Digestive enzyme deficiency can be due to a lack of production or because they break down before they become active.
Digestive enzymes work best when your body temperature and metabolic rate are normal. It also helps if all your hormones are in check.
Many patients I’ve seen with thyroid or adrenal dysfunction can have an impaired ability to use their digestive enzymes – even if the supply is adequate. For example, when a person has a high fever, the pancreas won’t work as well, and food isn’t digested properly.
In my experience, a critical factor in enzyme deficiency is stress. When you are stuck in the “fight or flight” state, your stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol increase. This high-stress state reduces the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes. Some people will respond by telling me that they aren’t stressed. But the truth is, if you’re alive, you have some degree of stress. Even your ability to chew food properly and produce ptyalin, a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme in the saliva, becomes very impaired under stress.
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When your body is in the “rest and digest” mode (aka the parasympathetic mode), your enzyme output and activity increase significantly. People who meditate regularly, who do yoga, and who practice mindfulness, tend to have a lot less bloating and gas than people with high stress levels.
In addition to stress-induced digestive enzyme deficiency, eating poor quality foods can make things worse. Most raw natural foods contain enzymes to help in their digestion. For example, bananas contain amylase, which is a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme. On the other hand, a box of French fries doesn’t provide a lot of digestive enzymes.
Highly processed foods are very hard on the gut and, over time, contribute to digestive enzyme deficiency. When you start to eat healthier food, your body will produce more enzymes and break down food more efficiently. Until you understand and embrace the connection between stress and digestion, it’s hard to get your gut to a healthy place.
Taking the time to relax is an investment in making sure your digestive enzymes are of the proper quantity and quality.