Digestive Enzymes: What They Are, What They Do, and How They Affect Stomach Health

Do you often experience abdominal pain or other stomach-related problems such as constipation, diarrhea, reflux (heartburn) and so on? Have you gained excessive weight and/ or have difficulty losing weight despite keeping a strict check on your diet? Or worse still, are you losing weight without making any conscious efforts on your behalf?

If even one of the above conditions seems to fit your case, then beware! It might be indicative of a problem with your digestive system.

Most people treat such stomach issues very lightly until they become too severe to be ignored. Unfortunately, at least 1 in every 5 American suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and most of them are unaware of how it can be treated. Based on diagnosis, doctors normally suggest lifestyle changes (exercising, healthy eating, reducing stress etc) as the most non-invasive form of treatment. Despite this, many patients doubt the effectiveness of these changes and prefer going on heavy medications instead.  This is usually because they are oblivious of digestive enzymes present naturally in the body and the beneficial effects that they have on stomach health.

Digestive Enzymes and their Purpose in the Human Body

You might already know that enzymes are biological catalysts that support various functions in our body. Digestive enzymes are those that specifically aid digestion and therefore, support gut health.

Various organs in our body produce digestive enzymes including the pancreas, liver, small intestine, and stomach as well as the salivary glands located underneath the tongue. The main purpose of these enzymes is to break down the large food molecules into much smaller ones so that they can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the required cells within the body.

Types of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are of different types – each type helps break down different food molecules to deliver the nutrients to the body. The three main classes are as follows.

  1. Proteolytic Enzymes – needed to digest protein
  2. Amylases – required to break down carbohydrates
  3. Lipases – needed to break down large fat molecules

Proteolytic enzymes like pepsin are found in gastric juices and produce polypeptides from protein molecules. Amylases are found in the saliva and pancreatic juices and their primary aim is to break down large starch molecules into a smaller compound called maltose. Similarly, lipases are produced in the pancreas and helps in digesting fatty acids.

Together, these digestive enzymes turn the complex food particles into useful substances like amino acids, glucose, nucleic acids, good cholesterol, and fatty acids that are either stored up by the body or use in other biological reactions to keep the organs healthy and strong.

Digestive Enzymes and Stomach Health

By enabling complete and proper breakdown of the food we eat, digestive enzymes do not just alleviate stomach discomfort and prevent constipation, but also improve nutrient absorption and prevent deficiencies. Although further research is still needed to say this for sure, but clinical trials show promising results for the use of supplemental digestive enzymes in  treating IBS.

Colorectal Cancer protection with Vitamin D

As many as 40% of Americans are estimated to be deficient in Vitamin D. This important nutrient is famously linked with bone health—and for good reason. Research shows that Vitamin D helps the body absorb and utilize calcium, which is an essential mineral for bone health.

But the benefits of this vitamin don’t stop there. In fact, new research reveals a surprising link between Vitamin D insufficiency and a leading type of cancer.

Deficiency in Vitamin D Associated with an Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer

In the June 2018 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a team of researchers determined that people with higher levels of Vitamin D in their blood had a lower risk of colorectal cancer. 

According to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women. It’s also the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, affecting an estimated 1 out of every 20 people. 

The study in question, titled “Circulating Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer Risk: An International Pooling Project of 17 Cohorts,” provided strong evidence for the cancer-protective effect of Vitamin D. They also found that people with the lowest levels of Vitamin D were 31% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

In addition to colorectal cancer, low levels of Vitamin D have also been associated with an increased risk of many other chronic health conditions, including multiple sclerosis, depression, and diabetes.

It’s Not Just About The Bones—More Surprising Benefits of Vitamin D

Cancer prevention? Sign us up! But this isn’t the only benefits of Vitamin D. The “sunshine vitamin” has also been shown to:

  • Strengthen the immune system, which can help you fight off illness, injury, and disease
  • Improves fetal development during pregnancy
  • Optimizes healthy lung and heart function
  • Helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels

As mentioned, Vitamin D also strengthens your bones, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and other skeletal health issues.

