All About Digestive Enzymes

 

By now,  you probably have heard a lot about digestive enzymes  and probiotics.

However,  did you know not everyone should be taking digestive enzyme supplements; and not all of them are created equal.

As a practitioner, I find that many people with digestive issues want to jump straight into using a supplement. And many times I would rather try other strategies first. Not to mention, that some supplements can be harmful if used inappropriately.

So, let’s dive into a few of the common digestive enzymes, what they do, and who should NOT take them.

What are digestive enzymes?

Technically, “enzymes” are compounds that help critical biochemical reactions to happen in your body. These reactions can be anything, from making neurotransmitters like serotonin, to burning food for energy, to breaking down food we eat into smaller pieces that our guts can absorb.

Oh, and they all end with “ase”.

As I just hinted, “digestive enzymes” are specifically those enzymes we use for digestion. They’re enzymes that our digestive system naturally makes and secretes when we eat.

Now, all of the “macronutrients” we eat (carbs, protein & fat) need to be broken down into their individual (smaller) parts so that we can properly absorb and digest them. They’re just too big otherwise, and if we don’t absorb them properly, we can get symptoms of fatigue, malnutrition, digestive distress, or a host of other symptoms.

It is these individual (smaller) parts that our body amazingly rearranges and uses to create other larger molecules that our body needs.

The most common digestive enzymes you’ll see on product labels are:

● Amylase – Helps to break down starch into its sugars.
● alpha-Galactosidase – Helps to break down specific “fermentable carbohydrates” into its sugars.
● Lactase – Helps to break down lactose into its sugars.
● Protease – Helps to break down protein into its amino acids.
● Bromelain and/or Papain – Help to break down protein into its amino acids.
● Lipase – Helps to break down fats into its lipids.

Who should consider taking digestive enzymes?

I would always recommend that you see a qualified health care practitioner for an expert opinion on whether your issues can be related to digestion, and which, if any, supplements can help you.

In general, the most common digestive symptoms that enzymes *may* help with are bloating, cramping, and/or diarrhea. Particularly if it happens after eating certain foods (think lactose-intolerance symptoms after eating dairy).

One reason for these symptoms can be that food particles are not broken down properly, and the larger pieces travel further down the digestive tract to the microbiota where those little critters start breaking them down themselves. And this is definitely troublesome for certain people.

Don’t get me wrong, a healthy gut microbiota is absolutely essential for good health. And more and more research is showing just how it can affect not only our digestion, but also our immune system, and even our mood.

What do I need to know? – Medical conditions

Of course, you should read the label of any products you take, and take them as directed, especially if they’re not specifically recommended for you by your health care practitioner who knows your history.

Here are two critical things to be aware of:

1 – Digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates into sugars are not recommended for diabetics, or pregnant/breastfeeding women.

This is because taking them breaks down more carbohydrates into sugars than your body normally would; so, anyone at risk of blood sugar issues should take caution.

2 – When it comes to enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids, there are a few people who should avoid them because of potential interactions. That is if you have an ulcer, or are taking blood-thinners or anti-inflammatories, or if you’re having surgery.

The reason is because the digestive enzymes that break down protein are thought to cause or worsen ulcers, as well as have the ability to “thin” the blood and prevent normal clotting.

What do I need to know? – Possible Side effects

Using digestive enzyme supplements for a prolonged period of time may well justify an appointment with a knowledgeable practitioner. There may be strategies other than daily supplementation that can serve you better.

If you find that your symptoms get worse, or even if they don’t get better, you should probably stop using them.

Allergies are always a possiblity, so if you know or suspect you’re allergic, then you should avoid them.

And, as always, keep supplements away from children.

Before considering a digestive enzyme supplement

You shouldn’t just jump to supplementing with digestive enzymes without a proper diagnosis, or trying a few strategies first.

My first recommendation for digestive distress would be to relax more, eat slower, and chew more thoroughly. This helps to break down food and can put less stress on your digestive tract.

The second step would be to try eliminating certain troublesome foods from your diet (dairy & gluten, for example) and see if that helps.

Conclusion:

While many supplements are safe products, they’re not all for everyone.

I recommend that you:
● Read your labels carefully (who should take them, how to take them, when to stop taking them).
● If you have a medical condition or are taking medications speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
● If you want expert advice on whether a specific supplement is for you, speak with a qualified health care practitioner.

And as usual,  here is a great recipe for you to try:

 

Tropical (digestive) smoothie (food containing bromelain & papain):

Serves 1

1 cup pineapple, diced
1 cup papaya, diced
1 banana, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
ice if desired

Put all ingredients(except ice) into the blender and blend. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: The levels of enzymes in whole pineapple and papaya aren’t as concentrated as taking them in a supplement; so if you’re not allergic to these delicious fruits, you can try this smoothie.

