What are digestive enzymes?

As part of our digestive process our stomach cells and pancreatic cells produce enzymes which break down food particles.
There are certain digestive enzymes specific to different food groups ie there are different enzymes to specifically break down fats, carbohydrates, proteins etc.

Digestive enzymes in supplement form are these different enzymes all put together to help the body facilitate proper breakdown and digestion of foods and are taken with meals.


Why would I need to take a digestive enzyme supplement if my body naturally produces enzymes?


Most commonly, stress can impact our ability to produce digestive enzymes.  When we are stressed our digestive system gets given a back seat as our nervous system takes over.  We must be somewhat relaxed for our digestive system to work optimally.  You may have heard the phrase “rest and digest”.
As our digestive processes slow down when we are stressed this includes our body’s production of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) and digestive enzymes, both needed to break our food down.  With less of these available to do their job, these larger food particles have a chance of fermenting while the digestive process slowly works its way through. (Did you know that food only takes about 4-8 seconds to pass from the mouth to the stomach! So you don’t need to eat so fast!)
A digestive enzyme taken with meals during a period of stress can be helpful and does not mean you will need to stay on these for the rest of your life.  Addressing the stress is very important here.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Zinc deficiency can also cause a reduction in the body’s enzyme production.  While you are addressing zinc deficiency, it can be of benefit to take a digestive enzyme at the same time.

Hormone deficiencies

We have hormones specific for certain nutrients and they can trigger or control enzyme action.  If we have any issues with certain hormone production such as thyroxine (thyroid hormone), then our body’s enzyme production can be reduced or less effective.

Stomach Surgery

Another reason that a digestive enzyme supplement may be required is after gastric or bariatric surgeries.  If a person has either a gastric sleeve or a gastric bypass, then they do not have the amount of stomach cells to produce these enzymes, particularly the full bypass surgery.  Unfortunately, supplementation may be a lifetime requirement to help the body digest and absorb food.

What happens if I am not producing enough digestive enzymes?

One of the main symptoms I see in my clinic from food fermenting in their bodies is bloating and discomfort.  This can also lead to bowel disturbances which can be either constipation or diarrhoea.
If food is not being broken down and digested properly, it is therefore not absorbed properly, which means the nutrients in those foods are also not being broken down and nutrient deficiencies are then very common eg. iron deficiency.  This would be, in my opinion, a common reason as to why many people are becoming nutrient deficient.
Eating too fast, while distracted, stressed, and not giving appropriate time and attention to the food they are eating are all going to lead to impaired digestive function.
If you would like to find out more about whether a digestive enzyme is suitable for your needs or if you are having any issues with digestion eg constipation, diarrhea, bloating etc. contact  – megan@balancingnutrition.com.au or 0417 679 287.

References available upon request

Megan Crockart is a qualified Holistic Nutritionist & a self-confessed foodie! Megan has a special interest in working with individuals with allergies, food intolerance, SIBO, eczema, pre- & post-natal health & children’s health. 
Balancing Nutrition. 
To book a consultation with Megan please click here.

Check out Megan’s YouTube Video here where she deep dives a little further into digestive enzymes.