Final Thoughts: How Much and How to Get?

Whether you’re at risk for colorectal cancer, your health likely stands to benefit from adding more Vitamin D into your diet. 

Perhaps the best way to get adequate Vitamin D is from healthy sun exposure—about 10-15 minutes around midday prior to donning sunscreen (this varies depending on factors such as time of year, geography, and skin color). You can also source Vitamin D from foods such as whole eggs, beef liver, cod liver oil, salmon, trout, and (if tolerable) dairy products such as fortified milk.

Vitamin D is also easy and affordable to take in a supplement. Indeed, supplementation is advised in many cases, since most adults don’t get enough levels of Vitamin D through their diet alone. Vitamin D supplementation is especially important for older people and people who live in Northern climates, where they have less sun exposure throughout the year. 

How much do you need? The current recommended daily intake for Vitamin D is around 400–800 IU/day. However, many studies show that consuming higher amounts of Vitamin D—upwards of 2,000 to 4,000 IU per day or more—may not only be safe but optimal for certain health protective benefits, including that of colorectal cancer.

As always, it’s recommended to chat with your physician before starting or stopping any new medication or supplement. Even Vitamin D, which is largely recognized as safe and essential, can become dangerous if consumed at high levels.

But if you’re not currently taking Vitamin D, it may be time to consider adding it to your daily health routine—especially if you have risk factors for colorectal cancer.

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-from-sun#overview

https://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/464f3006-0bb2-4f1a-a338-0b21d148bacb/Factsheet-Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-D.pdf.aspx

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php

https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/jnci/djy087

https://5xlhc2qz20k3jc6dy3g31xb4-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2019_OMS_FactSheet-2.pdf

Foods That Aid in Relieving Gastrointestinal Problems

Do you hear that sound coming from your stomach? It’s either your body telling you “feed me” or you are about to experience some stomach cramps. Our digestive tract is one of the most important body parts that maintain our health. It absorbs nutrients, breaks down food, and eliminates waste. If your digestive system does perform its functions properly, then you are probably a walking talking bin consuming and storing food.

Cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and excessive flatulence are a few signs that indicate your digestive system is failing to break down foods in the stomach and creating an acidic environment. This leads to conditions such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, and heartburn.

So what leads you into this corner? Lack of food items containing probiotics or fiber. Following are some of the best foods that you can include in your daily diet to improve your digestion:

Yogurt

Yogurt is right at the top of the list when it comes to consuming foods rich in probiotics. Probiotics boost regulation of certain cells in the body that maintain the body’s internal environment. The probiotics in yogurt balance the ratio of good and bad bacteria in the stomach that helps with issues such as diarrhea and constipation. Not all yogurts fulfill the probiotics requirements. Look for one that has active and live cultures.

Chia Seeds

When it comes to consuming more fiber, Chia seed are the best source. When absorbed in water or milk, they take a gelatin-like shape in the stomach. Chia seeds assume the function of probiotics. The fiber from this food is consumed by the gut’s beneficial bacteria. This boosts healthy bacteria growth, which leads to healthy digestion. Moreover, fiber in a good and controlled amount promotes healthy stools and bowel regularity.

Beets

Another great source of fiber is beetroot. A cup of beets contains 3.5gms of fiber. It adds size to the stool, which improves digestion. The good thing about beets is that you can roast it, eat it raw in salad, or pickle it. If you don’t like the taste of beets, then try the green smoothie trend. Add a bunch of fruits and vegetables in a blender, a healthy dollop of yoghurt, honey, and some almonds and mix away. This will help mask the smell of beets.

Bone Broth

Including a bowl of roasted veggies in your diet is all well and good but one can only eat the same thing so much. One option you can explore is bone broth. This light soup is made by putting chicken or beef connective tissues and bones in a pot filled with water and, allowing it to simmer for a long time. The gelatin in bone broth comes from amino acids such as Glycine and glutamine. They bind to the digestive tracts fluid and allow food to pass easily.

