Having optimum digestive ability is absolutely paramount to having good health.
In our digestive system, enzymes and other digestive secretions (from the stomach, pancreas, liver and intestines) break down our food into smaller particles, enabling them to be used by the body. Enzymes are the catalysts that make this action happen.
Digestion can be adversely impacted by a multitude of factors over a life time.
Things such as: poor diet, stress, prescription medications, poor chewing action, eating while busy, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol and ageing.
Poor digestive ability / low enzyme levels affects many, many people often without them realising it. For example:
Enzymes help prevent protein intolerance which can be manifested as one or more of the following: loss of taste for meat or poor appetite in general, sense of fullness, indigestion, flatulence and/or nausea one or two hours after eating, ileocecal valve incompetence, lack of vigour and stamina, mental depression, muscular weakness, flabbiness of flesh, fluid retention, hair loss, poor resistance to and recovery from infection, impaired healing of wounds.
Often gastrointestinal distress following the ingestion of foods high in protein is the most noticeable symptom.
The inability to properly digest protein is not a simple problem. Since protein is required for the production of digestive enzymes, an inability to digest protein properly means all food is not being digested with optimal efficiency.
Vegetarians tend to eat a relatively low protein/high fibre diet. Therefore, they often require supplemental protease enzymes to more fully utilize the small amount of protein that is consumed and cellulase enzymes to help release nutrients from the fibrous food.
If protein is not properly digested, it cannot be utilized by the body to:
Balance the pH of body fluids. The immediate products of protein digestion have a slightly acidifying effect on the blood which will help normalize an alkaline pH.
The high concentrations of protein in the cells and plasma plus their pK value of approximately 7.4 (the normal pH of extra cellular fluids) make the protein buffering system the most powerful in the body.
Build and repair tissue such as muscles, blood, bone, skin and internal organs.
Protein is a main constituent of all cell membranes. Structural proteins such as collagen provide the contractile mechanism of muscle and support characteristics found in connective tissue and spinal discs.
Transport calcium to structural tissue and to the nervous system. As protein digestion is improved there is more protein available to bind with the free calcium in the blood, facilitating better utilization of calcium by the body.
Form enzymes and hormones which control the metabolic processes of the body.
All enzymes, including digestive enzymes, are proteins and require and adequate supply of amino acids from dietary protein digestion for their production.
Protein hormones include those of the pituitary gland affecting g the body’s sodium/potassium balance.
Maintain a strong immune system. Protein is needed for the production of antibodies, fibrin and phagocytic enzymes, all part of the body’s defence mechanisms.
Produce energy. As much as 56% of amino acids are converted by the body to glucose for use in energy metabolism. Therefore the ability to digest protein has a major impact on the blood glucose levels.
Regulate the body’s water balance. The concentration of proteins in the blood and therefore its osmotic pressure is normally higher than that in the tissue fluids, which balances the pressure exerted on the capillaries by the blood flow.
When plasma protein concentrations fall to an abnormally low level a markedly lowered colloid osmotic pressure of the plasma results. This means that the capillary pressure becomes stronger the balancing osmotic pressure forcing fluid to pass through the capillary walls and accumulate in the tissue spaces.
Enzymes also help prevent nutritional alkalosis often associated with Anxiety Syndromes characterized by one or more of the following: tension without cause, irritable or angry responses to sudden stimuli or frustration, fear of any social activities, indecisiveness, inattention and failure of recall, difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, despondency and pessimism, tachycardia with palpitations, shortness of breath/hyperventilation, appetite impairment, faintness.
Enzymes help prevent loss of bone mass due to inadequate intake and/or utilization of calcium manifested as changes in the curvature of the spine i.e. “dowager’s hump”, dull, aching discomfort in bones, particularly the middle to lower spine, pelvis and long bone fractures and loss of height.
Enzymes help prevent low blood glucose levels manifested as one or more of the following: fatigue, dizziness, weakness, tremulousness, palpitation, diaphoresis, hunger, nervousness, headache, confusion, visual disturbances, slow movement and speech, swollen extremities.
Enzymes help prevent impaired secretion of proteolytic enzymes manifested as a persistent or intermittent aching, burning, gnawing or stabbing discomfort usually localized in the upper abdomen, commonly radiating to the back and accompanied by nausea/vomiting, which is present for more than one day.
Enzymes help prevent food allergies and sensitivities which can form due to incomplete protein digestion in the gastrointestinal tract.
There are different enzymes required to digest different parts of our food, for example:
Amylase helps digest carbohydrates, including glutens.
Protease breaks down proteins into tripeptides, dipeptides and free amino acids for absorption in the small intestine. They also help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.
Lipase is a digestive enzyme that aids in fat digestion. It breaks down triglycerides (fats) into diglycerides and monoglycerides as well as free fatty acids and glycerol.
Cellulase is not produced in the body but instead is obtained from the cell walls of plants/ vegetables. It usually passes undigested through the digestive tract adding important bulk to the stool.
These are all of equal importance.
Enzymes are found naturally in all RAW foods. That is why it is best to eat as much salad and raw fruits & veges as possible.
Extra high levels of enzymes can be found in specific fruits such as kiwifruit, pineapple and papaya
See page on ‘Enzymes – facts’.
Supplementing with digestive enzymes can often be an ideal way to treat many digestive problems.
Go to On-line shop for enzymes.
More specific enzymes are available as ‘Practitioner products’. You will need either a one to one or an on-line consultation to access these products. Contact us.