Who needs digestive enzyme supplements? If you’re experiencing brain fog, maybe you…
Trekking through the trails of South Dakota. We have to make five “pit stops.” Why?
Someone ate a roll at lunch.
You’re at a super bowl party. You clock the cheese dip. “One little taste probably won’t hurt,” you think.
But by halftime, you’re ready to pack it up and head home. Not because the game is as boring as the 49ers vs the Eagles playoff. But because you know you’re going to be in the bathroom for most of the 2nd half.
Bloating, gas, stomach ache, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn. Between gluten sensitivities and lactose intolerances, more and more of us look for help with our gut and digestion.
Take our Gut Health quiz here
But What Else Happens in the Gut?
Did you know the gut controls more than just our digestion?
Two thousand years ago, Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
To get the full rundown of what happens when your gut health is impaired, read our article about repairing your leaky gut here.
Through the years, we are finding more and more evidence that Hippocrates had it right. And that’s because the gut contains the last line of defense for the body to make substances useable or move them out.
To digest or detox. The gut’s major role.
As a matter of fact, 70% of our immune system lives in our digestive tract!
And sometimes our gut just can’t do the job. So that’s when we end up with problems. Although the problem occurs in the gut, our symptoms can appear in unlikely places.
Brain fog may seem unrelated to your gut. However, more recent research has led to the identification of a gut-brain connection.
Which means, a lack of or imbalance of digestive enzymes can lead to brain fog symptoms.
What are enzymes?
Our bodies use enzymes to cause a chemical reaction in our cells. As a result of this chemical reaction, our cells break down substances (like fat) so our bodies can use them or remove them. Sometimes without these enzymes our bodies cannot break things down in order to use them. And other times, the break-down process takes longer without enzymes. Enzymes almost always consist of proteins.
Specific enzymes unlock specific nutrients. And that’s why we have to use the right enzyme for the problem we’re experiencing.
For instance, lipase breaks down fat. Lactase breaks down lactose, or dairy. DPP-IV takes care of gluten.
Here’s a list of other enzymes our body uses every day:
- Amalayse breaks down starch
- Trypsin changes proteins into amino acids
- Cellulase turns plants into simple sugars our bodies can use – all my vegans pay attention. We’ll get back to this enzyme shortly.
- Acetylocholinesterase unlocks neurotransmitters for building our muscles
The list goes on. But the question is, what do these enzymes have to do with brain fog?
Well, First, What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog hasn’t been classified as a medical condition. Rather it’s a term used to describe a general sense of sluggishness in thinking or lack of mental clarity and focus. Many people include a sense of forgetfulness and confusion. Or some have a feeling of overwhelm while performing mundane tasks.
I remember experiencing a heavy feeling of brain fog right after having Covid in 2022. I no longer felt any signs of illness. And yet certain normal words took much longer to access.
Causes of Brain Fog
We sat down recently to speak to our friend Julia Craven, Vice President of Education and Innovation at Enzymedica. We discussed brain fog. She reminded us many things can lead to brain fog. Her best advice was, “test instead of guess.”
Watch her full interview on brain fog and enzymes here
Certain thyroid conditions can cause a lack of mental clarity. Anemia sometimes causes symptoms like brain fog. So, we highly recommend starting with blood testing. You want to rule out any body chemistry issues when facing mental fog first.
But blood chemistry often isn’t to blame.
Julia Craven with Enzymedica admits she often feels brain fog when she eats too many carbs. As a matter of fact, eating carbs before other macronutrients can devastate blood glucose levels. And we know blood glucose levels can affect our energy and ability to focus.
Additionally, one of the biggest brain fog culprits is lack of sleep. And many people don’t sleep as well as they could because they’re body spends so much time and effort digesting food.
If there’s no blood chemistry issue causing brain fog, enzymes can make a huge, positive difference for you.
