Our body produces digestive enzymes to help break down our food, allowing the nutrients to be easily be absorbed in our gut and used in the body. Adequately broken-down food also helps keep our gut in tip top condition. When undigested food travels through the digestive tract it can begin to ferment and cause an uncomfortable build-up of gas.
Enzymes are produced in different places including in our saliva, stomach and small intestine. Our body’s production of digestive enzymes can be affected by stress, medication, aging, diabetes, illness, autoimmune conditions, and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
Digestive enzymes can also be taken as supplements just before a meal. Digestive enzyme supplements can be helpful for those struggling with uncomfortable symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhoea. Viridian’s Digestive Aid is a combination of various digestive enzymes for breaking from proteins, fats and carbohydrates, as well as betaine hydrochloride which supports the acidity of the stomach (key for digestion), along with peppermint and ginger which have both been shown to help with digestive discomfort.
Bitter foods and herbal bitters
Eating bitter foods helps to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes and are used as digestive tonics to improve digestion before and after meals. As an added bonus, bitter foods are a great source of fibre, which stimulates the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Bitter foods include leafy greens, dandelion leaves, rocket, cruciferous vegetables, apple cider vinegar, and ginger.
You can also start a meal by adding a few drops of herbal bitter tincture to a small glass of water, for example A. Vogel’s Digestisan or Yarrow Complex.
The health of our gut and how well we digest is dependent on healthy gut bacteria, and your diet and lifestyle has a big influence. A diet rich in fibre (fruit, vegetables and other plant foods) and phytonutrients (from plant foods) helps support our beneficial bacteria. Probiotic supplements can also be taken to add further support – this would be particularly important during and following a course of antibiotics. Optibac, Bio-Kult, BioCare and Viridian all provide high quality probiotic supplements that have been well researched to show that they exert health benefits.
It must be noted that diet and lifestyle are equally important when trying to support and improve digestion. We must consider how and where we eat, which can affect the digestive process and the production of digestive enzymes.
When eating in a stressed state, or even if we are just busy and distracted, we are not allowing our body to digest optimally. Even before food enters our mouths, digestion has begun. Thinking about and smelling food gets our body ready to start digesting by increasing saliva and digestive enzyme production.
Make sure to not eat on the go. Taking time out to appreciate what you are eating puts your body into a relaxed state. When our nervous system is relaxed we are better able to digest foods. Also make sure to chew thoroughly – this also stimulates our digestive enzymes and ensures every part of our food has been exposed to them.
The team at Sprout love talking all things food and digestion! Do feel free to ask us questions when in store.
Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have any concerns. If you are taking medications, please consult your doctor before taking supplements.
Sarah Martin Nutrition – Registered Nutritional Therapist