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Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

There's been a lot of media attention given recently to Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes. Many people seem confused about the differences between them and the benefits of either! We're here to shed a little light on the subject.

Probiotics are microscopic organisms, generally bacteria but some fungi as well, who live in the human digestive tract and help us out. We inherit them from our mothers. Estimates say we have somewhere between a few teaspoons and a few pounds of them in our guts. They are available in supplement form and in some foods.

Digestive enzymes are chemicals produced by our bodies. They are complex molecules and as we age (in this case, once we hit our thirties) our internal production starts to slow down. Again, they are available in supplement form, mostly derived from plants.

For a more detailed look at each, follow the link....

Digestive Enzymes:
Digestive enzymes are chemical "scissors" that help us break down our food. We produce a large assortment to digest the wide variety of foods we eat. Many people are familiar with Beano, a product mareketed to prevent gas when eating beans. Beano contains one specific enzyme that breaks down a particular type of complex carbohydrate typically found in gassy foods like beans, broccoli and whole grain breads.

Digestive enzymes are found in our saliva, in our stomachs and in our small intestines. (There are also many other enzymes that serve other functions in our bodies.) As we age, in this case by about age 30, we decrease our internal production of enzymes. To boost your digestive powers, you can take a digestive enzyme supplement. Look for a "full spectrum" product, which will contain many different enzymes for digestion of many different foods. If you get one that contains at least 4 words ending in "ase," it will cover the major food groups.

Many people find that taking enzymes helps decrease gas and bloating. You can take them when you eat foods you don't typically eat. About once a year, some people take one with every meal for a couple weeks, just to keep stocked up on them! People say they are less tired after eating when they take digestive enzymes.

There is a lot of media attention focused on probiotics right now. Yogurt companies are cashing in on the latest "magic bullet." Probiotics are simply "good" or "friendly" bacteria that live in our guts. What are they good for? They help keep our internal environments working right. They keep our pH levels conducive to digestion and absorbtion, and out of the acidic range that many less friendly bacteria and yeast thrive in. They also support peristalsis, the muscular contraction that moves food and waste through our digestive systems. Medical evidence suggests that Probiotics boost the immune system.

The most commonly known probiotics are acidophilus and bifidus, although there are many, many others and in fact many strains of each of these two. Probiotics are found in miso (the paste, not the powder - and don't boil it or you'll kill the little guys!), fermented (not canned) saurkraut, fermented kimchee and yogurt and kefir. I'm not sold on the yogurts advertised as containing Probiotics. The Probiotics may be good, but the yogurts also contain non-organic dairy, artificial color and flavor and sweeteners. You can do better!

One of the most powerful probiotics on the market is a Japanese import called Dr. Ohhira's. Users report improvement in overall digestion, decrease in gas and bloating and fuller, easier bowel movements.

Probiotics are particularly important after a course of antibiotics or during treatment for candida or other intestinal invaders.