What Are Enzymes And Why Are They Important To You?

Everything we consume needs to be broken down, absorbed, and eliminated properly from our bodies.  When this doesn’t happen we begin to experience health problems.  Even if we think we’re eating healthy, the standard American diet that includes cooked fruits and vegetables does not allow us to digest our food in a way that is beneficial.  Without more whole raw foods, toxins in the form of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and modified organisms cause us to feel sick, bloated, gassy, lethargic and foggy.  Enzymes can change all that.

Enzymes are essentially proteins in the body needed for the digestion of food and thousands of other metabolic processes, including the synthesis of DNA.  Enzymes are able to break other proteins down into smaller amino acids, as well as fats into fatty acids and carbohydrates into sugars.  Enzymes also allow the body to get nutrition from the foods we eat.  Without them we would be nutritionally deficient. 

Enzymes for digestion—In digestion they break down the food we eat, absorb the nutrients in that food and eliminate any material not needed.

Enzymes for the protection of toxins—Enzymes work to protect the body from toxins such as preservatives, artificial additives, and engineered foods.  Just as enzymes work to help absorb nutrients, enzymes carry away anything toxic from our cells for elimination.

Enzymes for life—Enzymes accelerate the chemical reactions in cells that allow us to function.  Without them we would not be able to see, hear, feel, or walk. Enzymes are in every living cell of our bodies.

Where do we find them in our diet and why are so many people in need of enzymes these days?

We’re born with the ability to produce enzymes in our bodies.  When we’re young, between the ages of 10 and 20, we create high amounts of enzymes.  Because of a diet of cooked and processed foods, the demand for enzymes is high.  As we age our body becomes less able to produce the amount needed.  In fact, with every decade that passes our bodies produce 13% fewer enzymes.  This is not only due to the increased demand we place on our bodies through our diet, but also part of the natural aging process.  Many of us beginning in our 40’s, start to develop digestive problems.  Things we use to eat when we were younger no longer agree with us. 

Where do we get enzymes?

We get most of our enzymes through raw foods.  These must be uncooked and unprocessed in any way.  Enzymes found on the stem or the vines of the foods we’re eating were keeping that food alive at one time.  Once removed from the source of enzymes the fruit or vegetable will begin to break down and perish however.  Food in its raw form will begin to spoil in a few days, but when processed or cooked will keep much longer because the cooking process has denatured the enzymes.  Raw natural foods, (assuming they are not treated with pesticides or imported from areas that use pesticides, or are not genetically altered) contain enough enzymes to at least break down the food itself. 

What are some of the signs of enzyme deficiency that people may be experiencing today?

  • Digestion problems—Signs may be anything related to improper digestion.  These may include, gas, bloating, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, and inflammation when just a few years ago individuals were able to eat these things with no problem.
  • Fluctuations in Weight—Many people with enzyme deficiencies experience weight gain.  Even when they are consuming fewer calories, they tend to weigh more now.  Weight loss may be hard to achieve or maintain after age 40.  Other people may actually experience weight loss because they are not being properly nourished by the foods they eat and have a high metabolism.
  • Fatigue—This is a common symptom of enzyme deficiency no matter how much sleep an individual gets.
  • Skin conditions and irritations—In some cases individuals with enzyme deficiency do not get the full benefit of fatty acids.  These are necessary for a healthy complexion.

Acid production—The Vicious Cycle

While the National Institute for Health in this country does not conduct surveys on enzyme deficiency every year, the latest published statistics in 2004 reported that over 95 million people suffered from some form of digestive disorder.

Making the problem worse may be advertised solutions for acid reflux or GERD that could be more harmful than helpful.  Currently many people in this country turn to over-the-counter products and medications to get relief from these problems.  Many of these consist of products that neutralize stomach acids.  By doing this, a signal is sent to the body that it should reduce acid production in the stomach, which results in poor digestion of proteins.  Doctors also may prescribe proton pump inhibitors that stop the burning from acid reflux or heartburn, but create other problems with digestion, not allowing the benefit from proteins.  Ultimately, the body usually ends up producing more acid, which requires a higher dosage of medication, and a vicious cycle begins.

