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ENZYMES

Enzymes enhance processes throughout the body and are essential to life itself.
Systemic enzymes can speed chemical reactions by more than a billion times.
Digestive enzymes act as catalysts breaking down food so it can be absorbed.
Raw foods are the best sources of enzymes.
Eating cooked and processed foods and decreased digestive enzyme production due to      age and disease make supplementation essential to healthy digestion.

Enzymes are catalysts found in nature that greatly speed up chemical processes and reactions and in doing so make life possible. In some cases, reaction speeds are increased by more than a billion times making functions like digesting food, complex brain functions and the repairing of tissues and organs possible. There are two basic types of enzymes, systemic or metabolic enzymes and digestive enzymes. Metabolic enzymes catalyze or spark the reactions within our cells. The body’s organs, tissues and cells are enabled by metabolic enzymes and without them our bodies would cease to function. Digestive enzymes, both found in raw foods and produced by our bodies, break down food particles so they can be absorbed. Enzymes that can break down food are present in all foods including animal products but the heat from cooking and processing kills them (including pasteurization in the case of milk). Where enzymes are not present at the time of food consumption, food is not broken down as completely and a greater strain is put on the digestive system.

The process of breaking down food so its nutrients can be absorbed is accomplished by an elegant system of nerves, hormones, and enzymes. The nerves and hormones signal the body as to what enzymes are needed and when they are needed. The enzymes perform the biochemical task of breaking down the food into much smaller nutrients that our body can utilize. The mechanical process of chewing facilitates the work of the enzymes and the action of the enzymes in the digestion process starts in the mouth. Actually, the process starts even earlier with enzyme secretion even at the thought of food. Once we think (or see or smell) a particular food, saliva is produced to lubricate food. The saliva will contain the enzyme amylase (ptyalin) which helps break down starchy foods. When the food reaches the stomach it is nearly an hour before the body's own digestive enzymes are secreted so if the food does not contain the proper enzymes this important element in the digestive process is lost.

During this first 30 to 60 minutes after eating, enzymes need to be hard at work predigesting food. After 30 to 60 minutes the stomach acids will be secreted and will render some of them inactive. Enzymes not destroyed in the stomach are re-activated in the small intestine and continue working there along with enzymes secreted by the pancreas to complete the break down of the food particles. The thorough breakdown and hydrolysis of the food particles enables nutrients to be taken up by the intestinal cells and then be released into the blood stream. Enzymes also contribute to the delivery of vitamins and minerals by the hydrolysis of the macro structures of the food to free the vitamins and minerals. Without this function of break down and hydrolysis by the digestive enzymes, nutrients will remain trapped inside the larger particles of food.

The most essential digestive enzymes are protease, which breaks proteins down into amino acids, amylase which breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars and lipase which breaks down fats and oils into fatty acids and glycerol. Other important enzymes include maltase which breaks down malt sugars and grains, lactase which breaks down lactose and milk sugar, cellulase which digests fiber and phytase which releases plant minerals.

Enzyme Deficiency

According to Researchers, the enzymes found in raw foods digest up to 75 percent of the foods themselves without the help of other enzymes. In this way our body’s digestive enzymes have help in the digestive process, we do not use as many of the body’s own enzymes and the digestive process can be started during the important 30 to 60 minutes after eating, before the body’s enzymes can be produced and before stomach acids are released.

When food is cooked, however, or processed with heat or when milk is pasteurized, all enzymes are destroyed. Even the best sources of enzymes, raw fruits and vegetables, may have reduced enzymatic level due to long-term storage and pesticides and toxins in the water and soil. Decreased enzyme levels in foods means that the pancreas needs to provide higher levels of these enzymes causing increased stress. In addition, the body will use enzymes which could be utilized elsewhere in the immune system for digestion when needed, thereby decreasing immune function. Also, as we age, the body’s ability to produce enzymes decreases.

The results of the enzyme deficiency caused by using cooked and processed foods, environmental factors and the aging process can include:

  • The delay in digestion during the essential 30 to 50 minutes after eating.
  • Incomplete break down of food allowing undigested food to enter the colon where bacteria can feed upon it, causing such problems as toxicity, gas and bloating.
  • Essential nutrients are not released and cannot be absorbed by the body.
  • Digestive stress and impaired immune function.

Supplementation

The solutions to enzyme deficiency are to increase the amount of raw food in the diet and to include enzyme supplements with meals containing cooked or processed foods. Some sources recommend diets that contain 50% or more raw food. For many of us raw foods are an important part of the diet but as a percentage they don’t approach 50%. This makes supplementation with a broad range of effective digestive enzymes taken with meals essential to the effective and complete digestion and absorption of food. To be effective, an enzyme supplement needs to properly formulated, potent and pure with no fillers.

A good digestive formula will contain a variety of enzymes to address every type of food group ingested and will not be animal based. Animal, as opposed to vegetable based, enzymes, in addition to certain risk factors, have a much narrower pH range. They are designed by nature to work in the specific range of acidity found in the animal source’s system. Vegetable enzymes are effective in a broader pH range which makes them more effective for a longer period in both the stomach and the intestines. A broad based enzyme supplement will not only enable digestion but will reduce stress on both the pancreas by reducing its need to produce enzymes and the immune system by freeing enzymes for other purposes.

While formulations should contain the basic enzymes to break down protein, carbohydrates and fats, they can be either broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplements with a wide range of enzymes or supplements that focus on or specifically help a particular digestive function like fat digestion. Supplements should be taken within ½ an hour before, during or within ½ an hour after eating and can be taken in capsule form, or sprinkled into water taken with the meal. Sprinkling the enzyme on cooked food itself is not recommended since it is affected by heat and will start breaking down the food right away! Nearly every person can benefit from supplementation with enzymes.

People with digestive problems will want to take digestive enzymes with every meal while others may want to use enzymes to improve their absorption and utilization of nutrients with just with cooked meals. Of course, the benefits will vary, depending upon the individual's diet and general health. Those with intestinal problems should notice reduction in symptoms. Individuals in good health can expect to notice less fullness after meals, increased energy, faster emptying of the stomach contents, decreased gas, and more regular bowel habits.

 
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