While many of us pay close attention to what we put in our bodies by making sure our diet is full of healthy, nourishing food – we may not be paying enough attention to how our bodies are deriving nutrients from the food we eat. This is extremely important, because it’s our body’s ability to break down food and process nutrients that keep us performing well and in optimal health.
Digestive enzymes are key to converting food into its simple nutrients. From protein, we get amino acids. Fatty acids and cholesterol come from fats, and from carbohydrates, simple sugars. When properly functioning, our bodies also absorb vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. Digestive enzymes are produced by the salivary glands, pancreas, stomach, and small intestine. They are necessary to ensure we are able to convert food into nutrients our body can absorb and utilize.
When digestive enzymes are working effectively, our body is able to generate new body tissue, energy, and cleanse the system from free radicals and toxins. When even one part of the digestive tract isn’t working well, it can cause bloating, gas, nausea and other unpleasant symptoms.
In more extreme cases, a poorly functioning digestive system can lead to Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and colitis.
How Digestive Enzymes Work
Once we start eating food, the digestive process begins. The enzyme salivary amylase starts to break down large molecules called polysaccharides into smaller maltose and dextrose molecules.
Then, food begins to move through to the stomach. Gastric juices, which are made up of hydrochloric acid and pepsinogen, get secreted by the glands in the stomach’s lining; killing microorganisms, and converting the pepsinogen into the stomach enzyme called pepsin. Pepsin breaks proteins down into peptides. Along with the digestive enzymes chymotrypsin and trypsin, the three are able to break proteins down into amino acids and peptides which can be utilized by the body.
From the stomach, food moves to the small intestine where the pancreatic enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin begin to work, as well as pancreatic amylase that further break down starches into maltose. Pancreatic lipase begins to digest fats into glycerol and fatty acids as well. The process continues into the distal small intestine where the absorption of micronutrients occurs.
Should I Take Enzyme Supplements?
Almost everyone could benefit from taking supplemental enzymes. Research suggests that taking an enzyme supplement could help boost your immune system by up to 70 percent.
Other considerations for taking digestive enzymes include:
- As we begin to age, our bodies make less digestive enzymes. By age 50, we only make half of the enzymes we did when we were younger – thus lowering your immune system’s ability to fight infections, and therefore advancing the aging process.
- Enzyme Deficiencies. Enzyme deficit could be the result of genetics or it could be due to high stress, eating low-nutrient foods or lifestyle choices such as heavy alcohol consumption or smoking. If you have gas, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, bloating, or gastric upset, consider taking digestive enzyme supplements.
For a quality supplement, I recommend Diamond Nutritionals’ Digestive Enzyme Formula. This natural formulation also helps bring the stomach pH to a more acidic form and is widely used to help proper food digestion by breaking down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Increasing Enzyme Levels Naturally
Certain foods and improved lifestyle and diet choices can help you gain digestive enzymes naturally. Consider eating more whole foods, chew your food thoroughly, and eat fewer calories. In addition, avoid chewing gum: this habit can affect the body’s ability to start the digestive process.
Enzyme rich foods include:
- Fruits including papaya, mango and kiwi
- Raw Honey
- Spouted foods, including seeds and legumes
With the help of dietary enzyme supplements as well as a healthy diet full of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, you can keep your digestive system working well, and immune system in top shape while even slowing down the aging process.
How To Check Your Digestive Enzymes
It is very easy to check your levels of digestive enzymes. For my patients, I often
use Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis with Parasitology x 3. This test
reveals many things about your health. It may be ordered through this link, where you may also view a sample report. A collection kit is sent directly to you, and you return it to the lab in the prepaid mailer.
As digestive enzymes are extremely safe and healthy, many choose to try them before doing testing.
As always, I recommend seeking your doctor’s opinion about any health matters.