Enhancing Digestion; Enzymes, Eating & Acid

During the season of indulgence, we may find ourselves feeling heavy, lethargic and bloated after meals.

The occurrence of indigestion and functional dyspepsia can include gastric pain, heartburn feeling of pressure in the stomach, nausea and fullness, all of which can occur due to alterations in digestive movement, increased food sensitivity, poor mucous barrier integrity, and altered nervous system communication between the gut and the brain.

Enzymes to enhance digestion:

Enzymes for digestion – many are produced in our digestive organs, being released when we consume foods to breakdown our meals for proper release and absorption of nutrients. Enzymes are the workhorses that put all the necessary ingredients together and converts them into substances which the body can utilise.

Fruit enzymes:

Enzymes are also provided by some fruits in the diet

Papaya – Papain

Pineapple – Bromelain

Fig – Fiacin or Ficin

These plant enzymes help digest proteins comparable to some naturally occurring enzymes. Each can be beneficial in reducing the occurrence of indigestion, lower digestive bloating and assist in adequately releasing nutrients from food for their absorption.

Raw fruit smoothies in the morning, incorporating these fruits in salad or as a fresh raw dessert are great ways to remedy these digestive symptoms.

Mindful eating:

Mindful eating is another easy change that can make a tremendous difference.

Spending adequate time chewing your food initiates optimal chemical digestion of enzymes released in saliva at the same time as the physical action of breaking down your food with your teeth. Whilst you are chewing, your stomach and small intestine become aware that food is about to enter and begin activating muscles and releasing enzymes for their respective roles in digestion.

Try to also wait 20 minutes before reaching for a second serving of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If you are anything like me during the holiday season, your first plate was probably already over filled, so let your body process that portion before eating more!

The disadvantages of the commonly used intervention - PPI:

Commonly, indigestion is treated with Proton-Pump Inhibitors (PPI's). PPI’s may be effective in modulating stomach acid when treating H. pylori infection, gastric ulcers and other acute upper GIT conditions for only short periods of time. The issue is, many people begin this medication as medically or self prescribed treatments and stay on PPI’s long term, even for conditions not proven to have any indications for PPI use.

The effects of long-term use of these acid altering medications are;

- Changes in microbial profile and increased risk of GI infections (specifically Clostridium difficile)

- Links with kidney disease

- Overlooked interactions with other medications

- Lowering of bone mineral density

- Small intestine bacterial overgrowth

- Micronutrient deficiencies (significantly Calcium, Magnesium, and B12)

Stomach acid test

A simple DIY stomach acid test can give you a good idea about the digestive capacity of your stomach. The mixture of baking soda and stomach acid should produce gas. A burp within three minutes of drinking the baking soda solution may indicate an adequate level of stomach acid, whereas a burp after three minutes or longer (or not at all) may indicate a low level of stomach acid.

If dyspepsia and poor digestion is a year-round common occurrence for you, it would be wise to keep a symptoms diary to assist in identifying your trigger foods, mood changes and bowel motions.

Booking in with a Naturopath can assist in identifying the contributing factors as to why digestion is causing you trouble.