Plant Digestive Enzymes
- Help Reclaim Our Youthful Enzyme Levels
Having enough digestive enzymes is important not only for our digestive health.
Our whole body uses enzymes. Our blood has enzymes. And research has shown that by taking plant digestive enzymes as a supplement we do in fact improve our digestive process and increase the absorption of nutrients.
"As school students all know, chemical reactions can be speeded up by the use of catalysts - chemicals which, without changing in form themselves, can influence other chemicals to combine and change at great speed. Because they remain unchanged, catalysts can be used over and over again. Enzymes act as catalysts in the body, enabling the release of energy and the operation of metabolic processes to occur at lightening speed." (p54, Horne)
Whilst enzymes are not static and 'eternal' like chemical catalysts, they do act as catalysts in all of our body's processes - digestive, neural, hormonal, and more. As well as helping digest food, breaking down the carbohydrates, proteins and fats into smaller molecules that the rest of the digestive system can work with, they also help maintain the state of our body's tissues, and general functioning.
Some interesting facts about enzymes in our body:
they are "protein like"
all body processes require enzymes
each enzyme has a specific purpose
enzyme levels change with age - they are highest when we are early into adulthood, but decrease as we age
enzyme levels are always low in chronic disease
if the body is strong, enzyme levels will rise with acute illnesses. This is interesting because in acute illnesses, we usually get better quickly - unless there's an underlying chronic condition which has weakened our immune system.
The enzymes in our blood also help keep our body functioning well - that is, if there are sufficient levels of enzymes in our body to start with. They can digest particles that may inadvertently get absorbed into our lymph and blood. Some things, like bacteria, yeast cells,proteins and fats can get absorbed into the blood and lymph. But if we don't have a high enough level of enzymes in our body generally, there won't be enough for the blood enzymes to break down these foreign objects. This causes the body's immune system to try and remove these foreign objects. This in turn can cause allergic type responses in people. Ross Horne cites work where people were given large doses of pancreatic enzymes when they experienced such a reaction, and as a result of taking these enzymes, their allergic symptoms went.
Taking plant digestive enzyme supplements can help both healthy people and people with digestive problems. The study measured the effects of taking plant digestive enzymes on both carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It found that glucose (a measure of carbohydrate metabolism) was 4 times more available in a healthy digestive system, and 7 times more available in weakened digestive system. And proteins were twice as available in a weakened digestive system after taking enzyme supplements.
It's important to choose a plant digestive enzyme product that will survive the normal acids released in the stomach during digestion. Food digestion takes place in both the stomach and the small intestine, so enzyme supplements must be of a high enough quality that this is taken into account. In the study, an enzyme product was used that was capable of this.
We can naturally increase the amount of enzymes we have by eating more fresh fruit. Fruit is very high in enzymes, but it should not be overripe, and it should be fresh and raw.
Plant digestive enzymes are generally made from bromelain, from pineapples; papain, from papayas; as well as enzymes from a fungus called aspergillus. The enzymes used in the above study were derived from a fungus. There are non plant digestive enzymes available, and these are sometimes mixed with the plant digestive enzymes. These types of digestive enzyme supplements are called pancreatic enzymes.
Plant digestive enzymes are taken by many people with digestive problems including heartburn (but you'll need to wait for 2 hours before taking any antacids as this will neutralize the effects of the enzymes). Plus, irritable bowel, bloating, flatulence, poor appetite. Generally, if you're taking enzyme supplements to help with digestion, you should take the enzymes at the meal.
Other health issues people sometimes take plant digestive enzymes for are candida, and rosacea.
But enzyme supplements can also be taken to build up the levels of enzymes in the body that help with general repair and maintenance. In this case, enzyme supplements should be taken between meals. Of course, they can be taken both just before a meal and between meals to get the full benefits of this type of program.
Click here for more information on enzyme supplements.
Other Digestive Articles
1. Ross Horne, The Health Revolution