All About Digestive Enzymes Essential for Good Health

Published: 16th November 2011
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You may have heard a bit about digestive enzymes in the health pages of your favorite magazine or newspaper. You probably know that they help with digestion — but what are they exactly, and why are they so important? Why is it pretty much impossible to feel healthy without them? Let’s take a look at digestive enzymes in more detail and explore why they are critical for good health.
Enzymes are protein molecules. Not just any old protein molecules, but specialized ones. These special protein molecules help bring about most of your body’s metabolic processes. Enzymes help with supplying energy, digesting foods, purifying your blood and ridding your body of waste products, among other things.
Enzymes are divided into three main groups: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes and food enzymes. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the three.
The Three Enzymes
Metabolic enzymes have the special job of “sparking” the reactions within your cells. Metabolic enzymes help run your organs, tissues and cells. Without these enzymes, your body would not work.
To get a clearer picture of exactly what metabolic enzymes do, here are some of the specific functions they perform: turn phosphorus into bone, attach iron to red blood cells, heal wounds and keep your heart beating.
Digestive enzymes break down food. They are secreted by the pancreas. Digestive enzymes allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into your bloodstream, where they can be used for bodily functions. Digestive enzymes help make sure that you get the best possible nutritional value from the foods that you eat.
Food enzymes come from the foods that you eat. Some of these are digestive enzymes, but some are unique to the foods that they belong to. Food enzymes predigest food before your body’s digestive enzymes get to work. They can digest up to75% of a certain food and help maintain a healthy reserve of enzymes inside your body.
Even the Best Diet Needs Enzymes
You could have the best nutritional plan — full of healthy foods and supplementing with vitamins and minerals — but without a healthy colony of enzymes hard at work for you, you won’t be able to absorb any nutrients.
It is true that the store of enzymes in your body is actually quite small, but enzymes are extremely powerful: 30 grams of pepsin can digest about two metric tons of egg white in a matter of hours.
Because enzymes are vital for digesting and absorbing nutrients, they are very important players in maintaining good health. They help fight aging. They could help with weight loss, lowering cholesterol, breaking down fats and strengthening the immune system.
Enzymes help make muscle from protein and eliminate carbon dioxide from your lungs. They even help improve your mental capacity.
Levels Drop as You Age
Unfortunately, as you age, your enzyme levels naturally drop. It has been said that the length of life of an organism is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of an organism’s enzymes. In other words, the more enzymes you use up, the shorter your life will be.
It is very important to keep enzyme levels up, especially as you age. Here’s a quick primer on eight of the major enzymes that are needed for good health.
Protease
“Protease” helps digest proteins in your body. Proteins are one of the most difficult substances to metabolize. Because of this, protease is considered one of the most important enzymes you have.
Undigested protein can end up in your circulatory system causing symptoms of ill health. When you have high levels of protease, it can clean up your circulatory system by removing unwanted protein. When protease is abundant enough to do this job, your energy and balance could be restored.
Protease could also help your immune system function better. When an invading organism wants to hide in your body, it wraps itself in a large protein shell to make itself look “normal.” However, protease can detect and remove these protein shells. Once the protein barrier is removed, your immune system can step in and destroy the invading organism.
This is how protease can be helpful in fighting such things as colds, flus and cancerous tumor growths. Cancerous cells have a “fibrin” coating that protease can dissolve, giving your immune system a chance to do its job and shrink the tumors.
Amylase
“Amylase” is responsible for digesting carbohydrates in the food that you eat. It is considered your second-most-important enzyme.
When you don’t digest carbohydrates completely, you could end up with blood-sugar imbalances, allergies and asthma. Because of this, amylase is often considered a natural antihistamine.
Amylase has also been found to be very effective in helping relieve the symptoms of allergic reactions. Research suggests that symptoms resulting from insect bites, pollen irritation, contact with poison oak, poison ivy or sumac can be greatly reduced when you have enough amylase in your body. Some people may be more immune to these poisons because of a higher amount of amylase within their bodies.
Lipase
“Lipase” is responsible for digesting fats in food. When taken in higher quantities, it will also find its way into the blood stream and help remove excess fatty deposits from the insides of your veins and arteries. When this occurs, the arteries and veins are more open and allow the blood to flow more smoothly throughout your body.
It is well understood that clogged arteries cause a rise in blood pressure, and that this, in turn, leads to heart problems. Using extra lipase during the pre-digestive phase could help with overall fat control both in the stomach and in the arteries of your body.
Additional lipase can also be helpful in a weight-management program, because it converts fat to energy instead of allowing it to be stored in your body.
Cellulase
“Cellulase” is needed for breaking down fiber. Cellulase also has another important job: you can think of it as an excellent antioxidant, because it binds to heavy metals and other toxins. In this way, it helps carry these toxins out of your body before they can cause too much damage.
Our diets are usually a combination of two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Cellulase works hand-in-hand with soluble fiber to bind to toxins and excess cholesterol and remove them from your body. Without cellulase, this process would not be nearly so effective or efficient.
Maltase
“Maltase” is responsible for breaking down complex sugars. When you consume malt or grain products, it is maltase that changes complex sugars into glucose.
Lactase
“Lactase,” as you might have guessed, is need for digesting the milk sugars that are found in dairy products.
Phytase
“Phytase” aids with digestion in general. It is very important, as it is particularly helpful in producing vital nutrients from the B-complex vitamins.
Sucrase
If you guessed that “sucrase” is involved in sugar digestion, you’re right. Sucrase is responsible for digesting the sugars that are found in most foods.
Give Enzymes Some Help
To give your enzymes a boost as they try to digest all different kinds of foods, here are some tips that you can follow. Keeping in mind these basic suggestions could help you with the digestion of your food — especially if you already have problems:
• Chew your food well. Chewing helps break down your food. That way, your digestive enzymes can work more efficiently when it is time for them to go into action.
• Eat your meals slowly. This gives your digestive enzymes time to do their job. When you eat slowly, food proceeds along your digestive tract in an orderly and continuous way.
• Relax after you eat, and you will store a little energy. This energy can then be used for the digestive process.
• Eat smaller, more frequent meals during the day to help your digestion and to promote better metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fat.
• Avoid eating large meals before bedtime. Ideally, you don’t want to eat a heavy meal within three hours of bedtime. When you sleep, it is your body’s chance to do all sorts of repair work and replenish dying cells with new ones. If you eat a big meal, your body has to use all of its resources for digestion, instead of healing the rest of you while you sleep.
• Drink lots of water. Water flushes toxins from you system, softens stools so that they can be eliminated more efficiently and keeps you and your digestive system hydrated.
• Eat lots of raw fruits and veggies. Raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes, so if you want to keep up your enzyme levels — especially as you age — then you’ve got to eat apples and pears, carrots, broccoli, green beans, papaya, pineapple and all of the other delicious fruits and veggies that are available at the grocery store.
Get as Many Enzymes as You Can
Get all the enzymes that you can from the foods that you eat. The more enzymes you take in, the better your digestion will likely be — and the better your digestion is, the more valuable nutrients you’re able to get from your food. It is not really possible to get too many enzymes, so eat well.
Cooking kills many enzymes, so you’re going to need to eat some raw veggies every day, along with some fresh fruit. Start your day with some pineapple or papaya tomorrow, and know that you have just taken in a hefty dose of digestive enzymes and that they’re going to help you feel

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