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Types of enzymes
Let’s get back to types of enzymes. We’re not trying to belabor the science. But before we can understand IF enzymes can help solve our brain fog problems, we need to know how things have gone awry in the body.
Our bodies naturally produce many enzymes we need. This activity happens in the stomach, small intestine, and pancreas. However, the body can only produce certain enzymes if we provide it the right nutrients to create them.
A Cellulase Example
We mentioned the enzyme cellulase earlier. Cellulase allows us to digest cellulose plant fibers. The body does not naturally produce cellulase. However, the right microflora, in our gut, can produce cellulase on our behalf. But that means we need the right microflora thriving in our bodies.
Many people say, “I like vegetables, but they don’t like me.” We hear over and over again from vegetarians and vegans about constant bloating and gas.
There are only so many times you can recommend, ‘chew your food more thoroughly’ before you get an eye roll.
Note: chewing food thoroughly does help digest those veggies better before they hit your digestive tract.
And yet, no matter how much you chew, many people still experience gas and bloating when they eat broccoli.
Why Gas with Veggies Like Brocolli?
Any broccoli that isn’t completely digested ends up sitting in the digestive tract. And if the body can’t break it down into a useable format, and fast!, it ferments. The fermentation process releases gas. And your gut (and maybe your friends) feels the distress of the fermentation.
Keeping Veggie Fermentation from Happening in the Gut
In order to thoroughly digest veggies like broccoli and cabbage, your body needs the enzyme cellulase. Only, as we previously mentioned, your body doesn’t naturally produce cellulase. But certain micro flora in the gut does!
Many people have gut microbiome issues. Either because of diet, environment or illness. In order for good gut bugs to flourish, they need a few things.
- The right food. Certain foods feed good gut bugs while others don’t. As an example, I decided to give up Diet Dr. Pepper because aspartame negatively affects gut microbiome. In order for good gut bugs to thrive, we’ve got to give them more of what they need. That’s usually a greater variety of plants.
”The knife and fork are still the most powerful weapons against aging and illness” – Ed Jones
- A healthy environment. For example, mold causes all kinds of havoc on our systems. That includes gut flora issues. If your body regularly ingests mold, bad gut bugs get fed and the good ones starve.
- An undamaged digestive tract. Think intestinal villi health. People with celiac disease actually have their own immune system activated to attack their intestinal villi. This attack causes ongoing issues with absorption of necessary nutrients and fluid.
If you don’t have the right gut microflora, there’s nothing to create the cellulase to digest plant fiber thoroughly. So, instead of easily breaking down broccoli, your body spends extra time and energy fermenting and digesting. No wonder you’re exhausted!
Supplemental enzymes, like cellulase, are an easy way to support the body when it needs it. Enzymedica makes Veggiegest exactly for this purpose. And their DigestGold also includes cellulase.
How to Know What Enzymes Your Body Needs
This is when food journaling comes in handy. Food journaling can help you understand which enzymes might best support your body.
Before you journal, it’s important to note, enzymes do not cure medical conditions. They are not permission to “cheat” if you already know you have food allergies and intolerances. Enzymes should be used to support your body.
Julia Craven from Enzymedica says one of the most important things we can do for our health is to relearn how to listen to our bodies. Keeping a food journal helps us track patterns of how we feel in relation to what we’re putting in our bodies.
As a matter of fact, it’s one way many people have found they feel more fatigue when they eat almonds. And almonds are a “healthy food!” That’s why we have to listen to our bodies while we’re listening to medical and health experts. Your body knows best.
When to Take Enzyme Supplements for Brain Fog
Once you identify the kind of support your body needs, you can add enzyme supplements to your health regimen. But many times, people want to know the best time to take supplements.
So, we asked Julia Craven with Enzymedica. She said, the best time to take supplemental enzymes is before you eat. The next best time is to take them while you’re eating. And the next best time is to take them after a meal.
In other words, you can take enzymes any time. But they do their best support work BEFORE you experience symptoms.