Enzymes and Digestion

January 19, 2007

There is little doubt that digestive issues have reached epidemic proportions.Though many suffer, few have to. Nearly every digestive complaint is caused by an inability to properly digest food. The natural solution in such cases is enzymes, which are responsible for breaking down the foods we eat, delivering the nutrients found in those foods to every cell of the body, and removing any toxins or ingredients that may be in the food, and from which the body will not derive any benefit.

 

More than 80 million people are believed to suffer from digestion discomfort at least once a week. Heartburn, bloating, indigestion, and gas are among the most common reported symptoms of this condition.

There is little doubt that digestive issues have reached epidemic proportions.Though many suffer, few have to. Nearly every digestive complaint is caused by an inability to properly digest food. The natural solution in such cases is enzymes, which are responsible for breaking down the foods we eat, delivering the nutrients found in those foods to every cell of the body, and removing any toxins or ingredients that may be in the food, and from which the body will not derive any benefit.

ENZYMES DEFINED

By definition, enzymes are catalysts-substances that cause a chemical reaction to move faster. Think of your typical energy bar that contains vitamins, minerals, and sugars; energy exists in the nutrients contained in the bar, but they must be unlocked before they can be utilized by our bodies. A random chemical process could take years to break down the nutrients in the bar and release the energy. Our bodies, on the other hand, with the help of digestive enzymes, can begin to break down the bar within minutes of consumption, dramatically speeding up the process.

Enzymes are grouped into different categories and are classified by type. Each type plays a specific role metabolically (creating energy in the body) and digestively (assisting with extracting energy from nutrients). The best-understood category is digestive, and there are three types of enzymes in this category: proteolytic enzymes (proteases) that break down proteins; lipases that break down lipids (fats); amylase enzymes break down carbohydrates; and cellulase, a type of amylase that breaks down fiber.

Each individual enzyme has a specific job. For example, a protein is made up of thousands of amino acids, all bound together. Think of it as a long chain with thousands of links. A protease can alter that protein by breaking certain links in the chain, but one protease can only break the chain in very specific locations. A second protease is required to continue the job. Then a third, fourth, fifth, sixth…until the protein no longer exists; in its place we have the thousands of amino acids unattached, unbound, and no longer linked.

It is at this moment that the body can then benefit from these simple building blocks. This process is called digestion when it is performed in the digestive tract; the enzymes that perform this function are called digestive enzymes. When this process occurs in the cells, tissue, or bloodstream, the enzymes that perform the task belong to a second category of enzymes called metabolic enzymes.

DIGESTION: THE BASICS

Digestion begins in the mouth, where the act of chewing breaks down and grinds the food into smaller pieces to be swallowed. Three different types of the enzyme amylase are secreted here to digest the carbohydrates. The food is swallowed and then travels down the esophagus, which transports it to the stomach.

There are two sections of the stomach. The cardiac section (upper) is what Edward Howell, MD, enzyme researcher and author of Enzyme Nutrition, called the food enzyme stomach. This is where the majority of the carbohydrate digestion occurs due to the activity of the amylase found in the saliva. Other than the small amount of carbohydrate digestion that occurs here, only the foods that have been eaten in a raw state begin to be digested. This is because these foods contain the enzymes that nature provides to break down the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates contained in that particular food. After about 30–45 minutes, it then enters the lower or pyloric section of the stomach.

Bromelain May Be Useful for Platelet Inhibition

 

 

A family of enzymes derived from pineapple appear to influence platelet activity, according to the results of a study by researchers at Friedrich-Schiller University’s (Jena, Germany) Department of Sports Medicine.

In the study, which was published in the February 2006 issue of the journal Platelets, the researchers took blood samples from 10 healthy male volunteers. After incubation with 2.5 and 5 mg of bromelain per ml, platelet count dropped from 277 to 256 and 247, respectively.

According to the researchers, the results “may demonstrate the potential of bromelain as a substance for platelet inhibition.”

The pyloric section of the stomach is where the enzyme pepsin and hydrochloric acid (HCl) are secreted for protein digestion. The amount of protein consumed and the efficiency of the individual’s digestive system will dictate the length of time the food remains in this portion of the stomach, usually about two hours. The combined activity of HCl, pepsin, and muscular movement result in a thoroughly mixed watery solution called chyme. Chyme leaves the stomach through the pyloric sphincter and enters the small intestine.

When the chyme enters the small intestine, or duodenum, it is mixed with bile and the enzyme lipase for fat digestion. The digestive system will continue to manufacture and secrete enzymes as needed. This is called the “law of adaptive secretion.” The body will never make more enzymes than are required to digest, assimilate, and transport the fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals found in the foods consumed.

As the food continues to travel through the intestinal tract, it finally enters the large intestine. The large intestine is home to many different kinds of beneficial bacteria that live off some of the foods that make it this far without being fully digested, and it is here where water and electrolytes (ionic compounds) are absorbed. Finally, the waste is eliminated. This entire process normally takes 3–10 days and may require as much as 80% of the available energy the body has at its disposal.

THE ENERGY SAVERS

In addition to making raw food a regular part of the daily diet, a high-potency, broad-spectrum digestive enzyme formula can provide assistance in a number of ways, such as reducing or completely eliminating the common symptoms of poor digestion, lessening the demand placed on the organs of the digestive system that are responsible for digestive enzyme production, increasing nutrient uptake of food and nutritional supplements, reducing food cravings, increasing energy, supporting overall health, and extending life.

The fact that two of the most successful prescription drugs in history are for digestive discomfort signals the need for a natural way for people to address their digestion issues. Whether obtained from supplementation alone or in combination with an increased intake of raw foods, enzymes are a simple way to keep healthy digestion in check.