Benefits of the natural approach—By taking a natural enzyme, the body simply breaks down food without the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals and OTC products. The four major complaints of gas, bloating, indigestion and heartburn can be easily alleviated with a supplemental enzyme.  Without these however, the human body works overtime to compensate for enzyme deficiencies by creating even more acid and reacting to the inability to digest food. 

By taking an enzyme supplement directly before a meal, enzymes will break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, making the user feel better almost immediately.  As long as a product is of high quality, the results will be instantaneous. 

The three major things enzymes do is: 

  1. break down food
  2. aid in the absorption of nutrients 
  3. help the body eliminate food properly

Natural enzymes together with herbs do not inhibit the production of stomach acid.  Instead the herbs soothe the stomach and throat while the enzyme gently breaks down the food.  The approach is natural with no negative effects like many antacids or proton pump inhibitors.  Enzymes also help those who’ve been taking over-the-counter pain medications.  Sometimes these can cause gastrointestinal problems that can be solved through the use of natural supplements.

The Truth about Pharmaceuticals and OTC’s

Shocking is the fact that many medications designed to help people with digestive issues, (whether over the counter or by prescription) can actually harm them through osteoporosis.  The imbalance caused by the reduction in acid creates a more alkaline body that leaches calcium from the bones.  What starts as a simple enzyme deficiency actually turns into a more serious medical problem.  While many doctors do recommend more magnesium and calcium to patients, the problem in most cases is that the body needs the right minerals and the ability to absorb them rather than more of them.

How to choose a good, high quality enzyme formulation—

Where to start?

Choosing a high quality enzyme may seem simple, but there are actually many different groups from various sources.

Animal-based enzymes—These include pancreatin, trypsin and chymotrypsin.  They are all animal-based and are meant to help joint and muscle inflammation.  Although they don’t break down food very well, they support the pancreas that creates 80% of the enzymes needed in the body.

Plant-based enzymes—These include bromelain and papain.  They are fairly inexpensive and can be very soothing to the GI tract.  Papain is commonly sold in the form of papaya chewables and neither papain or bromelain break down food well either.  Bromelain is an excellent anti-inflammatory however.

Plant-based, Fungal, Probiotic Sources—These produce enzymes consumed for digestive enzyme deficiencies.  There are four main ingredients that aid digestion.

Protease-breaks down protein

Lipase-needed to break down fats

Amylase-breaks down carbohydrates

Cellulase-needed to break fiber down

Many people wonder if proteolytic enzymes are also considered systemic enzymes?

Proteolytic enzymes—These are enzymes that break down protein.  When taken on an empty stomach they become part of the body’s immune system, but normally they digest proteins in the digestive tract.  Some foods, like papaya actually contain proteolytic enzymes and can be used to tenderize meat. 

Systemic enzyme—this enzyme is consumed to support other systems in the body outside of digestion.  This must be taken well after eating because it needs to be absorbed into the blood to have the systemic effect.   

Technically all enzymes including bromelain, papain, pancreatin, trypsin, chymotrypsin and protease from aspergillus can help systemically to promote an immune response or as an anti-inflammatory when taken on an empty stomach. 

Multiple Functions—Enzymes are now used in other areas of healthcare including viral situations, upper respiratory care and for immune support.

While bacteria is protein, though not the same as the protein we eat white blood cells in the immune system are needed to break it down.  This is also true of other invaders including viruses, candida (yeast) or artificial toxins introduced into the body.  Enzymes help in other ways as well by boosting the effects of vitamins and minerals in the body.

Nature creates the perfect solution for a number of health-related issues, in enzyme production.  Even after the body loses its ability to produce enzymes at the level needed for total wellness some can be found in raw fruits and vegetables.  When that’s not enough—enzyme supplements can help.

Don’t suffer with poor digestion anymore.  We have just the right blend of enzymes to get you feeling better now! 

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