Nutrient Malabsorption Due To Low Digestive Enzymes
This is Part 2 of a 3-part article about how nutrient malabsorption may be leading to being ‘hangry’ all the time.
If you’d like to know how it can be linked to Low HCL or if you’d like a brief outline of my journey with being hangry, you can start with Part 1. Otherwise, let’s dive in!
We Hear About How Important Enzymes Are All The Time, But What The Heck Are They?
Enzymes are special protein molecules that have a whole lot of responsibility in the body such as digestion, metabolism, detoxification and elimination. Thousands reside within every cell! They are essentially biochemical task masters, working on breaking down matter, building bonds, creating energy and other heroic feats. Each type of enzyme has a very specific job, but they are also living shape shifters, in that one kind of enzyme can turn into another depending on what needs to be done in the body. For example, a metabolic enzyme that is used for cell growth and repair can be transformed into a digestive enzyme that helps to break down food and convert it to energy. It depends where its powers are needed. Enzymes are very much in demand, so it’s important to have enough of them because we don’t want any of these important processes to be interrupted!
In the case of hangry helpers, we are talking about digestive enzymes. Like low HCL, if we have low digestive enzymes, we have less food breakdown, low nutrient absorption and don’t get that great energy push that our food is meant to give us.
Why Would Enzymes Be Low?
Enzymes occur both naturally in our bodies and from food. Our naturally occurring enzymes can be depleted due to stress, nutritional deficiencies, chronic infection or illness, drinking fluoridated water, pollution, pesticides and general toxicity.
Enzymes that we gain from food can be low due to our diet. Raw fruits and vegetables are packed with the enzymes needed to break themselves down and also help to break down other foods we eat. This is just another reason that whole foods are magical and intelligent. However, enzymes are fragile and easily destroyed by high temperatures (e.g cooking), so having a lifestyle of mostly cooked food doesn’t provide us with enough enzymes to break down what we are eating. In this case, metabolic enzymes may have to be used for digestion, taking away from important metabolic processes, which we do not want (an example of their shapeshifting properties).
Processed, fast food and packaged foods are mostly devoid of living enzymes, and in our ‘rush rush rush, get ‘er done’ world, a lot of people depend on these convenience foods to feed themselves and their families.
How Do We Increase Digestive Enzymes?
We can build up our enzyme pool, thereby increasing digestion and nutrient absorption by:
- Consuming whole, raw fruits and vegetables
- Pineapple! This friendly fruit contains the digestive enzyme, bromelain, which is great for breaking down a wide spectrum of proteins that are difficult for many people to digest. Eating fresh pineapple about 20 minutes before meals can aid digestion
- Consume sprouted grains and raw organic honey
- Eat fermented products such as kimchi and sauerkraut, which contain helpful enzymes
- Spirulina and chlorella also contain a high amount of enzymes and can be taken as a tablet supplement or added in powder form to smoothies and juices
- Digestive enzymes are available in supplement form and can be very effective. Full spectrum digestive enzymes can be taken right before each meal. You can also look for digestive enzymes that are specifically helpful for breaking down certain foods:
- Lactase breaks down lactose which is found in dairy products
- Protease helps with protein digestion and can be a benefit to those with inflammatory or autoimmune conditions
- Lipase breaks down fats and can provide relief to those with gallbladder issues
Best Food Sources of Digestive Enzymes:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Kefir & Yogurt
Sauerkraut & Kimchi
Organic = More Enzymes
Due to soil depletion, conventionally grown fruits and vegetable don’t have the enzyme or nutrient content that they used to, so it’s important to choose organic produce whenever possible, as they are grown in richer soil and have a higher enzyme levels.