Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for many reasons. First, I love the idea of a holiday dedicated to being thankful for our many blessings. I've found being thankful is simply a good practice for a happy life. I also love the family aspect, how Thanksgiving brings family and friends together. And finally, I really like to cook, and Thanksgiving is a time when I have an excuse to cook to my heart’s content.

Unfortunately, the eating part of Thanksgiving often leads people to stuff themselves (not just the turkey) and when they're stuffed, they need some help unstuffing their bloated stomachs. To solve that problem, there’s nothing better to take than digestive enzymes. I consider digestive enzymes one of those basic supplements that a lot of people can benefit from. I personally take digestive enzymes regularly and have done so for years. Here are some reasons why you might want to take them, too.

Enzymes and Digestion

Enzymes are protein structures that can convert one substance into another, breaking a compound apart or splicing one together. There are many enzymes in the human body, but the ones responsible for digestion are secreted by the stomach, pancreas and small intestines to break down the food you eat into the component nutrients your body needs..

Along with hydrochloric acid (HCl) and bile salts, enzymes break proteins into amino acids, fats into fatty acids and starches, and complex sugars into simple sugars. Without these digestive secretions, you could eat the healthiest food on the planet and still not get the nutrients you require.

Overeating and Indigestion

If you overeat, you are taxing your digestive system, which has to work extra hard to break down all that food. As a result, you can feel bloated and sluggish. You may also experience acid indigestion because food ferments instead of digesting. Unfortunately, many people reach for an antacid at this point, which simply neutralizes some of the stomach acid (HCl) that is needed to finish breaking down all that food.

Enzyme supplements, on the other hand, aid the breakdown process, thus inhibiting fermentation and indigestion. So, when you’re stuffed, a good enzyme supplement, not an antacid, is the best remedy.

Many People Need Enzymes

Enzyme supplements are good for more than using just after heavy holiday feasting. Raw and naturally fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut contain enzymes that assist the digestive process. But, since most people are eating primarily cooked food, their digestive organs are overly taxed on a regular basis. And, that’s not counting the preservatives that are added to many of the foods they are eating, which actually work by inhibiting enzyme activity. It’s one of the main reasons so many people regularly suffer from indigestion of one sort or another.

This can be helped by eating more raw or fermented foods, but when you can't or haven't been able to, the next best thing is to take enzyme supplements with meals. This becomes increasingly important the older you are as digestion tends to become weaker as with age. It’s also important if you have the A or AB blood type as these types are more genetically prone to low stomach acid.

What Enzymes to Take

There are two basic types of enzyme supplements. The first are plant enzymes. These are proteases, lipases and amylases naturally found in raw or fermented foods. They help the body break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. If you’re under 40, these are probably the best kind of enzyme supplements to take.

The second type are digestive enzymes. They contain the substances the body secretes to break down food, which includes HCl, the protein-digesting enzyme pepsin, pancreatin (which is the mixture of proteases, lipases, and amylases secreted by the pancreas) and bile salts. These replace the digestive secretions your body isn’t making enough of.

If you’re 50 or older, have blood type A or AB, and/or have a lot of digestive problems, you may want to consider taking these digestive enzymes. If you have a lot of gas and bloating and have difficulty digesting proteins, you may also want to take HCl and pepsin.

I used to take plant enzymes with meals (and still do occasionally), but given that I have blood type A and I’m in my 60s I prefer taking digestive enzymes. I don’t get heavy feelings on my stomach and get far less gas and belching when I do remember to take them. They also ease those stuffy feelings if I eat too much. I usually take one or two capsules.

If I’m eating a meal that’s heavier in protein, I may take one capsule of digestive enzymes and one capsule of HCl and pepsin. Some people may need even more. You can easily adjust the dose on how you feel. If you experience a mild burning sensation in your stomach you took more than you need.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family, friends, feasting and feeling grateful. But feeling overly full because you can’t digest what you just ate doesn’t contribute to the festive mood. So, don’t eat too much, and take some enzymes to help break down what you do it. You may discover, just like I have, that taking enzymes regularly helps improve not only your digestion but your overall health.

And if you still have room and are ready for some desert make sure to check out the bonus article I've posted with recipes for all-natural cream pies.