It seems Americans are reluctant to talk about their digestive issues. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, 56 percent of the participants said they believed their gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms were not worth discussing with their healthcare practitioner, even if they occured several times a month.
Results also revealed 72 percent of adults age 18 or older experienced at least one of the following GI symptoms a few times a month or more: diarrhea, gas and bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight-loss and non-specific GI discomfort. Further, most of the participants had lived with their symptoms for more than six months.
The survey was commissioned by the biopharmaceutical company AbbVie in an effort to raise awareness about digestive health and a condition known as EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), in which the pancreas fails to produce enough of the enzymes needed to digest food properly—mainly amylase, lipase and protease. Particularly concerning is the fact that the symptoms associated with EPI (which include diarrhea, gas, bloating and stomach pain) mimic those of other common digestive disorders, so the condition is often overlooked.
Experts agree that while occasional discomfort may not be cause for alarm, ignoring persistent digestive problems may lead to bigger health issues over time. Remember—more than three-quarters of the body’s natural immune defenses can be found in the gut, so maintaining a healthy and balanced digestive system is important!
Because enzymes are found naturally in fresh, raw foods, adding plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet can go a long way toward preventing GI problems. Taking a daily digestive enzyme supplement is also recommended; unlike many over-the-counter drugs, enzyme supplements are natural, safe and highly effective. What’s more, instead of masking the symptoms of poor digestion, they help provide a solid foundation of digestive health, which in turn helps support your overall well-being.‡
When choosing an enzyme supplement, keep in mind that plant-derived enzymes are effective over a broader pH range in the body and can help digest a wider variety of foods, including proteins, fats, dairy foods, carbohydrates and sugars. ‡ Targeted formulas are available to address issues such as excess gas or lactose intolerance, and those with sensitive stomachs may want to look for a supplement with added herbal ingredients and amino acids shown to help soothe and nourish the digestive tract. ‡