What You Need To Know About Digestive Aid Supplements

Contrary to popular belief, digestive problems such as “heartburn”, flatulence or stomach pain are not necessarily due to the overproduction of stomach acids after a meal; in fact, it is often the underproduction of hydrochloric acid, bile acids, and pancreatic and liver enzymes required to complete the digestive process that creates various gastric upsets and sluggish intestinal mobilization.

Diets lacking or low in raw foods results in deficiencies in metabolic, digestive and food enzymes needed to break down foods for proper assimilation and absorption. A digestive aid should therefore contain enzymes that help the body break down foods thoroughly so that nutrients can be absorbed more readily and utilized more completely.

Consuming digestive aids that contain calcium carbonate, or reaching for bicarbonate of soda to ease digestive upsets actually makes the problem worse.

Such so-called digestive aids neutralize the essential hydrochloric acid normally excreted in the stomach. After swallowing, enzymes are needed to break down further the masticated food masses or boluses in the stomach and small intestine. 

Various digestive enzymes are called into action to split the dense molecules of various proteins, fats and carbohydrates in various segments of the digestive tract, an essential preparation process required for further catabolizing simplified food substances down to their basic nutritional components in the intestines. 

As the food you eat is processed through the stomach and duodenum with the aid of pancreatic and liver enzymes, nutrients are then absorbed through the intestinal wall and absorbed into the bloodstream for nutrient distribution throughout every body system.

Lacking adequate enzyme active, raw fresh foods in the daily diet interferes with complete and thorough digestion and nutrient absorption of cooked foods which enzymes are destroyed in heating and boiling temperatures, and reduces the body’s ability to produce its own digestive acids and digestive enzymes.

Enzymes are the catalysts of trillions of biological processes or the sparks of life. For whatever challenges one might have in eating enough enzyme-active, raw foods, a digestive enzyme supplement dose taken before, with or after meals can help meet the body’s vast metabolic enzyme requirements, aid digestion, prevent digestive upsets and improve nutrient absorption and utilization.

Types of Effective Digestive Aid Supplements

Prebiotics – A prebiotic is a nondigestible or partially digestible dietary fibre that nourishes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. The insoluble fibres of many fruits and vegetables are examples of foods that are prebiotics. 

Examples of foods high in prebiotic value are chicory root, wheat, onion, garlic, artichoke, oats, barley, legumes, kale, mustard and dandelion greens, dark green vegetables, and leeks. Prebiotic foods contain substances known as fructans that include native inulin, enzymatically hydrolyzed inulin or oligofructose or fructooligosaccharides that are listed on ingredient labels on supplements as FOS. Any of these ingredients found in your nutritional supplement selections are excellent.

I have also reviewed a lot of other dietary supplements, if you are interested, you might check them out.

Probiotics

Probiotics refers to the live microorganisms or beneficial aerobic bacteria that create a desirable, protective environment in the large intestine or colon. The most commonly used probiotics are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.

There are at least fifty types of lactobacillus and thirty types of bifidobacteria. Lactobacillus has shown many benefits in studies for treating and preventing yeast and urinary tract infections, improving irritable bowel syndrome, restoring flora after antibiotic treatment, overcoming traveller’s diarrhoea infections, including from the pathogenic bacteria Clostridium difficile, and for restoring lactose intolerance, respiratory infections, and improving and alleviating various skin disorders such as canker sores, acne, eczema and fever blisters.“

A group of researchers who studied the effects of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri on cancerous tumors concluded that future development of probiotic-based applications may prevent colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Another study evaluated whether 

Lactobacillus acidophilus might improve immune functioning against human rotavirus infection that causes serious diarrhea in infants worldwide and a severe state of dehydration, and found that the probiotic promoted a better immune response in laboratory animals than when given a vaccine.

Lactobacilli that are in fermented foods such as live cultured yogurt, and as ingredients in nutritional supplements may include:

  • L. acidophilus
  • L. bulgaricus
  • L. rhamnosus
  • L. plantarium
  • L. reuteri
  • L. salivarius
  • L. casei

Bifidobacteria consists of about 90% of healthy colon bacteria and appears in the intestines of days old newborns and breastfed infants. In one four week study of 362 patients with irritable bowel syndrome, improvement in symptoms occurred with those who had been experiencing abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and gas. Bifidobacterium lactis reportedly lowered serum LDL cholesterol in type 2 diabetics and increased HDL cholesterol in women adults, as well as improved glucose tolerance in pregnant women. The following are common bifidobacterium used in probiotic supplements:

  1. bifidum
  2. breve
  3. infantis
  4. lactis
  5. longum
  6. pseudolongum
  7. thermophilum

Probiotics are able to compete with illness-causing or pathogenic microorganisms for sites within the colon. The probiotic beneficial bacteria establish themselves and cooperate with the body’s immune response to modulate and reduce the effects of pathogenic microorganisms. 