There are a number of other food items too you can try such as salmon, kefir, sauerkraut, Kimchi, miso, apples, whole grains, papaya, etc. With so many options available to you, experiment with them at breakfast and dinner. Why not take out simple recipes and try them at least once a week.

Top Rated Professional Supplements (Part 1)

Sometimes, keeping up with a healthy diet is not enough. There comes a time when your body requires more nourishment, which can only be achieved through supplements. There are thousands of supplements available online but choosing the right one is crucial to your health.

In the past years, the required intake of vegetables and fruits recommended by professionals has changed. According to CDC, one in only ten adults meets the required federal vegetable or fruit recommendations. This makes supplements a natural and cost effective way to boost the immune system and keep yourself healthy.

To help you get the best out of your supplements, we have found the top rated professional supplements that will help you live longer and healthier:

XYMOGEN

Founded in 2003, XYMOGEN has been transforming the lives of people. The company uses exclusive professional formulas to distinguish its supplements from other supplement brands. Provided to healthcare professionals, XYMOGEN is mostly prescribed, as they are a new generation of supplements and care must be exercised when choosing one for any illness. One of the reasons XYMOGEN is highly praised in the healthcare industry is because it not just provides supplements for the body but for the brain too through its line of supplements created specifically for neurological disorders. Following are a few of the supplements that offer support for:

  • Detoxification
  • Cell-Life Regulation
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Immune System
  • Relaxation and Sleep
  • Bone
  • Health
  • Blood Sugar

MARCO PHARMA

MARCO PHARMA was established in 1983 by a German Naturopath, Dr. Marx. He conducted seminars and lectures to teach healthcare practitioners how to administer German therapies. By 1991, MARCO PHARMA was well known in the US and thus began distribution of its supplements internationally. The supplements provided by MARCO PHARMA are advised by trained professionals who are leading authorities in acupuncture, homeopathy, Electro-acupuncture, herbal medicine, natural modalities, clinical ecology and a few other naturopathic disciplines. The company has 4 lines of different supplements, which include:

  • Homeopathic and Herbal Remedies: Supplementing and healing
  • Pacific Island Herbals: Allows you to produce vegetation in nutrient-rich soil, which gives you potent medicinal benefits
  • Ionized Trace Minerals: Development and normal growth, repairs and heals wounds and regulates the body’s absorption mechanism
  • Additional Homeopathic and Herbal Remedies: Proteolytic enzymes and other products that support the body’s functionality

Metagenics

Established in 1983, Metagenics has a unique approach to healthcare supplements. They came up with the revolutionary idea that genes are not the only driving force behind our health. This led them to create nutritional supplements that increase people’s quality of life. The company uses pure ingredients, which are gluten-free, non-GMO and vegetarian products. The six areas/functions of the body that their supplements help improve are:

  • Immune health and function
  • Gastrointestinal health
  • Cardio metabolic health
  • Healthy blood glucose
  • Muscle, bone and joint health
  • Neurological

Along with health supplements, Metagenics also offers nutritional supplements, some of which are for:

  • Detox
  • Enzymes
  • Omega 3s
  • Probiotics
  • Ketogenic

Healthcare supplements provided by these companies are quite potent and therefore, are only offered to healthcare professionals. So, if you are playing to get on a healthy track to keep yourself fit, then visit the nearest healthcare professional and take advantage of these supplements.

Clearing the Facts: What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are bacteria plain and simple!

Yes, bacteria that lives in your body and defends it against infectious diseases. Probiotics are found in all types of foods and are also available in the form of pills. Think of them as “good” bacteria that provide balance with the bad bacteria present in your body.

Probiotics promote a healthy immune system and aids in digestion. These microorganisms are already present in the body and in a large amount. However, the ratio of good and bad depends on your lifestyle.

Did you know that there are more bacteria in your body than human cells? The ratio stands at 3:1 and this is the reason why you will find various types of probiotics when you will visit a pharmacy.

There are more than hundred different types of probiotics and a few serve different purposes. Made for specific conditions, each probiotics contains a particular blend of microbes that help with daily health problems.

