NEW ARTICLE! Clean 7’s Take on Weaving Ayurveda Into Your Detox
NEW ARTICLE! Clean 7’s Take on Weaving Ayurveda Into Your Detox

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What Are Digestive Enzymes and Do You Need Them?

We’ve all felt it after a meal — or sometimes, even just after a snack. Gas, bloating, indigestion, maybe a feeling of sluggishness or density in the body … These are all signs that we are not properly digesting our food, and thus, not properly absorbing vital nutrients. These symptoms then can turn into pain, constipation, diarrhea, skin issues, lowered immunity, sleep troubles, and more — like serious gastrointestinal diseases.

To back and up lay some groundwork here, it’s good to note first that digestive enzymes are always present in the body. We make them. They are in our saliva — as the first part of digestion, while we taste and chew our food — and they are in our gut. Some people don’t have enough of them, or have trouble digesting certain compounds, like animal protein, dairy, fat, fibrous vegetables, etc. This is when we look for digestive enzyme supplementation.

If you’re someone who suffers the aforementioned symptoms quite frequently, it might be a smart idea to try incorporating digestive enzymes into your diet quite frequently. Likewise, if you find yourself feeling those symptoms after eating certain things — like gluten or dairy — then the right plan for you might be taking an enzyme supplement prior to an indulgent pizza or pasta night.

So just what exactly is in a digestive enzyme supplement? Typically, it will come in a capsule form, and inside will be a blend of off-white powders. This powder is a proprietary blend (based on the brand) of four different enzymes — protease and nuclease for grains and proteins, or amylase and lipase for fats and carbs. We’ve gone ahead and done the legwork to detail these four different and very important roles for you!

Lipase enzyme

This works to break down lipids, aka fats and oils, into glycerol and fatty acids that your body can absorb and use for energy and other vital cell functions like growth. Dietary fats also support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure, and help us absorb crucial fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D.

Nuclease enzyme

These work to break down nucleic acids found in grains, cruciferous vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, nuts, etc., into nucleotides. Nucleotides are a natural compound that form the building blocks of our DNA, which is essential for cellular division, regeneration, and more. They are vital for a functioning body.

Amylase enzyme

This is great to take before a carb-heavy meal, as these enzymes break down starches and carbohydrates into sugars that our bodies use for quick-burning fuel. We need glucose, aka sugar, for basically every function — normal cognitive health, digestion, breathing, and other voluntary bodily actions. We even need it when we sleep!

Protease enzyme

This one breaks down proteins into amino acids. Amino acids act as the fuel for a ton of cell functions via all the chemical reactions happening all the time inside every single cell. (The very idea of that makes us a little hungry for a protein bar.) Amino acids make up most structural elements of every cell, helping to bind them together to make specific tissues.

Understanding which enzymes do what also helps us to think molecularly about the food we eat, the nutrients we need daily, and how incredibly important proper absorption and assimilation of these nutrients is. Without it, we have trouble functioning on a cellular level — which, when left unchecked, can have accumulative consequences.

Some people are more sensitive to digestive enzymes, and will take some time to get used to them. If we do not need them or are sensitive to them, the first few times we take them could result in stomach pains or diarrhea. As always, we recommend consulting with a doctor or wellness professional if you are uncertain about your needs.

In short, proper digestion is the ultimate beauty and wellness goal! With great gut health comes a cascade of benefits for our skin, immunity, longevity, energy, mood, and more. So don’t blow off the bloat or chock up gas to IBS and ignore it. Pay attention to your body — and even your stool. Not the sexiest, we know — but beauty begins in the belly and beyond, and feeling in tune with our bodies is such a grounded, human right.