References:

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/digestive-enzyme-supplements/

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=514&lang=eng

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=516&lang=eng

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=196&lang=eng

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=508&lang=eng

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=515&lang=eng

Natural Medicines Database, Bromelain, Papain, Retrieved January 21, 2017 from https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com

Spring Cleaning: Time to Throw Out the Excuses

springclean

Other than New Year’s, there is probably no other time during the year that motivates us to make a fresh start like springtime does.  When the warm breezes start blowing, we want to throw open the windows and let the rebirth all around us revitalize our homes and our spirits.

Because it seems natural to clean out the old during this time of year, it’s a great time to come face to face with our excuses for not getting fit and healthy.  Excuses pile up just like the clutter that we accumulate in our houses, but it’s time to come clean.

What is your excuse for not choosing health?

I don’t have the time to exercise:  This is likely one of the most common excuses.  You are busy.  You have to work all day (or all night), you have to get the kids to school, you have to cook dinner, go to the grocery store, mow the lawn, change the oil in the car, care for your aging parents—there is simply no time for exercise.

Really?

Consider this. If you do not exercise, you will almost certainly begin experiencing the illness and disease that comes from an inactive lifestyle.  When you begin experiencing symptoms, you will have to make an appointment with the doctor, drive to your appointment, wait to be seen, schedule additional tests at the hospital, and wait for your prescriptions to be filled at the pharmacy.  And with chronic illness, this scenario will be played out month after month after month.  And it takes a lot of time.

Will you find the time in your busy life to see to your medical issues?

Yes, of course you will.  You will make sure that you adjust your schedule and your life to accommodate your illness.  So why not adjust your schedule now to accommodate the prevention of illness through exercise? You do have the time; you just have to decide to use it.

The truth is that if you do not make the time for exercise, you will have to make time for illness.  And exercise takes a lot less time out of your life than disease.

I don’t like to exercise:  Again, a pretty common excuse.  But it won’t let you off the hook.  Lots of people do not like to exercise, but they make themselves do it anyway. Do you like feeling tired?  Do you like being overweight?  Do you like having to undergo medical tests?  Without exercise, you will feel tired, be overweight and become sick, so it comes down to choosing your ‘dislike.’

I don’t have the energy to exercise:  If you are unfit, you likely have low energy.  And when you don’t have much energy, the last thing you can imagine is exercising.  But until you become more active, you will not have the energy you so long for.  As you begin exercising, you will start having more energy.  You won’t start feeling better until you start moving.

It’s just not the right time for me to start working out.   “I’ll start working out when…

  • I get some decent exercise clothes
  • Summer vacation starts
  • The kids go back to school
  • I get my house organized
  • Work lets up
  • I have more time
  • Life calms down
  • The kids get older
  • The weather warms up a little
  • The weather cools down a little
  • Someday…just not today

It will never be the perfect time to start a fitness routine.

You just have to start.

Surrender your excuses

Decide to stop hiding behind your excuses.  Make a clean sweep and toss those excuses out.  Everybody has excuses for not exercising.  The fit and healthy people around you choose to give up the excuses and just do it.  That doesn’t mean it is easy for them.  It just means that they love feeling energetic, strong, healthy, and empowered enough to push in and get it done.

You can be that way too.

Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong and it’s Making You Fat and Tired

 

HealthyEating

Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!

And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?

Well, maybe…

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we?

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

  • A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

How you eat and drink

Also pay attention to how you eat and drink.  Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.

Breathe. This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.

Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?  Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don’t forget about drinking your food. Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack.

And don’t gulp it down too fast.If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

Summary:     Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.

 

Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chia Peach Green Smoothie

Serves 1

handful spinach

1 Scoop your favorite protein powder

1 banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 chopped peach

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Add ingredients to blender in order listed (you want your greens on the bottom by the blade so they blend better and have the chia on the bottom to absorb some liquid before you blend).Wait a couple of minutes for the chia seeds to start soaking up the almond milk

Blend,  Serve and Enjoy!

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals

 

Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing.

And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.

It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days.

But it doesn’t always stop there.

Sometimes we overeat on regular days. Or at regular meals.  Or All. The. Time.

Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.

(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)

Tip #1: Start with some water

When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.

But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.

Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).

Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.

Win-win!

Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”

You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?

This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.

Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.

Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.

When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.

So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.

Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.

Tip #3: Start with the salad

You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.

But don’t start there.

(Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad).

Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.

Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They’re “satiating”.

And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.

Summary:

Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.

Here’s a few water recipes,  I found on the internet:

Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas

If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:

  • Slices of lemon & ginger
  • Slices of strawberries & orange
  • Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
  • Chopped pineapple & mango
  • Blueberries & raspberriesTip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/7-health-benefits-of-water/http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

 

 

 

What is Metabolism?

steps-involved-in-lipid-metabolism

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

How big you are counts too!

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.

So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don’t forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon thyme

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

dash salt & pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Preheat oven to 425F. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Body Image

 

Great quote, “You can’t change a body that you hate.” -Janell Yule

It is no wonder that most of us struggle with body image…

 

We are bombarded EVERYDAY with messages of how we “should” look.

 

We’re hit from all angles – social media, traditional media, healthcare providers, our friends, our family, and our significant others are directly or indirectly providing us with cues as to what our appearance should be.

 

But most often the person who is speaking loud and clear about how you should look is YOU.

80% of women report being unhappy with the way they look, meaning the vast majority of us have some degree of body dissatisfaction. 

 

This is such a big problem because body dissatisfaction is linked to self-esteem, self-worth, and depression (among other things).

 

It’s up to you to realistically assess, understand, and change the internal and external messages and cues about ideal bodies and their effects on your self esteem and self worth.

 

Easier said than done…I know.  Please read on…

Self-Acceptance

For much of my life, I engaged in healthy behaviors like exercise and healthy eating because I wanted to change the way my body looked.  Seems like a good plan, right?

 

Well the truth is…

 

Body dissatisfaction, and negative self-talk are NOT sustainable motivators.  You will “fall of the wagon” if those are your drivers.

 

Remember, you and your body are always doing the best they can at any given moment.  Only accepting yourself as long as you look a certain way is NOT an act of self-love.

 

What if instead you practiced finding self-acceptance and self-compassion?

 

I always believed that if I accepted myself as I was, that I would become complacent and lack motivation to engage in healthy behaviors…

 

That couldn’t be farther from the truth!

 

Self-acceptance is not “giving up,” but rather it spurs us into further action.  Engaging in self-acceptance can free up the mental space that was taken up with negative self talk to allow us to practice better choices moving forward.

 

You can be self-compassionate while striving for the most challenging goals. 

The difference lies not in where you end up, but how you think about the ups and downs of your journey.

-Dr. Heidi G. Halvorson

 

Practicing Self-Love

Fast forward to today…

 

For the first time in my life, my mindset is one of self-love and self-acceptance.

 

I choose to engage in healthy behaviors daily because they honor and support my body.  Because of this single shift, I feel a new sense of freedom and motivation.

 

I am able to be much more consistent with my behaviors because they come from a place of love and positivity instead of negativity and frustration.

 

When you love and honor your body every goal you meet will be a reason to celebrate versus an opportunity to pick out and correct another physical flaw.

 

Do I still have days when I find myself engaging in negative self-talk about my body?

 

YES!

 

But it happens much less often, and when it does, I catch it quickly and remind myself that my negative behavior isn’t serving me.  I then shift my attention to something about my body that I am grateful for, or something that my body is capable of…

 

For example, I am grateful for my strong legs.  They give me the ability to squat, deadlift, and carry me everywhere I go.

 

 

Focus on Health First

One of the ways to make this mental shift is to focus on your health first.

 

How is your sleep? 

 

Is your energy good throughout the day? 

 

Are you more emotionally stable? 

 

How often do you get sick? 

 

Are you able to focus clearly when needed? 

 

These things are all impacted by how you care for yourself:   what you eat, your exercise routine, your relationships with yourself and others, and how much you sleep.

 

Your body will change because you are consistently practicing healthy lifestyle behaviors, but it will FEEL much different because your initial intention is one of self-love and self-acceptance.

 

Engaging in self-love and self-care practices becomes much more enjoyable when you free yourself of body dissatisfaction.

 

For example, training will be more about keeping your body strong, flexible, and mobile versus fixing your appearance.  And when you are strong, flexible, and mobile your outer physical appearance will shift.  You will be focused on ALL OF THE AMAZING things your body can do like squat, deadlift, or row.

 

Your life becomes much more enjoyable when you shift your focus and energy away from having the “perfect body,”  because I can tell you the “perfect body” doesn’t exist!!!  Even the women you view as having the “ideal” body, struggle with their own body image.  Seriously, they do!

 

“And I said to my body.  Softly:  ‘I want to be your friend.’  It took a long breath.  And replied ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’ “-Nayyirah Waheed

Food for thought,

Valarie