Function of Probiotics

Probiotics are primarily known as the remedy for various gut ailments. They have gained reputation in the medical industry as the medicine that help people tame diarrhea.

Took a visit to a country where they had sketchy water?

Probiotics will help you get back to your normal routine!

Probiotics may even help you treat problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, vaginal and urinary health problems, receding gums and teeth and chronic digestive issues.

Who Can Take Probiotics?

The short answer is: Anyone can take probiotics. Even when you are healthy or don’t have any struggles relating to your body, probiotics can be very beneficial. If you are gluten free or are following a special diet, you are neglecting these microorganisms.

At this point, your body might need an intervention but the struggle to maintain your weight can obscure this. So, get in touch with a doctor and come with a diet plan that will help you achieve your goal, as well as keep up your probiotics count. Often, this can lead to a healthy outcome and after that, you won’t be requiring any probiotics.

7 “Friendly” Bacteria

The most common friendly bacteria that your body needs in order to keep up with the demands of your changing body include:

  1. Saccharomyces boulardii
  2. Lactobacillus bulgarius
  3. Lactobacillus acidophilus
  4. Streptococcus thermophilus
  5. Bacillus subtilis
  6. Bifidobacterium bifidum
  7. Lactobacillus reuteri

13 Foods Rich in Probiotics

Certain foods such as yoghurt and yeast are extremely rich in probiotics. In fact, yoghurt is rated as the number one food that is the richest in probiotics. A yoghurt cup a day can help you keep your body healthy and protect your immune system. Following are 13 other types of foods that are rich in probiotics:

  1. Kefir
  2. Kombucha
  3. Natto
  4. Coconut Kefir
  5. Sauerkraut
  6. Salted Gherkin Pickles
  7. Raw Cheese
  8. Kvass
  9. Apple Cider Vinegar
  10. Brine-Cure Olives
  11. Miso
  12. Tempeh
  13. Dark Chocolate

Now that you have an idea what this bacteria can do for your body, it’s time to reassess your diet and include the above mentioned food types in your daily meals. In case you are thinking about taking a supplement, consult a doctor first.

Start Your Day Healthy – 5 Breakfast Foods That Offer the Best Digestive Support

Raise your hand if you are a morning person? If yes, then you are probably big on breakfast. However, as soon as you take that last bite, you feel bloated, just like a balloon. There’s no shame in admitting that after sometime you need a cup of coffee to poop. It’s high time you did something about this instead of relying on your good ol’ stretchy pants.

So, who’s the culprit?

It’s your digestive system in all its irregular glory causing cramping, constipation and bloating. When your stomach becomes sensitive to certain food types, the immune system, which is linked to your gut, starts acting up. This discomfort leads to inflammation and prevents your body from absorbing necessary nutrients such as minerals, amino acids and vitamins.

So, to kick start your day on a good note, we have come up with 5 breakfast food items that will support your digestive system and keep you healthy:

1.     Chia Seeds

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Chia seeds are considered as one of the super foods because it promotes bowel regularity. They are rich in magnesium, which promotes muscle contractions by smoothing the tissue around the intestinal wall. This allows you to remove waste from your system easily.

Chia seeds have a coating of phytic acid which takes longer to break once digested. By soaking Chia seeds in water, this coating softens, which keeps you satiated for a long time. This Chia Seed Pudding recipe features Chia seeds soaked in milk overnight to make a more thick and creamy pudding.

2.     Papaya

rsz_papaya

The digestive enzyme “Papain” in papaya is what improves your appetite and boosts digestive function. While it helps in digesting nutrients, it also digests protein, which cleans your intestines. The good think is it can be eaten raw, cooked or blended to form a smoothie. This Papaya Boat with Granola and Yogurt allows you to make a healthy and delicious breakfast in just five steps.

