What They Are and How They Work
Many of our customers have asked us about digestive enzymes and their importance. We decided to answer some commonly asked questions about digestive enzymes, their role in the human body and why they are so important for good health.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Enzymes are an organic catalyst produced by living cells but capable of acting independently of the cells producing them. They are complex colloidal substances which are capable of inducing chemical changes in other substances without themselves being changed in the process. Many enzymes have been isolated in pure crystalline form and all have proved to be protein in nature. There are also Metabolic enzymes which help convert foods to fuel and waste to manageable substances for removal. These Metabolic enzymes will not be discussed in this article.
Some digestive enzymes are decomposing in nature, breaking down proteins, carbohydrates and fats that we eat. Some enzymes are also important in reaction of assimilation helping us to absorb nutrients and energy from foods. All digestive enzymes require minerals to activate them. Some need trace minerals and other enzymes need macro minerals. Macro minerals are those minerals that your body uses most like calcium and magnesium.
Digestive enzymes are found particularly in digestive juices, acting upon food substances causing them to break down into simpler compounds. Many enzymes are produced in the body and many are contained in live whole foods (foods that are still living; such as a fresh apple or fresh garden salad.) Enzymes are capable of accelerating greatly the speed of chemical reaction (digestion).
Many enzymes come from living foods. These living foods have enzymes which help break down food during digestion. Enzymes are temperature sensitive and most are destroyed if the cooking temperature exceeds 118° F. Needless to say most cooked foods are void of active enzymes as are most processed foods on the market today. It is a good thing that there are many digestive enzyme supplements on the market today. Many Americans live a fast paced fast food lifestyle and routinely do not get enough active digestive enzymes.
The rate of Gastro Intestinal disorders is on the rise in the United States and some experts say that over 50% of people will develop problems in their lifetime. This is an alarming number of people who will be affected by digestive problems that may be easy to prevent using digestive enzymes on a daily basis. Since most of us eat foods that contain little to no active digestive enzymes it is easy to see where G.I. disorders start and how they may compound over time. Simply taking digestive enzymes with every meal could and may keep you from ever developing a G.I. disorder or disease. Digestive enzymes are also helpful in keeping disease at bay.
A Closer Look at Digestive Enzymes
· Protease- proteolytic enzymes which are responsible for breaking down and for the utilization of proteins. Important for muscle and tissue repair as well as immune function.
· Amylase-digests starch and carbohydrates. Acts in concert with proteases to stimulate immune system function. Act in association with lipase to digest fragments of viruses and reduce inflammation and infections.
· Lipase-digests fats, therby aiding in weight control, maintaining and enhancing cardiovascular health, and helping to maintain proper liver and gall bladder function.
· Maltase-digests maltose, malt and grain sugars. May help relive environmental sensitivities and allergies.
· Invertase-digests sugars. Beneficial in helping prevent gastrointestinal problems and discomfort.
· Alpha-Galactosidase-aids in the digestion of difficult to digests foods such as beans, legumes and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
· Lactase-digests the milk sugar lactose. Extremely useful for individuals suffering from lactose intolerance. May be beneficial for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders in which a high percentage are adversely affected by dairy products.
· Cellulase-digests fiber cellulose into smaller units, which include d-glucose. Helps remedy digestive problems such as malabsorption. Cellulase is a very important enyme because the human body cannot produce it on its own.
· Xylanase-breaks down the sugar xylose
· Pectinase-breaks down carbohydrates called hemi-celluloses, which are found in plant foods.
· Hemicellulase-breaks down carbohydrates, specifically phytates (phytic acid), present in many difficult to digest grains and beans. Especially useful for those suffering from serious bowel disorders which results in an inability to handle phytates from soy and gluten from wheat, oats, rye, and barley. Phytase may increase mineral absorption and the bioavailability of iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
· Beta-Glucanase-breaks down polysaccharides and fibers known as beta glucans.
· Arabinosidase-digests the sugar arabinose.
· Bromelain-an enzyme from the stem of pineapples, breaks down protein and fight inflammation and reduces swelling. May speed the recovery of injuries and swelling resulting from athletics, child birth and surgery.
· Papain-similar to the chymotrypsin, a protein digesting enzyme produced by the body. Used to treat chronic diarrhea and celiac disease. Treats gastrointestinal discomfort due to intestinal parasites.
These enzymes and other whole foods not only effectively aid digestion in general, but also help to remove accumulated, sticky waste adhered to the lining of the intestines and colon-what some health experts term “mucoid plaque”- that originates a whole array of digestion contingent diseases.
If you are at all skeptical about the effectiveness of digestive enzymes, we challenge you to take two to four capsules of one of the below listed digestive enzymes with each meal for about three to four days; then stop taking them altogether for one to two days. You will immediately notice the contrast as your body goes back to what you will now realize was your earlier sub-par state of poor digestion.
Final words on digestive enzymes are that no one should be without these important substance. Digestive enzymes are important for keeping us healthy and helping to prevent gastrointestinal disorders and chronic bad digestion. Increasing the amount of whole foods can help increase digestive enzymes but most of us don’t eat a diet of 50% or more whole foods so we should use a good digestive enzyme supplement with each meal. Digestive enzymes are a catalyst to many life functions, and no one should be without these important enzymes. We hope this information has helped you understand the functions of digestive enzymes and their importance. Have a great and healthy day.
REFERENCES: Jordan S. Rubin, N.M.D, C.N.C. Patient Heal Thyself by Freedom Press 2003 / James F. Balch M.D., Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C Prescription for Healing 2nd edition Avery Publishing Group 1997