How digestion works: Digestion is a complex and fascinating process that starts in the mouth and ends at the… well, the other end. The breakdown of large complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins relies on the mechanics of chewing, a good dose of acid secreted by the stomach, and on specialized enzymes that breakdown food particles into simple parts that can then be absorbed across the gut. Mechanical digestion of carbohydrates starts in the mouth with chewing. Next, a specialized enzyme called peptase, with the help of stomach acid, takes on proteins in the stomach. When the foods leaves the stomach the remaining parts are broken down by bile from the gall gladder, and enzymes secreted by the pancreas, as well as those situated along the intestines.
What can go wrong? In a perfect world, digestion is seamless, but for many people, meals come with unpleasant burping, heartburn, bloating and discomfort. Indigestion is especially common around the holidays, a time where bad habits are amplified; eating large portions, eating too quickly, eating late into the night and enjoying many processed foods. These problems are exacerbated for those using pharmaceuticals such as NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used for pain), antibiotics (which upset the balance of gut flora) and over-the-counter antacids (which disarm acid needed for digestion in the stomach). Smoking and excessive alcohol ingestion can also damage the stomach lining. For the aged population, diminishing reserves of both stomach acid, as well as enzymes, make for a perfect storm. Furthermore, when our brain registers that we are stressed (deemed the sympathetic state) many mundane but important activities like digestion, grind to a halt. Stress also goes hand-in-hand with disruptive habits such as eating too much, too fast, and consuming more processed foods. Emotional stress can manifest in your gut in many ways: abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, heart burn, nausea and loss of appetite.
Enzymes to the rescue! There is a reason why NOW® Super Enzymes is one of the best-selling enzyme products. This formula provides a comprehensive variety of digestive aids to target all of our macronutrients: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Moreover, the sources include both pancreatic and food derived (papaya and pineapple) enzymes. Pancreatic enzymes have a long history of use in mainstream medicine, making them a mainstay of most formulas. However, the fruit derived enzymes are able to survive in a broader range of pH levels and therefore provide extra assurances of efficacy. One of the enzymes in this formula is a specialized acid-stable enzyme normally found in the stomach. This formula also contains bile, originating in the liver, and important for the processing of fats and fat soluble vitamins. Bile may also help with bacterial overgrowth and with the movement of food through the intestines. Some people may have reduced or poorly timed bile, especially those lacking a gallbladder. And finally, this formula contains acid (betaine hydrochloride) to assist with digestion in the stomach.