With Thanksgiving just past you’ve probably already rushed full speed ahead into your favorite holiday foods, right? Perhaps, but our digestive systems could really use some extra support, now more than ever. Fall and winter seasons are times when our bodies tend to crave those high fat, calorie rich comfort foods that can provide us with the extra energy to keep the body warm in these colder months.
However, the tendency to overindulge, especially during the holidays, can leave us with a few extra pounds, as well as some unpleasant side effects which can potentially turn into chronic digestive issues. Gaining a little winter weight is often a natural function as our metabolism slows down to conserve energy, and our bodies store extra fat for added warmth. With cold weather keeping us inside the majority of the time, most of us won’t be getting the exercise we normally would in the spring and summer months. But while gaining a couple of pounds during the winter may be normal for many people, unhealthy digestive symptoms such as heartburn, gas, and sluggish bowels, don’t have to be a part of this holiday package.
One of the best things you can do to support your digestion this season is to supplement with digestive enzymes, herbs and nutrients that help to break down calorie rich foods, provide much needed “warmth” to the digestive process, support overall digestive health, and keep your intestinal system moving to prevent bowel stagnation.
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are highly specialized protein molecules that are present in living cells. They perform numerous functions within an organism to breakdown nutrients, build and repair tissues, promote energy production, and regulate thousands of other metabolic tasks. With regards to digestion, specific digestive enzymes function to break down foods into their nutritional components to be absorbed into the blood stream, while also helping to remove toxins. Our gastrointestinal systems produce digestive enzymes in our saliva, stomach, intestinal and pancreatic secretions, however, with all of the hard work and stress we place on our system with foods that are difficult to breakdown and digest, our digestive enzymatic functions can become weakened over time. Digestive enzyme capacity is also believed to slowly diminish with age. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can assist our bodies in the efficient breakdown of nutrients and detoxification of wastes, thus providing critical energy support and increased nutrient availability.
Here are several of the digestive enzymes I recommend for better digestive health:
- Protease: Breaks down proteins into amino acids, aids in overall digestion and nutrient absorption
- Lipase: Aids in digestion and processing of lipids (fats, oils, triglycerides)
- Amylase: Breaks down carbohydrates and starches
- Invertase: Breaks down carbohydrates, especially sucrose (sugar)
Digestive health equals overall health
Needless to say, efficient digestion is critical, not just for our gastrointestinal health, but for our overall health. After all, our vitality depends on the nutrients we get from eating healthy, life sustaining foods, and from our body’s ability to efficiently remove toxins and wastes.
In addition to supplementing with extra digestive enzymes, there are a number of key herbs that, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Traditional Tibetan Medicine, provide essential support and warmth to the digestive system. In TCM, when the digestive “fire” is “dampened” or “extinguished” over time with foods and substances that impede efficient processing of nutrients, we experience digestive weakness which can result in a number of unpleasant symptoms, such as bloating, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
Here are a few of the herbs used in Traditional Chinese and Tibetan Medicine to provide support and warmth to the digestive system:
- pomegranate seed to strengthen bile flow and intestinal secretions
- lesser galangal to facilitate digestion and relieve gas
- black pepper to help neutralize stomach acid
- cardamom to bring warmth and promote gastric secretions
- cinnamon to fight gas and protect from harmful microbes
- ginger to prevent nausea and flatulence
- sacred lotus to alleviate food stagnation and aid in nutrient absorption
Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980's, is a respected author, lecturer, researcher, product formulator and clinical practitioner.
Since 1991 Dr. Eliaz has maintained a busy private practice in northern California that focuses primarily on integrative, holistic protocols for cancer patients. He leads an integrative medical team at Amitabha Clinic in Sebastopol, California with focus on cancer and other chronic ailments.
To learn more, please visit www.dreliaz.org.
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