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Digestive Enzymes

I’m frequently asked if it’s helpful to take supplemental digestive enzymes. The answer is an unequivocal “sometimes.”

Most of us have enough digestive enzymes in our gastrointestinal tracts to break down the food we eat and help us digest it. But as we age (some of us faster than others) both the quantity and the quality of the enzymes decline.

You might need supplemental enzymes if you consistently notice symptoms of  indigestion, like gas, bloating, and heartburn after meals. Or if you face a large meal with some dread, fearful that you’ll feel slightly ill afterward. Although your doctor can order a comprehensive analysis of your digestive system, it’s a rather involved procedure and on the pricey side.

If you have the symptoms I mention here, a simpler solution is to take supplemental enzymes for a month or so and see if they help you. Digestive enzymes are a mixture of the common enzymes needed for fat, protein, and carbohydrate digestion. Since they’re not absorbed into your bloodstream, they’re virtually free of side effects.

You can find good digestive enzymes at any health food store. I myself am most familiar with Similase, a product that’s been around for years, but most brands are good. You take the capsules during a meal–usually two capsules with a medium sized meal, three with a large one.

How will you know if the enzymes are working for you? First, you should feel better as a result of taking them, with a reduction or elimination of your symptoms. Second, if you stop taking the enzymes your symptoms will return. If you don’t notice any improvement after a month, don’t waste your money on a second bottle.

To read about Similase, click here.


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