Various clinical investigations conclude that probiotics may be useful for preventing and resolving a variety of health conditions such as:

  • Allergies
  • Cancers
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Halitosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Urogenital infections
  • Reducing antibiotic side effects
  • Reducing dental caries
  • Periodontal disease

Tropical fruit enzymes – two enzymes commonly included in digestive aids and multi-nutrient supplements are bromelain from raw pineapple and papain from raw papaya.

Bromelain

Bromelain is a complex of proteolytic or protein-digesting enzymes from pineapples. It has been approved by the German Commission E for treatment of swelling and inflammation after surgery, including sinus, ear, nose and throat surgery, dental and foot surgery. 

Bromelain is also used to treat inflamed conditions from infection and physical injuries, including tendinitis, sprains, bruising, and sprains, muscle and other minor injuries. It is also used to reduce trauma injuries.

Some studies show bromelain’s nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory action, in combination with the flavonoid rutosid or rutin from buckwheat, and trypsin, an enzyme secreted by the pancreas as trypsinogen, worked as well as NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and diclofenac and others, which indicated that bromelain may help ease the pain for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

There are some precautionary measures in the scientific literature when taking bromelain:

May interact with some medications such as antibiotics, blood anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin, warfarin or clopidogrel. 

It is also thought that bromelain may increase the effects of sedative medications, including antidepressants, anti-seizure, barbiturates, benzodiazepines and alcohol. If you are taking any medication, consult with your trusted and knowledgeable health care provider.

Bromelain is an effective protein-digesting enzyme and takes longer than eight to ten days in a row is generally not advised.

Those allergic to pineapples, celery, carrots, fennel, papain, pollen or wheat also may be allergic to bromelain.

If one experiences mild nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting or excessive menstrual bleeding, notify your health care provider and cease taking bromelain.

Avoid bromelain if you have a bleeding disorder, high blood pressure, or disease of the kidney or liver.

Do not take bromelain two weeks prior to surgery.

Caution should also be considered if you are taking catnip, kava and valerian herbs while taking bromelain.

Papain

Historically, papain has been used for allergies, sports injuries and other causes of physical trauma. A protease enzyme, studies show that papain helps the body heal athletes’ minor injuries more rapidly compared to placebos, and cuts recovery time in half. 

Papain has also been shown to alleviate allergies linked to the leaky gut syndrome, insufficient stomach acid production, and gluten intolerance. Papain has also been reported as having anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in sinus pain, headache and toothaches.

As with other proteolytic enzymes, the same precautions should be considered as those outlined in the Bromelain section above.

Raw apple cider vinegar

To receive the full benefit of the cider vinegar, choose the raw, enzyme-active product. It can be purchased in liquid form, where you can add a small amount to water, green drinks, or use as a salad dressing. 

Raw cider vinegar can also be purchased in tablet form.

Raw apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries for all manner of ailments: as a digestive aid, for easing pain, sinus infections, chronic fatigue, weight loss, improving the body’s acid-alkaline pH balance, sore throats, kidney stones, nausea, asthma, insect bites, warts, easing heartburn, as a mouthwash diluted with water, a teeth whitener, and more.

In one study, apple cider vinegar showed promise for use in diabetic therapy where it helped reduce insulin resistance, which occurs when muscle, fat and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin. In another clinical trial with type 1 diabetic patients, it was concluded that apple cider vinegar could help reduce hyperglycemia. 

Secreted by the pancreas, insulin normally assists in the efficient uptake of glucose into the cells, but as the continuous presence of too much-refined sugar and refined starch calls upon the pancreas to secrete ever higher amounts of insulin, sugar uptake is eventually impaired when the beta cells in the pancreas cannot keep up with the sugar load.

Chronic excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream leads to prediabetes, then type 2 diabetes. Excess dietary refined sugars and other carbohydrates lead to obesity and other associated disease risks.

Digestive Enzymes

Some multi-nutrient vitamin-mineral supplements in tablet or powder form may consist of any combination of probiotics, prebiotics, tropical fruit enzymes and cider vinegar. Multi-nutrient supplements also usually contain metabolic enzymes normally found in typical digestive enzyme tablets, which are amylase, protease, and lipase. 

The body should be able to manufacture this food digesting enzymes on its own but may not produce sufficient amounts if the diet is deficient in enough fresh, raw foods. The amylase, protease and lipase enzymes digest carbohydrates, proteins and fats, respectively.

Amylase breaks down complex carbohydrates or starches to the most simple sugar unit, glucose.

Protease breaks down protein foods such as meats, poultry, fish and dairy down to the basic components of life, amino acids.

Lipase breaks down dietary fats and oils to the fundamental units of fatty acids.

A digestive aid containing the above metabolic enzymes can provide a significant difference in how you feel after ingesting a heavy or high-calorie meal, or if you just want to ensure you are utilizing nutrients in your food optimally.

Digestive aids or multi-nutrient supplements that include amylase, protease, lipase, fruit enzymes, raw apple cider vinegar, probiotics and prebiotics in their formulas are great choices for enhancing your body’s digestion, nutrient absorption capacity and metabolic activities. 

However, dietary enzymes and flavonoids derived from fresh foods remain important for ensuring that the body is able to produce its own metabolic and digestive enzymes too.

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