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Digestive enzymes: Key to good health

You may be used to taking them around big meals, but digestive enzymes are more than just a way to ease discomfort. To learn more about how supplementing with enzymes can ease a number of different conditions, we spoke with Robert Langford, nutrition consultant in our Monterey store. Here's the skinny.

Enzymes: Essential to digestion

"Enzymes help to break down food into smaller molecules so it can be used by the body," says Robert. "The garbage can be processed out, nutrient absorption is maximized, and then energy production is optimal." Enzymes occur naturally in our systems with different functions: proteolytic enzymes are needed to digest protein, lipases needed to digest fat and amylases needed to digest carbohydrates.

So why supplement? Starting at about 35 or 40, Robert says, our ability to keep everything in balance decreases. "Most people's Hydrochloric Acid production diminishes, or ratchets up to the point that you have acid reflux," says Robert. "It's really about balance."

For general digestive discomfort, Robert recommends full-spectrum, plant-based enzymes, such as Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra, taken twice a day before your two biggest meals. As the name might suggest, full-spectrum enzymes provide a boost of the different enzymes needed to digest a variety of different types of food.

He also stresses the importance of paying attention to the pH balance in your system, which, when optimal, makes everything work better. If you have acid reflux, for example, find a list of acidic foods and try to eliminate them from your diet. Conversely, add alkaline foods such as leafy greens to counteract the acidity of other foods.

Ultimately, if you've identified which things are hard for you to digest, such as fats-in which case you need extra lipase-you can also find formulations that have extra doses of that specific enzyme. In the end, Robert says, it's good to identify exactly what foods give you discomfort, and then eliminate it or use it only moderately. "It comes down to a personal choice," he says, "Between satisfying yourself and not feeling discomfort."

Digestion and... inflammation?

"Everything is downstream of digestion," says Robert. He explains that when enzyme function isn't the best, it can leave behind undigested food particles that get lodged in tissues, joints or cartilage. "Enzymes are like little Pacmen, going through the system munching those larger food particles before they can cause inflammation."

When people come in with connective tissue issues, such as osteoporosis or arthritic conditions-even just muscle aches from too much exercise-Robert recommends using an enzyme along with more tradition anti-inflammatories such as turmeric or boswellia. (He likes Pure Encapsulations Boswellia AKBA.)

Finally, Robert recommends using enzymes alongside a good probiotic. "They perform similar functions," he says. "But they make each other function five times more effectively."

To find out how digestive enzymes might help ease your digestive discomfort or joint pain, speak with a licensed Pharmaca practitioner today.

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