How to Tell When Probiotics Aren’t Enough
Are you dealing with gastrointestinal issues despite taking probiotics?
Have you changed your diet and find yourself feeling weighed down by a weight in your gut? Like the food you’re eating isn’t getting fully digested and then kind of hangs out in your stomach or intestines?
If so, I recommend three things.
1 and 2, keep doing what you’re doing and continue to use probiotics and eat a healthy diet. You can’t go wrong with either of those.
The third thing is to consider whether or not your body may have trouble getting enough of the important enzymes needed to help you digest food.
Enzymes play a critical role in digestion. For instance, you need lipase to help break down fat, and you need amylase to convert carbohydrates into sugars. Our bodies are supposed to make digestive enzymes to help with digestion (we also can get them from food sources).
When in short supply it won’t matter how healthy you eat, or how many probiotics you take because undigested food can’t be broken down and used.
Let me provide you with more detail on digestive enzymes, how they work, and what may lead to not making enough of them.
What They Are and How They Work
Digestive enzymes are critical to your health.
Your body should make enzymes so it has the ability to break down your food into the nutrients you need to maintain optimal levels of health.
The only problem? Sometimes our bodies go rogue and don’t make enough enzymes.
Here’s what a recent article in the Harvard Health Letter said and how low levels of enzyme production can trigger issues.
“Sometimes the body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes. This can slow the digestion process and lead to uncomfortable symptoms.
For example, if you don’t make enough of the enzyme lactase, you’ll have a hard time digesting lactose — the sugar in milk and milk-based products. ‘If you don’t have lactase, the undigested lactose goes to the colon, which leads to more fluid entering the colon and more gas produced by bacteria in the colon. That creates bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea,’ explains Dr. Staller, a gastroenterologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.”
There a variety of enzymes, but the ones you need to focus on getting enough of are these.
Made by the pancreas, it’s essential for breaking down dense and complex protein molecules.
When you’re deficient in protease it leaves undigested protein in the digestive tract which can be toxic.
Like you learned above, this enzyme is needed to digest lactose (the sugar in milk). Low levels of lactase make it near impossible to digest dairy.
While I don’t recommend dairy in the first place, many of my patients find benefit in eating grass-fed butters, yogurts etc. So if that’s you and you’re not making enough lactase it could result in problems like gas/bloating/diarrhea etc.
As mentioned, lipase helps you digest fat. Quite a few people switch over to the ketogenic diet and their sudden uptick in fat consumption and a corresponding deficiency in lipase causes some major stomach issues.
Sounds like a problem, doesn’t it. Well here’s how a deficiency in lipase makes things worse.
To properly absorb vitamins D, K, E, A and more you need fat to be digested, if you’re deficient in lipase not only does your stomach suffer, it may also lead to deficiencies in those nutrients and many more.
If you’ve ever noticed that some of your abdominal discomfort comes after eating healthy foods like asparagus, broccoli and more there’s a chance your cellulase levels are down.
Cellulase breaks down cellulose, which is an indigestible polysaccharide you’ll encounter when you eat high-fiber foods. By taking a supplement with cellulase in it your body will handle vegetable fibers better and ease the pain you might encounter when eating healthy foods like that.
If you have gas and bloat, amylase is one of the more important enzymes as it’s responsible for breaking down carbs, and undigested carbs can ferment inside of your body and create tons of internal pressure (that needs to find a way out).
Fermented carbohydrates might also lead to painful diarrhea and could even contribute to leaky gut.
Research Indicates This Likely Leads to Low Enzyme Levels
What causes low enzyme levels in the first place?
Well, there could be a number of factors.
For some people the complications of known diseases (like pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis) lead to low production levels.
However, the scope of this article isn’t to address that kind of a condition (that’s something to resolve with a physician at a clinic).
What I think is behind the vast majority of cases of low-level production is a result of stress, exposure to environmental toxins, and advancing age. These are known culprits that interact with your body’s ability to make the enzymes you need.
Advanced age is one of the strongest culprits because with age comes the body’s inability to produce enzymes like it once did.
As you just learned, a biological hiccup like low-enzyme production, doesn’t lead to anything positive.
In fact, it generally will lead to gas, bloating, discomfort, and in worst-case scenarios, leads to malnourishment because your body hasn’t broken down food well enough to satisfy nutritional demands.
Fortunately research indicates adding digestive enzymes back into your diet can help to relieve a lot of those uncomfortable problems. Research published by the Archives of Public Health discovered that digestive enzymes added into the diet works as well as some over-the-counter medications at keeping the stomach healthy.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how to find out if you’re deficient in digestive enzymes, right?
There are two ways to see if you’re not making enough enzymes
The more expensive way is to take tests which measure enzyme levels in the blood. This is the more dependable, albeit pricier option for measuring enzyme levels.
The other thing you can do is start eating foods with digestive enzymes in them, or take a supplement which covers your enzyme gap.
From a medical standpoint eating a diet high in enzyme-containing foods is the best option. Not only will you derive the benefit of increasing enzyme levels you’ll be doing that in conjunction with improving your health in a variety of other ways as many high-enzyme foods are also quite healthy on their own.
Reliable sources for food-based enzyme support can come from foods like pineapple, papaya, mango, honey, bananas, avocado, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kiwi, miso, ginger.
Supplementing is a more direct path to getting support, especially if you suspect a certain food is a problem and you want to try and nip the problem in the bud.
What we offer our patients is a chewable enzyme from NOW Foods.
Not only does it taste great (almost like candy), but a chewable before a meal coats your stomach and intestines with a full-spectrum blend of 10 different enzymes.
These enzymes have been shown in clinical settings to help your body digest food precisely as it is designed to do.
With 90 chewables in a bottle, you can either eat a tab with every meal to see how you feel, or take them before meals you suspect could be an issue for you and test out their performance that way.
Patients who take it generally report back that this form of chewable enzyme has helped them a ton.
I believe this is a great product for people with digestive issues, especially when combined with a probiotic.