Mystery Behind Digestive Enzymes for Stress

  • Nature's Source

Our brain and digestive system are highly intertwined in a two-directional complicated pathway. The term gut-brain connection was identified some hundred years ago but has regained popularity in our modern society relatively recently due to the rise in digestive and mental health concerns. The digestive system can be highly affected by stress and mindfulness but there is also recent evidence for the reverse. Digestive enzymes could be useful support for our mental health.

Stress and Digestion

Stress has widely been viewed as a negative effect when, in reality, it is necessary for daily life. Stress is vital in life-threatening events to move us into action. Stress is also needed for maintaining motivation and promoting self-growth. The problem lies in how our bodies handle this stress and the amount of stress we are experiencing. Excessive stress and poorly managed stress are detrimental physically, emotionally, and mentally. Stressors have a multitude of damaging actions on the digestive system including altered motility, inflammation, decreased blood flow to the intestines, impaired nutrient absorption, decreased serotonin production, increased intestinal permeability, increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) dominance, decreased central nervous system (CNS) innervation, decreased enteric nervous system (ENS) innervation, decreased stomach acid and impaired vagus nerve tone. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for rest-and-digest and the SNS is responsible for fight-flight-fright responses. Ideally, when we are not facing a stressor, our PNS is supposed to be dominant. In today’s world, everyone is stressed and there are stressors around every corner. This has made our lives very challenging, and our brains and bodies are not adjusted to handle this chronic stress.

Mindful Eating

Eating mindfully is a common suggestion by many holistic practitioners for improved digestion. Mindful eating practices include eating slowly, eating without distraction (such as books, television, or radio), listening to your body’s hunger and satiety cues, and engaging the senses by smelling, feeling, and tasting your food. We can put our forks down between bites, chew one bite 30 times before swallowing, savor a bite in our mouth before swallowing, and get curious about the textures, smells, and tastes of different foods. Using all these methods, we can start to re-establish a healthy and positive relationship with food so that our brain and body can be fully present in the experience and be able to digest, absorb and utilize the nutrients we feed ourselves.

Digestive Enzymes

When our bodies can’t seem to digest and break down the food we eat, digestive upset can cause discomfort and sometimes pain. Digestive enzymes are a cost-effective relief for digestive upset. They function by providing your body with the enzymes necessary to digest the food you consume and physically breaking your food down so you can reap all the nutritional benefits of the food you eat. Our body and brain need those nutrients to function. A 2015 study investigated the effects of digestive enzymes when used by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They found that the ASD group that was given digestive enzyme therapy for 3 months had significant improvement in emotional responses, general impression, autistic scores, general behavior as well as gastrointestinal symptoms. It is clinically supported that when given digestive enzymes or carminative herbs, our body can be tricked into PNS dominance which decreases our perception of stress, therefore benefiting our mental health and mood.


  • Cherpak CE. Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2019;18(4):48-53.
  • Saad K, Eltayeb AA, Mohamad IL, et al. A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial of Digestive Enzymes in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2015;13(2):188-193. doi:10.9758/cpn.2015.13.2.188