Digestive Enzymes for Optimal Brain Health
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As you likely are aware from my work, our brain and body health is entirely dependent on the proper functioning of our digestive system. I mean… digestion is where the brain-building, brain repairing, and brain healing nutrients are extracted from our food. Without digestion working effectively, we aren’t getting the brain-building nutrients we want!
There are several steps that we want to take to ensure that our digestion is functioning optimally, and one of these steps involves digestive enzymes.
Enzymes are proteins that break food down into smaller molecules so they can be easily absorbed. Digestive enzymes play a crucial role in breaking down our food. However, sometimes our bodies don’t produce enough of the enzymes required for effective digestion. Later in this article, we will discuss the various reasons for inadequate enzyme production, but we need to first understand why digestion is so important to brain health.
Since experiencing a severe traumatic brain injury, many connections in my brain have been damaged. I think of rebuilding these connections like building a bridge. In order to build a bridge we need 3 things:
- Skilled Workers: Putting in the work and doing the right kind of targeted therapy to stimulate the growth of neuronal pathways is like enlisting skilled workers to build a bridge. This is covered in depth in my book, How To Feed a Brain: Nutrition for Optimal Brain Function and Repair.
- Supplies: Providing the brain and body with the right kind of brain-building nutrition is like supplying those workers with adequate tools and building supplies.
- Delivery of supplies: In order to get the nutrients to the brain, we must effectively break down our food into nutrients that are packaged and transported in our blood to our brains. This is like having vehicles and roads to transport the supplies to the construction site.
We can have the best bridge architects, the most skilled designers, and the most seasoned workers (targeted therapy), but…
if we don’t provide the right supplies and tools (nutrition), or…
if we don’t get those supplies to the construction site (digestion and circulation)…
A bridge, or new pathways in the brain, are not very well supported or established…
The connections are not well built.
There is so much to say surrounding what I consider to be the most beneficial therapies towards neurorehabilitation (which you can learn more about on The Adventures in Brain Injury Podcast), and…
I wrote an entire book on how to supply the right building materials to the brain through nutrition. But…
We need to ensure that the tools and supplies are getting to the brain (digestion). Because a large amount of the outside world that is introduced to our systems comes from what we eat and drink… and because we have so much control over what we eat and drink, digestion becomes one of our main avenues of empowering ourselves to heal!
So what can we do to ensure proper digestion?
In order for our food to be broken down properly, digestive enzymes play an essential role. The thing is that sometimes our bodies do not produce the enzymes we need for proper digestion. There are several reasons we might not be producing enough enzymes to meet our bodies’ needs for optimal digestion. One of the most common reasons is a deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals. And because of this reduced enzyme production, the nutrition we eat is not absorbed, so the vitamins and minerals we need to produce the enzymes are not supplied. This is one of those vicious cycles of impaired digestion and malnourishment that gets worse and worse until properly addressed.
Other lifestyle factors like inadequate sleep, stress, pollution, and alcohol use can also contribute to low levels of digestive enzymes. Additionally, our body’s ability to produce these vital enzymes gradually decreases over time, and brain injury or disease can contribute to this disruption in our digestive function.
Luckily, we can interrupt the cycle of impaired digestion by supplying digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes help break down complex proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into simpler molecules that the body can absorb easily. This process helps ensure that all of the beneficial nutrients in our food are delivered to their intended destinations, including our brains.
Additionally, if our digestive system is not functioning properly, it can lead to inflammation and a build-up of toxins that can negatively affect our brain health. Digestive enzymes help reduce inflammation by breaking down food before it reaches the intestines, where under-digested food can trigger an immune response and contribute to inflammation.
Given the importance of digestive enzymes to our brain’s health, it is advisable to include foods rich in natural enzymes in our diet (usually from uncooked foods). Supplementing with enzyme products is also a great way to ensure our digestive systems are functioning optimally and helping our brains receive the full benefits of the foods we are eating.
Supplementing and Dosage
But there’s something important to recognize with the “serving size” on supplements: You can have the best product in the world, but if you have the wrong dosage, it’s not gonna work.
The ideal dose for each individual can vary based on their specific health needs and circumstances, and it is important to find YOUR ideal dose.Many people end up taking the “serving size” and then being frustrated that it isn’t working.
The recommended “serving size” on supplements is generally considered to be the dose for the majority of people to see a positive effect. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a bell curve effect where approximately 34 to 36% of individuals may experience a different reaction to a particular compound. This group includes both hyper responders and hypo responders. And this may have nothing to do with weight or height or sex or anything that’s easily measurable.
So there’s a large percentage of folks if you give them one or two capsules, even if that’s what the back of the bottle says, they might not see an effect, or they might see too much of an effect. In other words, a 250 pound man may see a mind-blowing breakthrough with one capsule per meal, and a 100 pound woman may need six per meal before she sees a breakthrough.
If you are reading this, it is likely that you are a hyper or hypo responder, as people who are within the normal range usually don’t embark on the journey of healing their brain and gut, and we need to do some experimentation to find your ideal dose.
How Do I Find My Ideal Dose?
I suggest starting by taking one capsule with each protein-containing meal for a few days and observing your body. If you are sensitive to supplements, you may want to open a capsule and start with just 1/4 of it’s contents.
In a few days, you may experience the following benefits: reduced bloating, improved bowel movements, reduced inflammation-related issues, less severe symptoms, increased ability to tolerate more foods in your diet, greater brain clarity, and/or reduced skin issues.
If you do not experience these benefits, try doubling the dosage for a few days. If nothing happens after a few days, try doubling it again. Enzymes are safe at massive doses. In fact there is a protocol to treat cancer that has been successful using enzymes at very high doses (up to 160 capsules) without food with no adverse effects!
What Happens If I Feel….?
Nothing? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And… if you’re still experiencing unwanted digestive symptoms, it’s time to up your dose. Try doubling it and see how you feel.
Worse? While digestive enzymes are generally safe, even at very large doses, they can sometimes cause side effects in certain individuals. Some potential side effects are stomach upset, bloating, gas, nausea, heartburn (acid reflux), diarrhea, or an upset stomach after taking digestive enzymes. This can be due to the increased activity of enzymes in the digestive system, but again, these effects are very rare, especially when taken with food. If you experience any of these effects, pause taking the supplement until your symptoms improve, and then restart at a slower pace with a smaller dosage.
Allergic reactions? An even more rare side effect is allergic reactions with digestive enzymes. Symptoms may include itching, rash, hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, stop taking enzymes immediately and seek medical attention.
Amazing? You found your perfect dose! Congratulations! Keep taking that many enzymes with each meal. You may want to play with the dosage by removing one capsule and seeing how few you can take while still feeling good. We don’t want to be dependent on a supplement forever, but we certainly want to have it when we need it.
Digestive health is essential for optimal brain functioning, and digestive enzymes are key players in the process. They help break down food so that we can absorb all of its nutrients to fuel our brains with energy. By supplementing with digestive enzymes, we can reduce inflammation-related issues, improve digestion, unlock the potential of the nutrition we eat, optimize energy production and support overall cognitive performance.
Supplementation may take some trial and error to find your ideal dose but it’s worth exploring to optimizing our brain health!
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By supplementing with digestive enzymes (like Gut/Brain), we unlock the potential of the brain-building nutrition we eat. Feed a Brain Gut/Brain Digestive Enzymes contain all the essential catalysts to aid in the breakdown, absorption, and utilization of essential nutrients, ensuring that our brains receive the fuel they need to thrive.
Stay empowered, my friends!