What are Enzymes ?
Enzymes are present in all living animal and plant cells. They are the primary motivators of all natural biochemical processes. Life cannot exist without enzymes because they are essential components of every chemical reaction in the body. For example, they are the only substance that can digest food and make it small enough to pass through the gastrointestinal mucosa into the bloodstream. Three very broad classifications of enzymes are:
- Food enzymes – occur in raw food and, when present in the diet, begin the process of digestion
- Digestive enzymes – produced by the body to break food into particles small enough to be carried across the gut wall
- Metabolic enzymes – produced by the body to perform various complex biochemical reactions
Plant enzymes are important because they are capable of digesting food before the body’s own digestive process begins. In other words, plant enzymes can enhance the digestion of food and the delivery of nutrients to the blood even if you have a compromised digestive system. The same cannot be said of animal enzymes such as pancreatin.
Everyone agrees that proper nutrition is crucial to the maintenance of a healthy body. However, most healthcare practitioners overlook the true cause of many nutritional disorders. It is assumed, quite mistakenly, that digestion occurs automatically and the correction of a nutritional disorder simply requires matching the right nutritional supplement to the condition. For example, vitamin C for colds, vitamin A for viruses and herbal laxatives for constipation. While this treatment may relieve patient symptoms, the relief is only temporary because the underlying problem of faulty digestion is ignored. Healthcare practitioners who want to effectively manage health problems that are related to nutritional imbalances must consider each person’s ability to digest food. Unfortunately, most clinicians give little or no thought to the role of enzymes in digestion, despite overwhelming evidence of their importance.
Four Classes of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are proteins that stimulate chemical change in other substances in the body during digestion. These specialized proteins are produced primarily in the pancreas and secreted into the stomach and small intestine. Digestive enzymes can be divided into four classes: protease, lipase, amylase and gelatinase.
Also known as proteolytic enzymes, proteases digest proteins in meat, dairy and plant sources. Proteases produced in the pancreas are trypsin and chymotrypsin. Both enzymes are released into the small intestines during digestion to break down proteins into single amino acids. Proteases are also found in pineapple (bromelain) and papaya (papain). The protease enzymes bromelain and papain are used as meat tenderizers to break down the proteins before cooking.
Lipase works to break down triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol by jump starting hydrolysis. Once broken down, fatty acids can be absorbed by the body and used for energy. Lipase is produced in the pancreas and liver, but also in the mouth and stomach. Lipase supplements are recommended for people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and cystic fibrosis because they do not produce enough lipase in their body for adequate digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
Beginning in the mouth, amylases found in the saliva breaks down carbohydrates into a simple carbohydrate, maltose. Amylases are also produced in the pancreas and secreted into the small intestine to continue the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose.
Gelatinase is an enzyme found in the human digestive tract that breaks down collagen and gelatin. Along with peptides, gelatinase works to break proteins into smaller chains of amino acids. Gelatinase enzymes also work in the remodeling of tissues in the body and reproduction.
Digestive Enzyme Benefits
What are the benefits of digestive enzymes?
The answer is simple: Without them, we couldn’t process food! With that said, there are three main reasons why most people should take digestive enzymes:
- Help heal leaky gut by taking stress off the GI tract.
- Assists the body in breaking down difficult-to-digest protein and sugars like gluten, casein and lactose.
- Greatly improve symptoms of acid reflux and IBS.
- Enhance nutrition absorption and prevent nutritional deficiency.
- Counteract enzyme inhibitors naturally in foods like peanuts, wheat germ, egg whites, nuts, seeds, beans and potatoes.
Deficiency Of Enzymes
- Hot flashes
- Cold hands and feet
- Neck and shoulder aches
- Sprue (celiac disease)
- Chronic allergies
- Common colds
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic fatigue
- Sinus infection
- Immune depressed conditions