Do you know much about your gut? Really know?
What about the vital roles your digestive system, its lining, and its inhabitants (the gut microbiome) play?
Or its many and broad impacts on your health?
Your gut is one of the most essential organs in your body — involved in digestion, absorption, and excretion of waste, yes. But it’s also intimately involved in other crucial functions.
An article published in the reputed journal BMJ said, “The gut microbiota seems to play a role in the development and progression of obesity.”
This ample tribe of bugs also produces short-chain fatty acids: fatty acids that kill colon cancer cells, provide energy and signal a sense of fullness, reduce insulin resistance, and help regulate metabolism.
They also synthesize specific vitamins, including vitamin K and B group vitamins like thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), nicotinic acid (niacin, or B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12).
The gut is also an immune superpower. It houses a complex network of immune cells, the microbiome — the “gut bugs,” and a lining designed to block the entry of foreign substances. It acts as the first defense against harmful agents and substances trying to enter our bodies through the gut. Together, they work as the first line of protection.
Given the vital role the gut plays in immunity, it’s not, as an article published in the journal Mucosal Immunology said, “surprising that the intestine contains the greatest number and diversity of immune compartments and immune cells in the body.”
Most people don’t know about a healthy gut’s incredible, far-reaching benefits. We’ve been taught the digestive system is about one thing: digestion. As you know, digestion is critical. Enough, even, to be the sole reason to optimize your gut health.
But with impacts like those above — including the reduction of insulin resistance, potential avoidance (or treatment) of obesity, and a fine-tuned immune system — enhancing your gut health is a powerful way to get body-wide gains.
This begs the question… How can you effortlessly improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract?
Enter digestive enzymes and probiotics: The unsung heroes of the health supplement world.
Understanding Digestive Enzymes
The foods you consume might tickle your tastebuds, but they’re too big to enter your “body proper;” to get from your gut into your bloodstream. Digestive enzymes step in to help.
By catalyzing — accelerating — the digestive process, these vital proteins encourage the breakdown of food into nutrients our bodies can absorb and use. Their primary role is to split complex carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into simpler molecules that we can quickly assimilate.
We naturally produce digestive enzymes in various parts of the digestive system, including the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. However, poor diet, illness, smoking, certain types of surgery, and aging can disrupt this delicate enzymatic balance, leading to problems.
When digestive enzyme production is too low, it can result in a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Food intolerances
- Mood swings or depression
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Skin problems, such as rashes or eczema
- Unexplained weight loss (while this might sound lovely, “unexplained” is key. If you lose weight without changing your diet, increasing your exercise, or meaning to, please see your health professional.)
Different digestive enzymes perform various tasks. Let’s take a look at 4 common types…
Produced by the pancreas and the salivary glands, it breaks down complex carbohydrates. This transforms healthy foods like sweet potatoes, apples, whole grains — brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, legumes — beans, lentils, and peas, into simpler sugars we can use.
Low amylase can cause belly pain, nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite. It may also increase the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. That is problems with the heart, blood vessels, and metabolic function.
While lipases are produced at different locations in the body, those from the pancreas aid digestion, the breakdown of fat, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Lipase gets to work when we consume fat-containing foods, breaking down fats so they can be easily absorbed in the intestines. Foods like avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, fresh fatty fish like salmon and tuna, eggs, cheese, and coconut oil — not to mention unhealthy fatty foods — require lipase for digestion.
Low lipase can cause bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, gas, greasy stools, indigestion, tummy pain, and fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies (A, D, E, and K).
There are several types of proteases; some are produced in the stomach, and some in the pancreas. Also known as proteolytic enzymes, they break proteins into their amino acids during digestion.
Our proteases work when we eat protein-containing foods like eggs, yogurt, lentils, nuts, and meats like beef, chicken, and fish.
A low level of proteases can cause anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, irritability, reduced immune function, and weakened bones.
Lactase — produced in the small intestine — breaks down lactose, a sugar in milk.
We need this enzyme to metabolize lactose when we consume dairy products — butter, cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt, and hidden sources like many breads, cereals, and salad dressings.
But, its activity gets “turned down” during childhood. This down-regulation can result in some adults being utterly devoid of this enzyme. In fact, the journal article Malabsorption Syndromes said, “Adult-onset lactase deficiency is present in the majority of the world’s population.”
Low lactase levels can cause symptoms like abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea, and vomiting.
So, what can you do?
The benefits of digestive enzymes and how supplementing can help
If you don’t make enough digestive enzymes, supplements may be beneficial. They can bridge the gap and support digestion, alleviating symptoms and promoting better nutrient absorption.
If you recognize the signs of enzyme deficiencies, addressing the issue may help you to function and feel better. Whether through dietary adjustments or enzyme supplementation, maintaining optimal enzyme levels can support healthy digestion and overall well-being.
We’ve included DigeZyme® — a multi-digestive enzyme complex that provides amylase, lipase, protease, and lactase — in 100% WPI.
If you’re looking for a product that provides ultra-low-carb, whey protein isolate with a low lactose load and a broad helping of digestive enzymes, we think you’ll love this product!
As one of our happy customers, G.F., said, “It has been a game changer for me. No bloating, gassy feeling. It is definitely gut-friendly for me. It smells and tastes delicious. I love it. Most definitely my new favorite flavor and product from your company! This will certainly be my new go-to protein shake.”
The Power of Probiotics
Your gut is teaming with bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and other microbes. This complex ecosystem is called the gut microbiome, which is essential to your health.
Bacteria in the gut, for instance, help you digest certain types of food that your body can’t process alone. They assist in the production of essential vitamins. They protect against infection and body-wide inflammation.
While trillions of bugs roaming your intestines might sound disconcerting, they’re essential for your health. So, trouble can arise when the delicate balance is disrupted — say by poor diet, illness, or problems with digestive enzymes.
If the “good bugs” are suppressed, the overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeast may cause or contribute to various health issues, from digestive disorders and a leaky gut to mental health conditions, insulin resistance, and weight gain.
This is where probiotics can step in to improve your health and vitality.
Probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”
Yes, probiotics are found in supplements that positively affect those who take them.
But what else might help?
Collagen — The “Putty” for Leaky Gut Walls
When the microbiome is negatively affected, increased intestinal permeability — dubbed “leaky gut syndrome” — can result.
We dive into the leaky gut in detail in our article, Leaky gut: What is it, what foods cause this common condition, and how can you heal your digestive tract? (It’s well worth the read!)
But, in short, your digestive tract can become porous. This allows substances that should remain in the gut to enter the body proper, including the bloodstream. This is an unhealthy and troublesome situation.
Yet, collagen offers an answer.
Collagen has been shown to protect intestinal barrier function. It offers “protective effects on intestinal tight junction integrity.” Essentially, this peptide fills the gaps like grout between two tiles.
A collagen supplement may be the perfect antidote for tummy troubles. Our Marine Collagen is a crowd fav.
As Amanda P. said, “I love this! I’ve noticed my hair has grown faster and thicker and my skin isn’t as dry prior to taking it. I prefer taking this an hour before going to sleep, and best of all, it has no taste and doesn’t upset my stomach!”
Your gut is fantastic! Its impacts on your overall well-being are under-appreciated and often misunderstood.
Beyond its vital role in digestion and waste elimination, the gut, lining, digestive enzymes, and microbiome impact functions from immunity to mental health, metabolism to vitamin production, insulin resistance, weight gain, and more.