Do Lack of Enzymes Cause Food Intolerances?
More than 95 million Americans suffer from poor digestion. "After nearly 30 years in practice, I've found that enzymes deliver results and work for my patients."
Enzymes play a key role in the digestive process. Digestive enzymes allow us to break down our food into a form we can assimilate and thus nourish our body. Our bodies naturally produce digestive enzymes, which are secreted along the digestive tract. Raw unprocessed foods and dietary supplements also contain enzymes to support digestion. With help from enzymes, nutrients from digested foods are delivered to cells, muscle tissue, and organs of the body. Digestive enzymes are also essential for the elimination of wastes and toxins.
The enzymes responsible for the different types of food we eat are specific to the food groups. For example, proteins made up of amino acids that resemble the links of a chain are broken down into individual amino acids or small chains called polypeptides through the action of proteolytic enzymes. This action is extremely important since these small 1, 2, or 3-amino acid molecules are easily absorbed and typically will not cause the body to mount an adverse reaction to the food these molecules came from. Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars by amylase enzymes for use as fuel by the body. Lipids (fats) are digested by lipase enzymes into fatty acids for absorption. The human body does not produce cellulase, the enzyme that breaks down plant fiber (cellulose) but the beneficial microflora of the intestinal tract do. If we are lacking in beneficial bacteria it would mean that enzyme and probiotic supplementation would likely be necessary.
The digestive process is not a simple one, and there are many opportunities for a hiccup or two along the way. Improper chewing or 'wolfing' down our food, in addition to having deficiencies of HCl and digestive enzymes can negatively impact digestion, setting the stage for potential reactions later on. For example, gluten intolerance occurs when there is a difficulty in breaking down specific amino acid links (called peptides) in the gluten molecules. This can lead to intestinal inflammation and a number of disorders including Leaky Gut and other syndromes.
In my practice, unfortunately, I have yet to see an adult with adequate digestive function, so I frequently recommend supplemental digestive enzymes for support. My favorite enzyme supplements are plantbased, in particular enzyme products containing blended strains. An ideal formula will combine multiple strains of amylase, protease, lipase and cellulase for starch, protein, fat and fiber digestion, respectively.
What to do when your favorite foods are making you sick
Many people have adverse reactions to a number of foods, often without ever connecting the cause with the effect. These reactions can range from life-threatening anaphylaxis (a true food allergy), to food intolerances such as gluten or lactose intolerance. Food intolerance is more common than food allergy. Because so many different types of adverse reactions can occur, the definitions have become blurred.
One of the biggest problems in spotting food intolerance is that symptoms of reactions appear to have no direct relation to eating certain foods. Immediate adverse reactions may allow easy diagnosis. However most often, people experience symptoms that are "hidden," causing confusion as to what foods initiated a reaction. In addition, not every adult with adverse reactions to foods had such reactions as a child. Food intolerance can occur due to the natural decrease in digestive enzymes as a result of the aging process. Adverse reactions as a result of food intolerance tend to be digestive in nature. Individuals with food intolerance may experience symptoms such as occasional indigestion, bloating, gas, and irregularity.
One of the basic treatments I have used to help people reduce food reactions derived from food intolerance, and to avoid the development of new reactions is to provide supplemental digestive enzymes. Taken in conjunction with elimination programs and diet modification, enzymes offer a potent solution, supporting optimal digestive performance. By reducing the size of the food molecules, we aid proper digestion and prevent an onset of symptoms associated with intolerance. Look for a formula that combines multiple strains of amylase, protease, lipase, and cellulase, with specialized enzymes for gluten, phenol, dairy, and casein digestion to provide a complete solution for children and adults dealing with multiple food intolerances.