We’ve just completed a full year in which we covered the very important topic of how to cleanse each body system to allow it to function at an optimum level, free of toxins and sludge buildups. Now this year, as we look at the proper functioning of these systems, we’ll consider “what does it take to allow the systems to have the nutrients to allow them to stay healthy.
For this first offering of the year, we’ll consider enzymes – what are they, why do we need them and how do we get them.
What are enzymes? They are biologically active proteins found in every living cell. They fall into two different categories. Metabolic enzymes are regulatory; they regulate every biochemical reaction occurring in your body. They are essential for overall health. Digestive enzymes primarily turn the food we eat into energy. There are over 1300 different enzymes found in the body and they combine to numerous coenzymes to form around 100,000 chemicals to carry out virtually all of our body processes. As we look at our digestive system, we will be more concerned with the digestive enzymes – those that break down our foods so that we may extract the nutrients we need to “feed” our bodies.
Why do we need them? Nutrients from the foods we eat could not be extracted without their being broken down into a mush-like substance. This allows the friendly probiotics to “digest” them and then excrete them in a liquified form. Then the intestinal villi may absorb them and pass them along into the bloodstream for delivery to the cells that require them. Enzymes facilitate this process as well as allowing the waste byproducts of digestion to be discarded.
How do we get them? There are several functions that allow us to get the enzymes we need.
Firstly, the body produces some of them and they are secreted along the digestive tract. Around 50 or so are produced and stored in the pancreas. A “trigger” in the stomach announces the arrival of food components and the pancreas secretes those enzymes needed for the breakdown of the specific foods found in the stomach. The liver, gall bladder, small intestine, stomach, and colon also play a role in this process. And the quantities of enzymes our bodies produce are affected by our age and the health of the various components of our digestive systems.
Secondly, raw foods we consume contain enzymes to help in the digestion of those foods themselves. Unfortunately, those foods generally only contain specific enzymes, and in appropriate quantities, to digest that food itself. Further, cooking and processing these foods destroy most of the enzymes they contain. This fact has led many people to consider a completely raw diet which is difficult to carry out and impractical for most.
Thirdly, these two shortcomings often lead to the necessity for supplementation. Which supplements you need is determined by the foods you eat and the need to know which enzymes you need to add to your diet.
A list of the most common enzymes which would help your dietary needs would include protease and peptidase for digesting proteins, amylase and glucoamylase and malt diastase for starches, lipase for fat, cellulase for fiber, and invertase and alpha-galactosidase for sugar. And it is good to know that in most cases, plant-based enzymes work better than those that are chemical based.
One article I researched stated that almost “one out of every three people in the US experience some kind of digestive problem. Though many suffer, few have to. The typical benefits of enzyme supplementation include reduced digestive distress, increased energy, and improved regularity.”
If you have digestive issues, talk to us about enzyme supplementation. Add “digestive” to your list of Healthy Body Systems!
– Randy Lee, BSE, MS, ND, is the owner of The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 73130. Call us at (405) 736-1030, and visit our website at www.thehealthpatch.com.