You may notice that by the end of the day your pants are tighter, could it be that you are a regular sufferer of bloating? Abdominal discomfort isn’t always linked to a holiday feast, although overeating is surely a contributor. Bloating can occur for a number of other reasons such as swallowing too much air (carbonated beverages), menstruation or constipation.
Often though bloating is linked to incomplete digestion. Digestive enzymes from food, our saliva, stomach and intestines are an essential part of the digestive process, helping the body break down macro food molecules for absorption.
Fresh, raw foods are the ideal external source of digestive enzymes. Heat and time deactivate these enzymes, so an apple picked and eaten in August is packed full of active enzymes but picked in August and eaten in March not so much. Applesauce (heated apples) does not contain any.
Make sure your diet contains fresh, raw fruits and vegetables as well as unprocessed whole foods to maximize digestion. Too much raw vegetable or fruit on it’s own can also cause bloating, so you can’t make a meal of carrots and apples without some side affects to digestive process.
Papaya and pineapple are excellent sources of digestive enzymes. Whole foods like kidney beans, oat and rice also contain digestive enzymes. These enzymes can withstand some heat but if processed (think white rice) the enzymes will be deactivated.
If you’ve increased your dietary digestive enzymes and your bloating isn’t going away you may have a food intolerance. With the help of a nutritionist you can identify which food or foods your body is struggling to digest. Once identified digestive enzymes are available in supplement form that can target the problem. Do not purchase digestive enzymes unless you know your intolerance(s). Taking Beano, a digestive enzyme product for legumes, grains and vegetables, won’t help if your body is struggling to digest dairy.
You likely know someone who is lactose intolerant; this is the most common food intolerance. Lactose is a milk sugar and without enough lactase (digestive enzyme for lactose) digestive discomfort occurs. Milk does contain lactase but not enough for someone who is lactose intolerant and the ultra pasteurization that modern milk is subjected to deactivates the lactase as well. 75% of adults worldwide show a decrease in lactase production during adulthood. You can also find lactase in almonds, apples, peaches and tomatoes but likely a supplement will be necessary. Good news for dairy lovers, yogurt, kefir and traditionally made hard cheeses have more lactase than milk because of the fermentation processes involved and may be better tolerated. Lactose-reduced and lactose-free dairy products are also available.