“We are what we eat” – as the saying goes. But we might also say – “we are what we digest”. Digestion is a complex and fascinating process that starts in the mouth and ends at the… well, the other end. The breakdown of large complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins relies on the mechanics of chewing, on a good dose of acid secreted by the stomach, and on specialized enzymes that breakdown food particles into simple parts that can then be absorbed across the gut. If we take the time to chew our food, then a specialized enzyme called amylase will begin the process of breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth. This explains why our food tastes sweeter the longer it is in our mouth. We are breaking it down into simple sugars. Then, when our food enters the stomach, another specialized enzyme called peptase begins to break down proteins, with the help of stomach acid. When food leaves the stomach, the remaining parts are broken down by enzymes secreted by the pancreas, as well as those situated along the intestines. A true symphony of digestion!
What can go wrong?
In a perfect world, digestion is seamless. However, many factors can disrupt the flow of digestion, resulting in burping, heart burn, bloating and discomfort. While a condition such as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) or other pathologies should be ruled out, for most people this is simply what we call indigestion. Indigestion may be triggered by bad habits that stress our resources such as eating excessive amounts, eating too quickly, eating late into the night and consuming processed foods. Other challenges are brought on by the overuse of pharmaceuticals such as NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) used for pain, antibiotics (which upset the balance of gut flora) and over-the-counter antacids (which disarm acid needed for digestion in the stomach). Smoking and excessive alcohol ingestion can also damage the stomach lining. There is evidence that with aging comes diminishing reserves of both stomach acid as well as enzymes, at least for some.
Digestive enzyme formulas. In light of all of these challenges, many people turn to supplements to rescue their overburdened and under-resourced digestive systems. Digestive enzymes are the most widely sourced digestive aids. Some people use them on a regular basis, and others during periods of stress such as; when eating out, traveling or during periods of celebration when one tends towards gluttony. Other common supplements used to aid digestion include probiotics, fibres (e.g. psyllium husk) and a range of calming and healing herbal based formulas such as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), mastic gum and slippery elm.
NOW® Super Enzymes
There is a reason why NOW® Super Enzymes is one of the best-selling enzyme products. This formula provides a comprehensive variety of digestive aids that can provide relief for many people suffering from indigestion. NOW® Super Enzymes targets all our macronutrients: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Moreover, the sources include both pancreatic and food derived (papaya and pineapple) enzymes. Pancreatic enzymes have a long history of use in mainstream medicine, making them a mainstay of most formulas. However, the fruit derived enzymes are able to survive in a broader range of pH levels and therefore provide extra assurances of efficacy. One of the enzymes in this formula is a specialized acid-stable enzyme normally found in the stomach. This formula also contains bile, originating in the liver, and important for the processing of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Bile may also help with bacterial overgrowth and with the movement of food through the intestines. Some people may have reduced or poorly timed bile, especially those lacking a gallbladder. And finally, this formula contains acid (betaine hydrochloride) to assist with digestion in the stomach.
Digestion is a huge part of our bodily system and is ultimately, very similar to that of a musical symphony. If one player is out of tune, it can cause the rest of the orchestra to perform poorly.