To understand how a digestive enzyme supplement can help improve health, it’s important first to know that enzymes occur naturally in the body. Human digestive enzymes include protease, amylase and lipase, which help the body break down protein, carbohydrates and fat, respectively. Raw foods also contain natural enzymes that aid the body in digestion.
Unfortunately, the modern diet includes many cooked and processed foods heated to temperatures greater than 118 degrees. These foods contain little or no natural enzymes to support the digestive process. As a result, the body must expend a significant amount of metabolic energy during digestion, when the burden is placed on digestive organs to produce all required enzymes.
Improper digestion can lead to health problems
Gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn, reflux and indigestion often result from improper digestion. To ease discomfort, over-the-counter and prescription remedies only mask the problem, never addressing the root cause. What’s more, the body is unable to maintain its enzyme output as it ages, which further contributes to poor digestion and insufficient nutrient absorption. Incomplete digestion also can lead to an increase in food sensitivities, allergies and other health problems.
Thankfully, vegetarian-based digestive enzyme supplements can help reduce the enzyme-producing burden placed on the body. When taken immediately before meals or snacks, enzyme supplements help to predigest foods in the upper stomach 45 minutes to 1 hour after consumption. This, in turn, can help relieve gastrointestinal problems because food is more fully digested as it moves through the digestive process. This greater state of digestion also can increase nutrient absorption; while a reduction in the metabolic stress placed on digestive organs can boost energy for immune function, maintenance and overall health.
Vegetarian enzymes are more effective
In addition, enzymes derived from vegetarian sources are able to begin digesting food almost immediately after entering the stomach, as the enzymes are active over a broad pH in the digestive system. In the treatment of inadequate digestion, studies have demonstrated that it takes less active units of vegetarian-based digestive enzymes to provide the same results as animal-based enzymes. Also, production of vegetarian enzymes takes place in highly controlled laboratory conditions, which protects against the inclusion of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and other environmental contaminants.