Your food begins the digestion process when your body produces digestive enzymes. As you age, you can suffer illnesses such as pancreatitis and have a decreased level of enzymes. This can make it harder to digest certain foods. It can also cause trouble such as an upset stomach or even pain. If you find that you develop an intolerance for certain foods, there are digestive enzyme supplements that you can get over-the-counter. Take them with a word of caution, as they are not required to go through the rigorous testing process and therefore, their quality varies widely. Remember that the FDA does not regulate these supplements and therefore, some side effects may occur.
Digestive Enzymes Side Effects
Additional digestive enzymes entering the body can cause the naturally harmony to become unbalanced. They may do a fantastic job at correcting improper digestion problems, but they may cause some side effects.
There are some supplements for digestive enzymes, like Miglitol, that can cause a skin rash. This is considered a non-serious side effect, but it can make you uncomfortable. It usually resolves itself without a doctor. But if it spreads or gets worse, please see your physician.
There are some instances when the digestive enzymes side effects will produce intestinal gas. This is a common symptom with those who don’t have great digestive enzymes. Flatulence can be embarrassing, but it is not serious. Your body will ease off as you become used to the supplement.
There are some instances where patients experience intestinal pain. If this continues after you quit the supplement, is unbearable, severe or lingers, you should speak with your doctor.
Digestive enzymes can work in your bowels or your stomach. In either of these situations, an imbalance may be created. You can get bouts of loose stool as a result, especially in the beginning. This shouldn’t last long, and if it does, you must speak with your doctor. Be sure to not become dehydrated during this time.
Other possible digestive enzymes side effects can include:
- Sore throat
- Neck pain
- Vomiting or nausea
- Stuffy nose
- Ear pain
It is rare, but some patients may have allergic reactions that are life-threatening when they are on this medicine. Patients should seek emergency help and stop taking their medication immediately if they have any of the following:
- Difficulty talking or breathing
- Swelling of the throat, tongue, lips, face or mouth
- Rash or hives
- Chest tightness
- Red, blistered, swollen or peeling skin
This medication may raise the risk of having a serious bowel problem known as fibrosing colonopathy where scarring and localized inflammation happen.
What to Do?
Please take note that with any medicine, you should consult with your doctor regularly, especially if experiencing digestive enzymes side effects to be sure something serious isn’t going on. This is especially true to make sure you don’t have something underlying. This is doubly important when you are taking other medicine to insure there aren’t problematic interactions. For instance, those who are on anticoagulants, need to be very cautious and speak with their doctor before staring new medications. For the most part, digestive enzymes will help the body to break food down and absorb nutrients without problems or serious issues.
How to Improve Your Digestion Without Taking Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Luckily, there are things you can do to naturally improve digestion. Improving your digestion can help the healing process and you don’t necessarily have to find enzymes from a store to get the job done.
Unless you have inherited low enzyme production, had your gall bladder removed, or had tests showing your pancreas isn’t working correctly, you can try some of these natural methods to improve digestion.
- Increase natural enzymes in your diet by eating more raw foods. This is especially true of veggies and fruits which contain lots of enzymes for digestion. These are not the only source of raw food. Raw honey is loaded with enzymes as are sprouts. Sprouts are highly recommended because they are loaded with protein, vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes and are considered a super food.
- Juice is important! Those with IBD often can’t handle the fiber in fruits and veggies. Juicing your raw items can get you all the enzymes, chlorophyll, vitamins and micronutrients without all the fiber.
- Chew your food well. You are better to chew your food until it is nearly liquid. Americans tend to eat too fast, causing digestion issues. Take the extra time to really chew your food and your body will thank you. This will also provide the added benefit of slowing you down. Relax and linger on your food as you eat. Chewing your food will mix it with your natural saliva enzymes and improve your digestion more than any other new habit will. You can also use a food processor to puree your food. Both will make it more digestible, adding in your colon health.
- Taking apple cider vinegar 15-20 minutes before eating is helpful. This will help your natural enzyme production, like stretching before a run.
- Consider using bitters. Bitter herbs are natural and have been used for centuries to help digestion. Take this about fifteen minutes before eating. This has also been the function of a pre-dinner salad. This used to contain a lot of different greens, many that were bitter (today it is mostly iceberg which doesn’t do the same thing) to aide in digestion. Add greens and herbs that are more bitter and eat them pre-meal.
- Add ginger to your meals. Ginger will increase digestive enzymes such as lipase. Gingerols have a spicy or hot flavor. They will get your bile flowing and can help with anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants. It also has a digesting enzyme that is aides in protein break-down and is nearly as powerful as papaya. Ginger will aid in digestion and reduce gas.
- Eat more foods that are fermented. These foods have been shown to improve digestion for centuries. They are rich in good bacteria, vitamins such as C and B, and loaded with good enzymes. They can help break down veggies and aid in pre-digestion. These foods involve pickling, Kombucha, Kimchi and others.