The digestive system utilizes enzymes produced by the body to break down macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) into molecules small enough for our body to absorb and use for metabolism of energy, growth, and cell repair. Bacteria in our GI tract, referred to as gut flora or microbiome, also plays a role in digestion and nutrient absorption.
In addition to being produced by the body, digestive enzymes can be consumed from raw foods such as fruits and vegetables, and dietary supplements. With a decline in the natural production of enzymes that comes with aging, in combination with the Western diet, adequate digestive enzymes required for complete meal digestion are not always readily available. A deficiency can slow down the digestive process necessary to move food through the GI tract. When the body lacks these enzymes for efficient digestion, food can remain undigested or partially digested in the stomach. The slow transit of food through the GI tract can cause symptoms of abdominal discomfort, occasional constipation, and less nutrients being absorbed. Discomfort arises when carbohydrates are fermented by bacteria in the colon which produce gas.