That old axiom “you are what you eat” may be rendered meaningless if what you eat isn’t being processed properly into your body. Digestive enzymes are essential for cellular absorption and you could be facing malabsorption due to a lack of them. It’s estimated there are 50,000 to 70,000 enzymes in our bodies and they are needed to break down the food we eat into nutrients. Digestive enzymes break down larger molecules into more easily absorbed particles.
These enzymes are the start of a chain reaction that starts when we chew our food and continues by eventually separating amino acids from proteins, fatty acids and cholesterol from fats, and sugars from carbohydrates and then absorbing the vitamins and minerals we need.
Here are the primary digestive enzymes that are used to break down foods:
· Protease – Digests protein
· Maltase – Converts complex sugars from grains into glucose
· Amylase – Digests carbohydrates
· Lactase – Digests lactose from dairy products
· Lipase – Digests fats
These enzymes help macronutrients break down into molecules small enough to be carried in the bloodstream that become micronutrients and are then transported to the pancreas that then releases hormones, bicarbonate, bile and pancreatic enzymes, allowing the enzymes to break down food and the bacteria that comes with it. If you have a digestive enzyme insufficiency, it could lead to a number of digestive problems.
Diseases such as acid reflux, gas, bloating, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, chronic diarrhea or constipation can result. If not addressed, lack of digestive enzymes could lead to problems like endocrine gland imbalances, high blood sugar, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
As we age, the acidity of our stomach acid becomes more alkaline and can cause acid reflux due to less hydrochloric acid, a crucial component in activating the stomach’s digestive enzymes. Iron deficiency, vitamin B12 and Vitamin D deficiency are indicators that the digestive process is failing to process nutrients from food. Chronic stress is a common reason for digestive enzyme problems. When you’re in the “fight or flight” mode, digestion is given a low priority, where digestive enzyme output is reduced.
Your body needs proper food absorption for:
· Absorption of oxygen
· Breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
· Dissolving blood clots
· Fighting infections and healing wounds
· Hormone regulation
· Nerve impulse regulation
· Producing energy
· Reducing inflammation
· Regulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels
· Releasing toxic waste
· RNA/DNA functioning
· Slowing the aging process
You can boost your digestive enzyme levels naturally by Increasing your intake of raw, living foods, intermittent fasting and chewing your food thoroughly. The most powerful enzyme-rich foods are those that are sprouted, especially seeds and legumes. Other enzyme-rich foods include papaya, pineapple, mango, kiwifruit, grapes raw honey, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocados.
Your doctor may suggest a digestive enzyme supplement. Digestive enzyme supplements are derived from either plants or animals and the best ones contain pancreatin, which is a combination of all three pancreatic enzymes. It is important not to supplement without consulting your doctor as too much supplementation of digestive enzymes can create other problems.