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Digestive Enzymes vs Digestive Bitters – Which Should You Choose?

Digestive Enzymes or Digestive Bitters
Is your digestion system working optimally? Even though we eat every day, most of us do not know what normal digestive function looks like. How do you know if your symptoms are a result of your body digesting food, or the opposite? Digestion is the process of breaking down food so that your body can used the nutrients for various organ functions. When you eat, the food travels from your mouth through the esophagus, and into the stomach. It will move through the small intestine and large intestine (colon) before exiting via the anus. But that’s not all – your pancreas, liver and gallbladder all play important roles in your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients properly. When digestion issues occur, it may be a sign that one of these organs need extra support. Normal Digestive Sensations Having 1-3 easy bowel movements per day Bloat or gas after eating foods high in sulfur (ex: onions, beans, garlic, lentils, asparagus) Feeling fullness after a large meal Abnormal Digestive Sensations Feeling bloated after only a few bites of foods Nausea after eating Bloat or gas after every meal Acid reflux Stomach pain or cramping Mushy or lumpy stool Solving Abnormal Digestive Symptoms If you are experiencing abnormal digestive symptoms on a regular basis, you may want to consider supporting your digestive system strategically. From a holistic perspective, taking digestive bitters and digestive enzymes before meals are popular options. Digestive Bitters Digestive bitters are a blend of herbs that will simulate digestion – everything from the production of stomach acid, to stimulating the liver, to producing your own digestive enzymes to break down food. Our bodies have bitter receptors in the mouth, so when you taste these herbs, digestive juices and enzymes receive a kickstart and run more smoothly. As a result, symptoms like bloating, gas and indigestion can be eased. These tinctures consist of bitter herbs soaked into organic alcohol, creating a potent extract. You only need 1-2mL of this tincture before meals to experience amazing effects! Unlike digestive enzymes, digestive bitters can be taken long term because the body will not become dependent on them. Digestive bitter blends: St. Francis Canadian Bitters 100mL, Botanica Digestive Bitters 50mL Bitter herbs: dandelion, artichoke, chicory root, gentian root, licorice, burdock Digestive Enzymes While digestive bitters encourage your body to make its own digestive enzymes, you may choose to supplement directly with a blend of digestive enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for chemically breaking down food in the digestive tract in order to be fully absorbed. The pancreas makes many of these enzymes naturally and sends them to the intestines, where most of the absorption occurs. However, certain health conditions such chronic pancreatitis, can interfere with this production. Without sufficient enzymes, you cannot absorb nutrients, even if you have a healthy diet. For those who have poor digestion or malnutrition, digestive enzymes can be supplemented to help your own enzymes. The main types of enzymes are amylase, lipase and proteases, which break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins, respectively. Some blends may also include hydrochloric acid (HCl), making it a great option for those that experience heartburn due to low stomach acid. Digestive enzyme formulas can also contain ox bile, which is needed to break down fats. People who have had their gallbladder removed will have difficulty storing bile, and may want to supplement with a digestive enzyme containing extra bile. There are many formulas available – finding the perfect one will depend on your specific digestive needs. It is important to take digestive enzymes before or right after eating, so that they have time to break down the food. It is not recommended to take these enzymes long-term, as it can affect your body’s ability to produce its own. Instead, use them when digestive symptoms are flaring up, or to combat a deficiency caused by a specific health condition. Digestive enzyme formulas: Enzymedica Digest Gold 45 Capsules, NOW Super Enzymes 180 Capsules A Permanent Solution? While both digestive bitters and digestive enzymes offer relief from digestive issues, they are not a primary treatment. They can be used to boost the digestive process, but if symptoms persist, please consult your primary health practitioner. Author Grace Tien is a dietetics and holistic nutrition grad. She creates sustainable, delicious meal plans to help clients with their health goals. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.

Healthier Sugar Alternatives – Do They Exist?

sugar alternatives
Take a moment and think about this: how many high-sugar foods do you eat in a day? Protein bars, cereals, smoothies, juices, lattes, kombucha…not to mention obvious ones like cookies and cake. Many of these foods are part of our daily diet, even among the “healthiest” nutritionists and dietitians. While it may seem unfathomable to cut out all these foods in the name of health, we have some good news for you: sugar is not the enemy! Cutting out all these delicious foods is not necessarily healthy. There are so many options for sugar these days, and healthier alternatives do exist. Why sugar-free options are not the solution    If you have a way of getting that sweet taste without consuming sugar, would you make the switch? You may be familiar with some popular artificial sugars (sugar-free options), such as maltitol, erythritol, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Sucralose, Splenda and Acesulfame K. When they first came out onto the market, sugar-free alternatives were all the rage. After all, they provided that sweet taste without any calories. They were deemed safe for diabetic patients and those who were cutting sugar out of their diet for health reasons. The truth is, sugar-free options are called “sugar-free” because they are made from artificial substances that your body does not recognize. Your body cannot digest it, so it passes straight through the digestive system. And while these artificial sugars do not stay in the body, they can wreak havoc while passing through the digestive tract. These toxic compounds have been linked to changes in the gut microflora, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, increased inflammation and even insulin resistance. Healthier sweeteners to try On the other hand, natural sugars are easy for your body to digest, and are often filled with other minerals and vitamins that are nutritious. Yes, this means that your sugar can be healthy too! Coconut sugar Also known as coconut palm sugar, coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut plant. It contains many minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and potassium, as well as polyphenols and antioxidants. Unlike white sugar, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index and will not cause a huge blood sugar spike. Best options: Ecoideas Coconut Sugar Organic 454g, One Earth Coconut Sugar 1.5kg Raw honey Unpasteurized (raw) honey is a powerhouse of nutrients. It is traditionally used for its medicinal effects for wounds, colds and infections. Raw honey is antibacterial and antifungal – you can use it to kill pathogens, topically or internally. It works great as a cough fighter or to soothe sore throats. Even if you’re not sick, adding a teaspoon to your cup of tea tastes delicious! Best options: Dutchman’s Gold Raw Honey 1kg, One Root Raw Wildflower Honey 1kg Maple syrup Pure maple syrup is another natural sugar that contains many minerals. It is a rich source of manganese, riboflavin (vitamin B2), copper and calcium. You can bake with maple syrup, or add it to your coffee every morning. However, please note that commercial pancake syrup and pure maple syrup are very different. When looking for a good quality maple syrup, check the ingredients and make sure “maple syrup” is the only ingredient in the list. Bonus points if it comes from a farm! Best options: Canadian Heritage Organic Maple Syrup 250ml, Benefits by Nature Maple Syrup Organic 1L Incorporating sugar into a healthy lifestyle Sweets and desserts may be the first foods that people tend to cut out when starting a new diet. But once you cut out all sugars, this diet is very difficult to maintain. Temptations are everywhere. Donuts at work, birthday celebrations, your best friend’s baking…there will be countless others. It is for this reason that cutting out all sugars is not a long-term solution. Sugar can be part of a healthy lifestyle – it’s all about which options you are choosing! Author Grace Tien is a women’s health holistic nutritionist. She helps her clients optimize their nutrition habits so that they can get rid of afternoon slumps and live each day full of energy. Grace specializes in nutrition for healthy periods, you can find out more at @gracetien.ca on Instagram.