Why am I so bloated?
Some foods make us bloated. A few of them are pretty notorious. Like beans.
Did you grow up singing some variation of this song?
Beans, beans, good for your heart
The more you eat, the more you fart
The more you fart, the better you feel
So let’s eat beans for every meal!
One reason you might be bloated is because the foods you put in your mouth do not break down right during the digestion process.
Digestion Begins in Your Brain
If you were to start thinking of some of your favorite foods right now, it’s likely that you would start to have extra saliva. (Try it.)
When you walk by a restaurant and smell the delicious aromas, you start to feel hungry, right?
Digestion starts in your brain.
Your five senses send signals to your brain that food is coming. Your brain then tells your digestive system to prepare.
Next Comes How You Eat
The foods (aka: macronutrients) we eat have to be broken down into their individual (smaller) parts so that we can properly absorb and digest them. They’re just too big otherwise—thus the “macro” in “macronutrients.” After your food is broken down into the basic building blocks, your body can then use these for all components of life.
You run into problems when food doesn’t digest (or break down) in the right way.
The first cause of this is not chewing your food well. Don’t zone out, focused on a screen, when you’re eating. Focus on your food and chew it until it’s like a smoothie.
The Biggest Part of Digestion
Another big reason for food not properly digesting is a lack of proper digestive enzymes.
Some high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables contain enzymes of their own that work with digestive enzymes to break down foods faster and allow your body to access nutrients quickly for cell reparation and growth. However, when food is grown in soil that doesn’t have enough nutrients, or if that food is processed or prepared with heat, it doesn’t have the enzymes anymore.
If foods do not include this pairing of essential enzymes, or if the body is unable to produce enough enzymes to promote healthy digestion and diverse microbial life, your body may not absorb the nutrients properly.
This could lead to symptoms such as:
- Thyroid issues
- Lackluster hair, skin, and nails
- Mood swings
- Digestive distress
- And depression
Enzyme consumption and production is intrinsically tied to well-being. Certain foods like pineapples, mangos, papayas, bananas, kiwis, and honey have been used in Central and South America for centuries to regulate digestion and inflammation in the GI tract.
Many raw foods (grown in nutrient-rich soil) also have digestive enzymes. Typically, fermented foods are not heated and are another source of beneficial enzymes. These would include sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and even apple cider vinegar.
Who Should Consider Taking Digestive Enzymes?
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 by digestive enzymes, and the larger pieces travel further down the digestive tract to the microbiota where those little critters start breaking them down themselves—usually causing gas.
Of course, it is prudent to always check with 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.
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, focus on your food, eat slower, and chew more thoroughly. This helps to break down food so you are not as bloated and can also 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.
You can find my favorite digestive enzyme here. (Affiliate link.) The USANA® Digestive Enzyme contains a wide range of supplemental enzymes that support the breakdown of dietary carbohydrates, fats, protein, lactose, and cellulose.
When we can’t digest our food, we can’t provide our bodies with nutrients. When dealing with symptoms of improperly digested food (like feeling bloated,) it’s easy to want to jump straight into using a supplement. But many times I would rather try other strategies first.
A simple change like sitting down for meals could provide a fulfilling way to destress and allow our enzymes to provide break down those nutrients that will speed us on our way. Allowing your 5-senses to prepare your digestive system is another simple change that can help greatly.
If you decide to try digestive enzyme supplements; and not all of them are created equal. Make sure to check for quality ingredients that leave out fillers that could denature the enzymes. These digestive enzymes pass all the questions I ask of any supplement I consider buying.