Updated: Mar 30, 2020
By now, there is probably a part of you that is questioning whether you have a digestive or pancreatic enzyme deficiency after reading about how it can cause bloating, indigestion and diarrhoea, conditions such as SIBO and IBS and nutritional deficiencies.
What causes low enzymes?
When it comes to treatment, it's helpful to understand the potential causes of enzyme insufficiency, as knowledge of these may hold the key to better digestive health in the long run.
Two things you should consider is:
It is linked to digestive problems (leaky gut, IBS and SIBO), high blood sugar, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, stress and other inflammatory conditions (1,2). This highlights that your health is not a series of isolated symptoms and issues, but a connected network that needs to be treated and supported as such.
As you age you produce fewer enzymes. Your production of enzymes decreases by approximately 13% every 10 years. This means at 40 years of age, your production is only 75% of that when you were a child, and by 70 years old, you could be producing only a third of the enzymes needed for optimal health (3).
Not sure if your gut health issues are due to enzyme, acid or microbiome problems? Register now for this FREE masterclass.
How to increase your digestive enzymes.
We know aging is an inevitable part of life, and complex health conditions may take time to identify and address, so in the meantime consider the following:
1. Ensure there is a mix of raw and cooked food in your diet. Diet is about variety and balance, a diet 100% raw or cooked for most of us may not support our health or digestive needs. If you are someone who can only tolerate cooked foods due to digestive insufficiencies and would like to increase raw foods, please do this slowly.
Try these recipes that combine raw and cooked veggies:
2. Stop grazing or try implementing intermittent fasting (IF) (so many options of IF) e.g. 5:2 diet or 12 hours overnight fast. In a state of fasting your gastric acid triggers the intermittent release of secretin (a hormone) that stimulates your liver and pancreas (4).
3. Chewing your food thoroughly will help the physical breakdown of food. Additionally, this will give saliva time to lubricate your food and start the digestion of starch and fats via enzymes amylase and lipase. Aim for 20 chews per mouthful (5).
Should you have a digestive enzyme supplement and which is the best one?
Whilst addressing some of the drivers of low enzyme production, or for the full effects of your lifestyle changes to take place, a supplement may be beneficial. I recommend seeking guidance on this as finding the right one with the right enzymes, acids or nutrients for you can be tricky.
How digestive enzymes work. An experiment.
To drive home the importance of enzymes in the breakdown of your food, I carried out the following home experiment. I wanted to represent the extent your food may be broken down depending on your enzyme levels. This is what I found.
Oat porridge as you would eat it, no digestive enzymes added. No breakdown of oats.
Oat porridge with one capsule of digestive enzymes. Oats have undergone some form of breakdown.
Oat porridge with two capsules of digestive enzymes. Oats have been significantly broken down/liquified.