The foods you eat can change the quality of your life.
Have you noticed foods you cannot enjoy or tolerate like you did before?
Do you ever suffer with heartburn, gas, constipation, bloating, allergies, or lack of energy? Are you catching colds and flu more often? Do you have a feeling of less stamina?
Then you may be lacking in enzymes.
No worries! You can fix that!
Food provides us with necessary enzymes. The key is to remember that food enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118°F. This means that cooked and processed foods contain few, if any, enzymes.
When we eat mainly cooked and processed foods, we could well be setting ourselves up for a shorter and less healthy life.
Enzymes are essential to life. They help us digest our food, repair our tissues, organs, and cells, provide us with cellular energy, and stimulate our brains. When we do not get enough enzymes in our diet, we can deplete other enzyme stores.
Dr. Edward Howell, an expert on enzymes, theorizes that humans are given a limited supply of enzyme energy at birth. Howell tells us, “The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism. The increased use of food enzymes promotes a decreased rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential.”
In other words, the more enzymes you have available, the longer and healthier you can live.
This points to the importance of eating “live foods”—raw fruits and vegetables—because they contain enzymes that are still active. The more enzymes you get, the healthier you are.
Food enzymes help us “predigest” foods. In fact, the enzymes found in raw foods can digest 5-75% of the foods themselves without the help of other enzymes, saving many of the body’s own enzyme stores.
The importance of digestive enzymes resides in the fact that the human body cannot absorb nutrients in food unless digestive enzymes break them down. They ensure that we get the greatest possible nutritional value from foods.
When foods are not well digested, they remain in the stomach and begin to rot. This waste then builds up in the colon and continues to decay, producing bacteria and toxins. The toxins can eventually seep through the bowel wall, where they can be picked up by the blood capillaries and distributed throughout the body. This can result in health problems such as allergies, fatigue, achiness, headaches, and immune suppression.
Conversely, when you eat enzyme-rich foods and chew your food properly, the food enters your stomach coated with digestive enzymes. Over the next hour, these enzymes predigest up to 75% of your food.
After this period of predigestion, hydrochloric acid and pepsin enter the stomach. The acid inactivates the food-based enzymes, except for the acid stable enzymes. Now the HCL and pepsin finish breaking down the food in the stomach and pass it on to the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, the acid is neutralized and the pancreas reintroduces digestive enzyme to complete the digestive process. The nutrients now can be absorbed into the blood stream.
Unfortunately for many of us, the food entering our stomach is severely enzyme deficient. This can cause the food to just sit there for an hour, with very little predigestion taking place. Even after the stomach acid has done its work, the meal can enter the small intestine largely undigested.
In an attempt to compensate for the lack of predigestion, our body will respond with increasing amounts of stomach acid earlier and earlier.
This can lead to acid reflux.
High levels of stomach acid cannot make up for the lack of predigestion. We can still end up with incomplete digestion which can lead to the illnesses we discussed earlier. Improper digestion and absorption can even lead to malnutrition.
NOTE: Use of prescription and over-the-counter acid reflux drugs may help alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux; however, they can further interfere with proper digestion and absorption of your food.
To solve this, when eating enzyme-deficient food, you can use digestive enzymes to ensure that your foods are more completely digested.
Digestive enzymes include protease, which digests protein; amylase, which digests carbohydrates; lipase, which digests fats and oils; and maltase, which digests malt sugars and grains.
How to Choose and Take Your Digestive Enzymes
There are hundreds of digestive enzyme formulas on the market. Look for an enzyme formula that lists the activity level of each enzyme in the formula. Two batches of the same enzyme of equal weight can have very different activity levels. This is usually expressed in different activity units for each type of enzyme. For example, HUTs for protease, SKB or DU for amylase, and LU for lipase.
World-leading nutraceutical researcher, Jon Barron, recommends looking for these numbers when choosing a digestive enzyme supplement.
- Protease: A minimum of 33,000 HUT should be adequate for most meals. (Remember, you can always take a second or third capsule for meals that require it.)
- Acid stable protease: 1,000 SAPU would be great. Most formulas have none at all.
- Lipase: 5,000 LU is adequate.
- Amylase: Look for 12,000 SKB.
- Lactase: 1,500 LACU is the minimum with 2,000 or even 2,500 being better.
- Look for a variety of other enzymes such as malt diastase, invertase, glucoamylase, cellulase, and hemicellulase.
You can also look for Alpha galactosidase to help control gas.
It is best not to enteric coat enzymes. If the enzymes are enteric coated, they won't begin working until they reach the intestinal tract. The primary role of digestive enzymes is to work in predigestion. If the enzymes are enteric coated, that is an impossibility.
The best time to take digestive enzymes is just before you start eating. This sends a signal to your body that enzymes are present and begins to train your body to hold back on the stomach acid for the 40-60 minutes that nature intended. However, if you forget to take your enzymes before you start eating, they can still be of use after you eat.
A significant percentage of people progressing in age may need supplemental hydrochloric acid. To prevent the inactivation of the digestive enzymes, it should be taken as a separate supplement 40-60 minutes after you finish eating. Symptoms of low acid include bloating, belching, and flatulence immediately after meals. Other symptoms would be indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn. If these symptoms do not improve with the digestive enzymes alone, you can try adding HCL from the health food store or taking apple cider vinegar with your meal. You can mix one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with water and a little honey, and drink this with each meal. You may gradually increase the vinegar up to 3-4 tablespoons in water if needed.
Author: Debra Kahnen, RN, ND, is the CEO of Life Mastery LLC. With over three decades of healthcare experience—as both a nursing leader in the largest not-for-profit health system in Texas and as a naturopath focusing on wellness—her view is radically different. Debra is a renowned expert in stress management and wellness. She helps people improve their health and emotional well-being to allow for more peace, joy, and personal satisfaction. Get a free special short video eCourse, "Take back control of your life NOW!”, so you can experience more balance and ease in your life.