerant to so many more foods; gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol. My relationship with food diminished because I didn’t know what to eat.

When I first discovered bone broth, I read that it helped to reduce gut inflammation so I stuck with it but at that time I also read about digestive enzymes and why they are important. I now know a lot more about enzymes and understand that without them enzymes will not unlock nutrients in food structures. Different enzymes help to break down different food structures, for example; berries do not contain enzymes but they do help to unlock enzymes that are important for the breakdown of food, particularly gluten [2]. Only natural foods will give your body the tools it needs to function properly.

Enzymes are important and without them, nutrients in foods cannot be released. This means that if the nutrients are not released, then the body will become deficient in certain minerals and vitamins ultimately leading to ill health. We need vitamins and minerals to help build proteins and other important structures in your body [3] so it’s important to ensure your diet contains a vast quantity of them. However, if your body is deficient in enzymes, then some certain foods that your body needs will not be able to break the nutrients down. I can’t help but wonder if your body is deficient in enzymes, then can taking vitamin supplements really work? I am not sure. If you read this article by Seven Seas, then you will see that they explain enzymes breakdown nutrients [4]. It has to be the same with vitamins; the vitamins still need to be broken down and absorbed, but if your enzymes are deficient, then surely vitamin supplements cannot be broken down either.

If you are like how I was, and have become intolerant to many foods, then it is likely your gut is inflamed and your digestive enzymes are deficient. Inflammation reduction is the key; beef bone broth can help this, as well as taking a digestive enzyme supplement. A study has shown that taking digestive enzyme supplements with meals can help the gluten be broken down in the stomach and prevent it from entering the small intestine [5]. Gluten is now understood to be the major cause of leaky gut syndrome [6] so it is possible that taking digestive enzymes can also prevent, or even heal this condition, as well as including bone broth regularly in your diet.

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