By Michael A. Smith, MDHere we are again, Thanksgiving. This is the time of year when everyone in my family becomes a glutton. We all make promises not to overindulge and to watch how much we eat, but we almost always fail.
As a doctor, my advice is pretty simple: don’t overeat. But I’m also practical. It’s hard not to overdo it with all of that amazing food staring you in the face. So eat, enjoy … and just do your best.
Of course, a little preventive damage control is always a good idea. For this reason, digestive enzymes can go a long way toward avoiding that “stuffed and bloated” feeling.
Yes, your body makes its own digestive enzymes, but they can become easily overwhelmed when you’re trying to digest 2,000 calories of food all at once. And when your body has trouble digesting food properly, it remains in your digestive tract and leads to the build-up of gas. This gas causes bloating discomfort, which can easily dampen your holiday cheer.
Digestive Enzymes Help Prevent BloatingThe three basic types of food we eat are carbohydrates, protein and fat. Your body produces digestive enzymes to break down each type into their individual “building blocks” for absorption. For carbohydrates, the building blocks are smaller sugars called disaccharides or monosaccharides. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids, and the building blocks of fats are individual fatty acids.
When purchasing a digestive enzyme product, you want to make sure that it provides all of the different enzymes you naturally produce to breakdown the three macromolecules. Here’s what you should look for (names that end in –ase are enzymes):
- Amylase — for digesting starch
- Lactase — for digesting dairy sugar
- Cellulase — for digesting fiber
- Protease — for digesting protein
- Lipase — for digesting fat
The Difference Between Enzyme Dose & Activity
Most digestive enzyme products use comparisons that are based on weight, as in milligrams. However, there isn’t a direct relationship between weight and units of activity. So be cautious about products that list enzymes only in milligrams. This doesn't tell you the actual activity level of the enzyme, which is pretty important.
The enzyme activity of products should be measured and reported in FCC or Food Chemical Codex. Although there aren’t actual optimal FCC numbers for enzymes, the following can be used as a guideline when purchasing them. In general the higher the number, the stronger the enzyme:
- Amylase — 4,000 to 7,000 FCC
- Lactase — 1,000 FCC
- Cellulase — 1,600 FCC
- Protease — 25,000 FCC
- Lipase — 1,000 FCC
Can’t Stop Eating? Take Digestive EnzymesAs we’ve mentioned, the best thing to do is to just not eat so much. So there, we said it. But for those of us who just can’t help it and overindulge, take high quality digestive enzymes to help prevent the uncomfortable bloating that often comes with indulgent meals.
Also note that the best time to take digestive enzymes is around 15 minutes before you eat. This way the enzymes are present in your gut, ready and waiting to start digesting food.
We hope this helps you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal in comfort. Enjoy!