Myth or Fact: “You Are What You Eat”
By Clinical Nutritionist, Brooke Benson – MODMIND
Let me start this conversation by dispelling one of the key myths of modern nutrition: “You are what you eat”. This age-old mantra is completely and utterly incorrect.
We are NOT what we eat. We are what we digest and absorb.
What does this mean?
If our food, however healthy and nutritious, is not properly digested and absorbed in the small intestine, nutritional deficiency, malnourishment and fatigue can result. Furthermore, undigested food can travel down the digestive tract to provide food for the “bad” bacteria of our intestine, causing bloating, gas and dysbiosis. Inadequate digestion can also cause the sensation of feeling constantly full or having a ‘rock’ in your stomach, while an oil slick in the toilet bowl is a sure sign of undigested fats. A digestive system that isn’t working effectively will cause bloating and discomfort, and over time, a lack of nutrient absorption can lower your immunity against viruses and disease.
How do we ensure adequate digestion and absorption of our food?
The answer is simple: Digestive Enzymes.
Digestive enzymes are small proteins that break down foods into micro and macro-nutrients for absorption. The majority of digestive enzymes work in the small intestine to break down food and include Amylases (to break down starches), Lipases (to break down fats), and Proteases and Peptidases (to break down proteins). Most of the body’s digestive enzymes are made in the pancreas, however as we age, pancreatic enzyme production decreases and supplementation may be beneficial. Chronic stress, digestive disease, inflammation and low stomach acid can also cause a lack of enzyme production.
How can we correct a digestive enzyme deficiency?
A wholefoods diet low in animal products will work to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, improving nutrient deficiencies and food absorption. Balancing gut bacteria through foods like kimchi, kombucha, miso and kefir will also help to banish bloating and discomfort. A stress management technique such as yoga, exercise or meditation also aids the body in digestion, and mindful eating is the key to nutrient absorption, weight control and nervous system support.
Finally, supplementation with digestive enzymes may be necessary to help your body break down food effectively. After all, digestive enzyme health is the key to your nutritional status.
Gut health impacts mood, mental health, energy and immune function, so if you’re concerned by changes in your stools or digestion, have a talk with your GP.
Cammarota G et al, ‘Digestive enzyme supplementation in gastrointestinal diseases’, Curr Drug Metabolism, 2016, Feb: 17(2), 187-93
Roxas M, ‘The role of enzyme supplementation in digestive disorders’, Altern Med Review, 2008, Dec: 13(4) 307-14