3.     Pineapple

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The enzyme “Bromelain” in pineapple also aids in digesting protein. In fact, pineapple juice helps reduce inflammation of the GI tract. It is also believed that its juice can kill intestinal parasites that disrupt your digestive system. This sweet fruit can be used anyhow in salads, smoothies, and even chicken dishes. Here’s a great recipe for a Green Piña Colada Smoothie, which you can try with any type of leafy greens.

4.     Flaxseeds

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Flaxseeds are popular for their mild laxative effect that helps promote bowel regularity and relieve constipation. Flaxseeds also have soluble fibres that keep you satiated for a long time. It has various health benefits, including but not limited to controlled cholesterol level, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight. Here’s a recipe for Flax Seed Zucchini Bread that contains just 60 calories but is extremely fulfilling.

5.     Coconut Oil

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Coconut oil helps improve digestion and is much lighter than canola or sunflower oil. It contains lauric acid, which is an antimicrobial that helps destroy yeast and bacteria in your GI tract. Ever heard about coffee with coconut oil? Try this Coconut Oil Coffee recipe for breakfast and kick start your day with lots of energy.

So there you go… five delicious breakfast recipes that will not only improve your mornings but your appetite too throughout the day.

Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Managing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not an easy task. It’s one of those health problems, for which the cause has yet to be discovered. The sleepless nights and the constant abdominal pain can make your life an absolute living hell. Chances are that you will be living with IBS your entire life. However, there are certain precautions you can take to ease the pain. Before moving on to the tips, let’s have a look at what is IBS and its symptoms:

What is IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder, which affects a person’s large intestine. While the exact cause is known, health experts believe that it has something to do with miscommunication between the intestinal tract and the brain. There might also be a link between food passing through the tract too slowly or quickly, stress or oversensitive nerves.

Symptoms

  • Cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, which is usually, partially relieved by passing stool
  • Farting (flatulence)
  • Excess gas
  • Mucus in stool
  • Backache
  • Lack of energy
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Diet Tips

Meals rich in fiber help aid bowel movement. Eat at least 20g of fiber every day and focus more on vegetables and fruits instead of grains. Fiber can either worsen or improve your diet. The key to finding out how it works for your bowel movement is to start with a combination of grains and soluble fiber. Then, gradually reduce fiber intake and include items such as tomatoes, broccoli, raisins and cabbage in your diet.

If you are gluten-intolerant, then avoid eating pasta, wheat, rye, barley and bread. The protein in these food items can damage your large intestine.

Last but not the least, eliminate these four culprits from your diet: Insoluble fiber, coffee, chocolate and nuts.

Here are some other tips to follow:

  • Divide your 3 meals into 6 meals a day but with smaller portions
  • Don’t rush through the meals
  • Avoid high fat foods
  • Cut down on vegetables such as pulses, onion, beans, peas and lentils
  • Cut down on fruits that have stones
  • Drink lactose free milk
  • Avoid spicy food

Lifestyle Tips

Stress Reduction

Stress can worsen the symptoms of IBS. It’s hard to keep your emotions in check when you are in pain. This is the reason why health experts recommend that people who suffer from IBS should go for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or practice mindfulness. There are many CBT techniques that can be tried with a therapist but to manage the pain while at home, try self-monitoring. This technique involves keeping a diary and noting down your behaviors. These can be related to your diet, your daily routine or your thoughts. At the end of the day, dissect what you have written and you will be able to find out the reason behind your stress.

Maintain a Sleep Schedule

When your circadian rhythm (inner clock) gets disrupted, it becomes difficult to get a good night’s sleep. To get this clock into order, avoid taking naps in the middle of the day, don’t drink caffeine or alcohol at night and refrain from using mobile in bed.

Exercise

Exercise not only helps you lose weight but also improves your bowel movement. It is a great way to relieve stress, which helps you to tune out work and personal problems. If you don’t like exercising, then take up a rigorous activity such as hiking, rock climbing or swimming.

While there are medications out there that can help maintain IBS, it is better to try behavioral techniques and adopt a healthy diet to keep the symptoms in check. Follow these tips and make sure to keep a diary, so that you can spot differences in your health. This will help you in eliminating those habits that are aggravating your IBS further.