Contrary to popular belief, we are not what we eat, but what we absorb. Without proper digestion, the benefits of the healthiest diet are lost. Enzymes are the key element to successful digestion. Dr. Loomis, an enzyme nutritionist and founder of Loomis Institute, calls enzymes “the construction workers of the body.” They are responsible for maintaining normal physiological processes and building health. Enzymes break down and shuttle away toxic waste, construct muscle from protein, and deliver hormones, among many other things. They also are responsible for the absorption of food, thereby allowing us to reap food's nutritional benefits. Our health depends on our ability to digest food, and our ability to digest food depends on enzymes.
Before we delve more into the specifics of enzymes, let's travel with them through the digestive process. Here is a basic summary of what happens in our bodies when we eat a piece of pizza. Let's pretend the pizza is being digested by someone who eats few, if any, raw foods and therefore is deficient in food enzymes:
1. Mouth: Pizza is chewed, the more the better (chewing, not pizza, that is). Salivary glands secrete saliva containing the enzyme, amylase, which digests carbohydrates and is one of the bodies naturally occurring enzymes. Bits of cheese, sauce and bread are then swallowed.
2. Upper part of the stomach (cardiac portion): This is our “pre-digestive stomach” where plant enzymes begin to break down food. This takes 30-60 minutes as the pizza waits for the lower portion of the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid. On a diet that is low in raw, organic foods, there will be few, if any, enzymes to help in this process. In other words, without enzymes for pre-digestion, this piece of pizza will just camp out in the cardiac portion, not quite sure what to do with itself and taking up space while it waits for the completion of hydrochloric acid production.
3. Lower port of the stomach: Here the pizza takes its long-awaited hydrochloric acid bath. It is broken down by the extreme acidity.
4. Duodenum (upper part of the small intestine): The pizza is alkalized (the pH rises to around 7.2) and further decomposed by pancreatic enzymes. Since the food has not been properly pre-digested, the pancreas is left over-burdened and exhausted, probably cursing our lack of foresight and unhealthy pizza obsession.
5. Jejunum (second part of the small intestine): This is the big hurrah for which the first four parts of digestion are preparing us. We finally begin to absorb all the health benefits of our food! Unfortunately, since we eat too much pizza and too little raw foods, there are still fairly large bits of cheese and grain floating around the jejunum. Over time, these undigested bits of food can wear down the small intestine and lead to a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome.
6. Colon (elimination): The final stage in our digestion - expelling of wastes. Over 90% of our bodies bacteria live here. Most of these bacteria are helpful. However, sometimes food that is not properly digested will feed pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi. When wastes are not eliminated properly, toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria are re-absorbed into the blood which requires more work by the liver. That pizza could be coming back to haunt you in more ways than one.
What Happens When Food is Not Properly Digested?
Besides conditions listed above, enzyme deficiency manifests as common conditions of the major systems of the body:
- hay fever
- chronic allergies
- hot flashes
- menstrual irregularities
- injuries (bruises, sprains, broken bones, tendonitis, disc problems)
- neck and shoulder aches
- back weakness
- aching feet
- common colds
- sinus infections
- head aches
- mood swings
- heart problems
- high blood pressure
- acid reflux
- urinary weakness
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Integumentary (skin) System
- skin rashes
Where do Enzymes Come From?:
- The Digestive System. Our body naturally produces many digestive enzymes which aid in food break-down and absorption.
- Food. It is imperative that we fill our diets with foods rich in naturally ocurring enzymes in order to support our digestive system. Raw vegetables, nuts, fruits and raw meat are excellent examples of enzyme-rich foods.
- Scientists (supplements created in a lab). When our bodies need an extra boost, we can supplement our digestive system and food intake with enzyme supplements.
- What does it digest?
- Why is protease important?
When taken on a full stomach, protease helps digest proteins. Protease helps break down debris from bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, and cancer cells. It is also an especially powerful tool for those that take medications such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Omeprazole for acid reflux disease, since these medications inhibit protein digestion.
- What does Protease support?
Protease helps resolve bacteria, viral and yeast infections, and helps support the immune system.
- What does it digest?
-Why is amylase important?
