Nutrition is the first and most important line of defense in maintaining health and preventing disease. A diet and lifestyle that supplements rather than exhausts our enzyme supply will help to maintain good gastrointestinal health and in turn good health in general.
Enzymes are complex proteins that are involved in nearly every metabolic and physiologic function in the body and are necessary for every chemical reaction that makes life possible – where there is life there are enzymes. There are more than 5000 types of enzymes creating 25,000 different functions in the human body ensuring optimal functioning of all organs, glands and tissues.
Out of the 5000 enzymes produced in the body over 3000 of them are produced by our intestinal bacteria (probiotics) – our most important life partners. There are those enzymes that are produced by the body and those that must come from our food providing a favorable intestinal environment for the production of more enzymes. It is easy to see how promoting good gastrointestinal health supports our health in general.
Enzymes serve as catalysts by dramatically affecting the rate of chemical reactions. Many reactions are impossible without them. Vitamins, minerals or hormones would be unable to carry out their valuable functions without enzymes. By the same token many enzymes rely on specific vitamins or minerals in order to take their action. For example, some of the B vitamins are precursors to enzymes, but cannot be produced by the body therefore must come from our diets. This is one way good nutrition aids our enzymes.
Some of the major functions of enzymes are enhancing immune system health, promoting cardiovascular health, balancing hormones, supporting the central nervous system, all stages of digestion, building of new tissue, maintaining homeostasis, detoxification and reducing inflammation to name only a few.
The production of a particular type of enzyme is dependent on the needs of the body at the time. For example a particular type of enzyme is required to break down alcohol in the liver. When a larger than normal amount of alcohol is consumed, the enzyme is used up, creating a shortage for other functions in the body, such as digestion.
Alcohol, tobacco, certain drugs, electromagnetic waves, food additives, agricultural chemicals, environmental pollution and emotional stress are all factors that exhaust our supply of enzymes more rapidly than the body can replenish therefore tipping the scale towards disease.
How can we supplement our enzyme activity?
- Consume herbal digestive bitters 5 – 10 minutes before meals. Taking bitters before meals is an age old, natural remedy to stimulate digestive enzymes.
- Chew, chew, chew your food thoroughly (30 – 40 times per mouthful until it becomes mush). Chewing stimulates digestive enzymes in our saliva, where digestion begins.
- Eat a diet rich in a variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. These foods are abundant with enzymes and dietary fiber.
- Juicing and eating food raw is great as cooking can destroy enzymes.
- Eat a variety of unrefined grains. Grains provide a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals (important cofactors in enzyme production)
- Eat fresh, wild fish as the main source of protein, unless you are vegan
- Limit animal protein – too much animal protein is difficult to digest and may not be completely broken down and absorbed by the gastrointestinal system. It can decompose in the intestine, producing toxins that exhaust large amounts of enzymes in the intestine and liver.
- Limit dairy products – there is research indicating that milk aside from being an allergen for many people may also upset the intestinal flora by increasing the amount of bad bacteria
- Limit or eliminate alcohol, caffeine and smoking (enzyme exhausters)
- Drink plenty of pure, clean water with an abundance of minerals
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Eat last meal 3 – 4 hours before bed.
- As we age our stomach acid and enzyme production naturally decrease, so we are more likely to be deficient in enzymes
There are many supplemental enzymes on the market that are formulated for a variety of functions. For example there are digestive enzyme supplements that are meant to be taken with meals to aid in the digestion – absorption process and other enzymes to be taken without food to help prevent and reduce inflammation in the body. Depending on individual situations supplemental enzymes may be very beneficial.
Ask our doctors to help determine whether you may benefit from enzyme supplementation.