Bloated After Every Meal? 5 Signs You Have Low Digestive Enzymes May 30, 2018 May 30 2018 Picture this: it’s a night out at a fancy restaurant and there’s really, really good food in front of you. You’re excited to dig in, but also hesitant since you’re well aware of the symptoms that follow: heaviness, bloating and indigestion. (Maybe it’s best to unbutton that top button on your jeans right now?) It’s a common scenario, and one that many people have accepted as the norm. But feeling bloated and sluggish after meals is not normal and it doesn’t need to be your reality. This is where digestive enzymes come in. If you want to feel as light as a feather after a meal, it’s important to understand how digestive enzymes impact the symptoms mentioned above, and how you can make sure you have optimal levels for good, efficient digestion. WHAT ARE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES? Simply put, digestive enzymes help break down food so that we can digest them properly. But before we delve into this topic further, let’s take a step back and answer the question: what’s is anenzyme? If you think back to high school science, you’ll remember that an enzyme is a catalyst – it helps complete a biochemical reaction. Digestive Enzyme Characteristics Below are three characteristics that are important to understand: Enzymes speed up a reaction. Having low digestive enzymes can slow down digestion. They reduce the activation energy required to start a reaction. With low digestive enzymes, your body requires more energy to activate or start digestion, making you feel tired. Enzymes are specific, just like a lock and key. For example: Carbohydrates (starch) are digested by amylase Protein is digested by protease Fat is digested by lipase Where Are Digestive Enzymes Made? Digestive enzymes are made in multiple parts of the body, according to the specific function of the enzyme. For example: Amylase is made in the salivary glands, pancreas and small intestine Protease is made in the stomach, pancreas and small intestine. Lipase is made in the pancreas and small intestine. Since these parts of the body control the number of enzymes that are produced, this is where you should turn your attention to if you have any of the signs of low digestive enzymes below! SYMPTOMS OF LOW DIGESTIVE ENZYMES Abdominal bloating and discomfort after meals Gas Indigestion Passing undigested food in stool Nutrient deficiencies Of course, the symptoms mentioned above can also be attributed to other root causes as well. But, if you tend to have all of the symptoms above, it’s worth supplementing with digestive enzymes – which, by the way are perfectly safe – to see if your symptoms improve. CAUSES OF LOW DIGESTIVE ENZYMES Of course, if you’ve read my posts for a while you’ll know that I always stress finding the root cause of the problem. While supplementing with digestive enzymes will help you feel better, but it’s also important to figure out why you needed to supplement in the first place. Overeating If you’re chronically overeating on a daily basis – eating beyond the point where you feel full – you overworking and therefore depleting your body’s reserve of digestive enzymes. Yes, digestive enzymes are continuously being produced, but just like an actual factory, sometimes production simply can’t match demand. Diet high in processed foods Ever wondered why fruits and vegetables are calling ‘living’ foods, and processed foods are called ‘dead’ foods? This is because fruits and vegetables secrete enzymes that are needed for the digestion of that particular food. Processed foods on the other hand, don’t come with their own enzymes, or they are killed off during pasteurization e.g. orange juice, skim milk. Therefore, a diet high in fruits and vegetables requires less energy and less digestive enzymes from the body’s own internal reserve. Processed foods put a greater demand on the body to produce enzymes. Damage to enzyme production sites Let’s recap where digestive enzymes are produced: Salivary glands (often not an issue) Stomach Pancreas Small intestine If inflammation or damage exists in any of these areas, the ability to produce enzymes will weaken. Some examples of damage are: Food sensitivities e.g. wheat, dairy, corn Overgrowth of bad bacteria due to factors such as: stress, overuse of antibiotics, acid-blocking drugs, a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol. A chronic digestive issue, such as IBS, Crohn’s, colitis HOW TO Increase DIGESTIVE ENZYMEs The most common reason for low digestive enzymes is our dietary habits – fortunately, this is simple to fix. I also recommend using a digestive enzyme supplement to help close the gap faster, and bring about more immediate relief. STEP 1: BUY A DIGESTIVE ENZYME SUPPLEMENT Thankfully, digestive enzymes are very safe, affordable and effective. Dosage: Take 1-2 capsules before a meal, perhaps 5-10 minutes beforehand. Pro tip: keep these on your countertop, bag or desk, wherever you will see them and won’t forget! Use them until you no longer feel symptoms after a meal. Purchase considerations: Are you vegan or vegeterian? Look for plant-based enzymes. If not, you can opt for enzymes that come from the pancreas of animals, known as pancreatic enzymes. Is it full-spectrum? Make sure the enzymes contain amylase, protease, and lipase so that you are getting help with digesting all three macronutrients. Has your gall bladder been removed? You’ll want extra support for digesting fats, look for a formula with ox bile. For a plant-based formula, I recommend this one from Nu Life. For an animal-based formula that contains ox bile and hydrocholoric acid for added support, I recommend this one from NOW (clients have loved it!) Note: you can also find digestive enzyme supplements that specifically address: Lactose intolerance e.g. Lacto Glucose intolerance e.g. GlutenEase Difficulty digesting beans e.g. BeanAssist Ideally, I suggest avoiding these foods if they cause you trouble. But heck, sometimes you want to enjoy a cultural delicacy, French pastry or your favourite traditional food. Keep these handy and pop an enzyme beforehand. STEP 2: IMPROVE DIETARY HABITS Eat more foods with live enzymes e.g. a piece of fresh fruit everyday, a big salad for lunch Eat slowly, and in smaller portions Eat until satisfied and not full Replace processed snacks with real, whole foods e.g. swap chips for hummus and veggies Minimize sugar and alcohol intake All of the steps above will not only help with improving your digestive enzyme status, but it will also help increase levels of stomach acid, which goes hand in hand with enzymes for proper digestion. About Alina I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.