A modern, Western diet consists of too many carbohydrates. Amylase can help ease digestive distress due to over-consumption of carbohydrates.
- What does Amylase support?
Hypoglycemia, Type II diabetes, carbohydrate cravings, allergies. Also helps ameliorate symptoms of asthma and emphysema.
-What does it digest?
Fat, and fat-soluble vitamins.
- Why is lipase important?
Healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 from flaxseed and cold-water fish, or fat-soluble nutrients such as beta carotene, lutein, vitamins A, D, E and K, are extremely beneficial. However, the American diet is artificially chocked full of saturated fats which clog our arteries and necessitate the use of elastic waist bands. Avoiding processed foods quickly and easily fixes this problem. Lipase assists our body’s digestion of necessary and healthy fats. Lipase is especially helpful for those who have had gall bladder surgery and have an especially difficult time with fat digestion.
- What does lipase support?
Lipase helps resolve high cholesterol, high triglycerides, weight-loss issues, cell permeability, vertigo or labrynthis (Meniere's Disease), and heart disease.
Enzymes Supplements and Appropriate Use: Full v. Empty Stomach
The enzymes found in plants or supplements can be taken either on an empty or full stomach, with varying results.
1. Break down food throughout the digestive system (Full Stomach)
By taking digestive enzymes white eating you can alleviate the stress on your pancreas and small intestine. When consumed with food, digestive enzymes can predigest up to 60% of the carbohydrates, 30% of the protein and 10% of the fat before the bodies digestive system takes over.
2. Vacuum-Cleaners and Inflation Deflators (Empty Stomach)
When taken on an empty stomach, enzymes enter the blood stream and help the immune system by digesting and disposing of toxins like high-powered vacuum cleaners. Taking enzymes in this way can help reverse inflammation. Each enzyme has a specific method for combating inflammation, which is why it is important to consult a health practitioner about which enzyme is best for you. Since plant enzymes digest toxins instead of annihilating them (as antibiotics do with bacteria), this cleansing process leaves no unwanted side effects. We can safely and efficiently eliminate the digested toxins through the urinary tract, skin, colon and lungs.
In Defense of Food
We need to get digestive enzymes primarily from food, not supplements. Our diets have become increasingly homogenized and processed, full of artificial sugars, saturated fats and extracted chemicals. By returning to a diet based on organic vegetables, proteins and fruits, our bodies will begin to heal.
Multivitamins v. Digestive Enzymes
Sometimes a simple diet change is not enough. Our bodies may need some additional support. Though we need to get digestive enzymes primarily from food, not supplements, supplemental digestive enzymes are much more efficacious than multi-vitamins. Tons of vitamins and minerals, boasting their numerous healthful qualities, line the shelves at every supermarket and pharmacy. All those vitamins and minerals seem so enticing in their simplicity: A one-pop-stop to true health. However, complete wellness takes more than a pill, though the pharmaceutical and diet industry would like you to think otherwise.
Plant v. Animal Based Enzyme Supplements
There are 2 different types of supplemental enzymes:
|Supplement Enzyme Type||1. Plant||2. Animal (or glandular or pancreatic)|
|Where do they come from?||Cultivated in fermentation tanks||Obtained from the pancreas and stomach of cows and pigs|
|Function||Helps the body support and maintain a healthy digestive system.||Helps the body reduce inflammation. For acute symptoms.
|Functions within what pH Range?||Can function in pH range of 3.0-9.0||Can function only in 8.0-9.0 pH range|
|Versatility||More versatile||Less versatile|
New Beginnings at Ann Arbor Holistic Health
Supporting our enzymes, the “construction workers,” is essential not only for food digestion and absorption, but also the health of our entire body. The symptoms of enzyme deficiency are our body’s way of alerting us about a digestive problem. Though facing enzyme deficiency can be daunting, it is imperative that we heed these messages and remember that there is hope. After slight modification to our diets and lifestyles, and taking appropriate supplements as needed, our bodies can heal. If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a compromised digestive system, make an appointment with one of the digestive health experts at Ann Arbor Holistic Health today. Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.
At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic strategy of healing. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life. Please visit our website at www.digestivehealth-annarbor.com.