Good Carbs and How to Digest Them
You hear a lot about carbohydrates these days. Are carbs good or bad? Which carbs should you eat most: starchy or fibrous? And why do so many people have digestive problems when they add more “good” carbs to their diet? One piece of information is not controversial. We should cut down our consumption of simple sugars, meaning reducing or eliminating sodas, refined sugar, and foods with high-fructose corn syrup. High sugar intake is linked to Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. Our bodies produce enzymes to help break down carbohydrates to sugars, most notably the sugar glucose. While glucose is considered a simple sugar, it is necessary as fuel for brain and muscle function. By using carbohydrate-busting enzymes, the body can convert many complex carbs to glucose without causing a large increase in blood sugar. Drinking a glass of apple juice results in a large bolus of sugars being absorbed at one time - whereas eating an apple and letting enzymes digest those carbs results in a more moderate and prolonged rise in blood sugar. This prevents the large and rapid fluctuations in blood sugar and blood insulin that can wreak havoc with the body’s systems. So which carbs should we eat? Complex carbs consist mainly of 2 types: starchy or fibrous. Starchy carbs are found in brown rice, baked potatoes, oatmeal, pasta and whole grains. Fibrous carbs are found in veggies like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and other leafy greens. Do stay away from carbs that are processed or refined. This means going to the farmers’ markets and getting fresh foods not canned goods. But many find that eating more unrefined complex carbs causes some digestive problems. Bloating, gassiness, and loose stools are the main complaints. This happens because many people have fast-moving guts. The food moves more quickly through the stomach and GI tract. Some of this is because the raw foods may actually be perceived as an irritant to the gut and the gut responds by trying to move it out more quickly. Bloating and gas occur when partially digested carbs come into contact with gut bacteria which use the carbs as a food source. The bacteria multiply and produce more carbon dioxide and methane gas. Some of the complex carbs we eat can’t be digested because humans don’t produce the right carbohydrase enzymes to break them down. These are the carbs stachyose and raffinose found in beans, broccoli, and other greens. If these carbs aren’t broken down in the gut they can actually ferment which also contributes to the bloating problem. Luckily, these problems are easily remedied by using enzyme supplements. For carbs, the best enzymes to take are amylase and glucoamylase (for starches), lactase for the dairy carb lactose, cellulase and xylanase for fibrous carbs in leafy greens, and alpha-galactosidase for beans, broccoli and other “gassy” foods. These enzymes can be supplied from non-animal sources and are acid-stable meaning they can start working on food while still in the stomach. Otherwise, the food you eat doesn’t come into contact with enzymes until the food moves out of the stomach and into the small intestine. Acid-stable enzymes allow digestion to begin much sooner and more completely so by the time the food moves into the lower intestine, less undigested food is available to feed the gas-producing bacteria. Because the food will be more digested when it leaves the stomach, the gut will be less irritated by the presence of the raw veggies. This results in a smoother working gut with less cramping and discomfort. Which means you are more likely to keep adding good carbs to your diet. One of the best enzyme products for carbohydrate digestion is Zyme Prime. Zyme Prime contains amylase and glucoamylase, lactase, alpha-galactosidase and other enzymes to help break down complex carbs and ease the bloating and gas caused by unrefined veggies and fruits. Take Zyme Prime the beginning of each meal to make sure you prolong the contact between enzymes and foods in the stomach. Zyme Prime has been one of Houston Enzyme’s best-selling products for years and has helped many to better tolerate diets high in complex carbs.