Enzymes are molecules that facilitate and potentiate every single biochemical reaction in our body. They act as catalysts for those reactions, without them we would not survive – all our systems would come to a grinding halt! Every single organ, every muscle, every system and every cell are dependent on enzymes. Enzymes also help us to utilize our vitamins and minerals more efficiently – they can impact our energy levels, our digestion, our brain function and how we manage inflammation in our bodies.
There are many different kinds of enzymes – most produced within the body, and most of them function without our even knowing it, for example, to break down our food, and to help manage inflammation. Today I’m going to focus on the role of digestive enzymes.
As humans we have to produce many enzymes and we get relatively few from our diet. This is partially because we eat so many processed and cooked foods – a raw diet would provide more living enzymes that we could potentially utilize. Subsequently, our body needs to up the ante and produce the majority by itself.
Digestive enzymes are one category of enzyme produced by the body – they are produced by the pancreas and secreted into the digestive tract to help us break down our food. Sadly, many Americans have sub-par pancreatic function (again, based on it being so taxed by a high-sugar, low-nutrient, mostly-cooked diet), and so we can have low digestive enzyme levels. This impacts how we are able to break down our food, and means that we often cannot absorb all the nutrients from our food that we need for vibrant health. Low enzyme status also negatively impacts our stomach acid levels. Stomach acid starts the process of breaking down foods, and protects our internal digestive system from pathogens and other threats that can’t survive the acidity, ensuring that they are never able to reach other parts of the body where they could do damage.
Many people find they get benefit from supplementing with digestive enzymes, to give their own body’s levels a helping hand. This facilitates the proper breaking down of foods so that individual nutrients are available to be absorbed. Supplementing with enzymes also reduces the likelihood of food sensitivities – if our food is broken down all the way, which is the proper way for it to happen, there are less immune reactions. Especially if there is leaky gut, larger food molecules can pass through the wall of the small intestine and cause immune activation. If the food molecules are well broken down, that process is less likely to occur.
There are specific enzymes that break down specific foods – proteases, for example, will help break down proteins, whereas amylase will break down carbohydrate, and lipase will break down fats. Unless you are really needing help with a specific food – for example, the DPP-IV enzyme helps to break down gluten, it’s best to take an enzyme product that contains a wide array of enzymes to help with all of your food categories.
The best way to boost enzymes in the body is to eat more raw, living foods. However, even those of us who eat a pretty clean diet will typically eat quite a lot of cooked foods, and so we can still benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation. If you drop me an email I will share with you the one I like best and use myself, but there are many good ones out there, including Pure Encapsulation’s Digestive Enzymes Ultra. I would suggest looking for a plant-based, broad-spectrum enzyme blend. Some digestive enzyme formulas also contain hydrochloric acid to help boost your stomach acid, but while this is helpful for some, it can make the formula a bit too potent for others, so in my view it’s worth starting with just the enzymes alone to see if you notice a difference in your digestion, energy and overall wellbeing.
Next week I will write about how you can use enzymes slightly differently, to reduce pain and inflammation in your body, so stay tuned for that!