My patients often ask me, ‘Why are Enzymes so Important’? “Why is that I never had these problem before when I was younger?” Why is it that since I had that bout of stomach flu, I still have gas and bloating? I’ll tell you why.
Digestion begins with the Senses
Did you know that digestion begins not in the stomach, but with the senses? Actually, just seeing and smelling food sends signals to the brain that trigger a number of events. First of all, there is an increase in salivation. Then the enzymes, amylase and lipase flood into the mouth. Amylase is actually a family of related proteins and they help to begin the process of breaking down carbohydrates. Lipase, on the other hand starts to break down fats into their simpler components.
Here’s what happens. The process of chewing serves to actually break food down, making sure that there is an efficient chemical and enzymatic disassembly of food. As chewing continues, the smaller bites of food are moistened, infused with enzymes and swallowed, helped by muscular contractions of the esophagus and then passes into the stomach.
Once the food reaches the stomach, it is combined with gastric acid, mainly consisting of hydrochloric acid. The main cells in the stomach releases pepsin and degrades food proteins into peptides at the same time that more digestive enzymes are added to the mix. These are the enzymes that selectively break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats prior to transporting this content into the small intestine.
This is where the main part of digestion and absorption takes place. One important fact to add….the stomach also releases a compound called intrinsic factor. It is this intrinsic factor that allows the absorption of vitamin B12 later on in the digestive process.
Once in the small intestine, extra digestive enzymes that include trypsin, chymotrypsin and pancreatin continue to break down the food. These enzymes are either produced by the intestinal lining or may be released into the gut by the pancreas. These enzymes are critical in extracting nutrients from the food.
Pancreatin, is almost the most important of all. It is a mixture of a number of different enzymes usually released by the pancreas when food is present. Pancreatin contains enzymes like proteases which helps break down proteins into amino acids. That’s why in our newly released and unique Perfect Pass Digestive Enzyme, Pancreatin makes up a significant proportion of the formula.
Other important digestive components are:
- lactase to help the body to break down lactose (milk sugar) from dairy products;
- papain from papaya, to help with protein digestion; and
- cellulase which aids to prevent the development of a rather rare condition known as gastric phytobezoar, that may result in a blockage in the gastrointestinal system.
We can’t leave out the importance of liver function. The liver produces bile that is stored in the gallbladder and it’s released when fats are present. It’s the bile that helps emulsify fats, permitting the fats to be broken down by enzymes. This process is very important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The Importance of Enzymes with regard to Malnutrition and Aging
Its apparent that there is a complex series of events involved in breaking food down to its constituent of sugars, amino acids, and fatty acids. These constituents are readily absorbed through the lining of the small intestine and transported into the bloodstream. The nutrients are then passed along to the liver, where filtration occurs, toxins are inactivated and removed, and final processing happens.
So you can see that enzymes play an integral role in this complex process. Unfortunately, many adults don’t have enough enzymes.
When we’re young, our digestive enzymes are able to easily break down ingested food into vital proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. This provides optimal nutritional value to the body. However, as we age and also as a result of illnesses we may have had, the body’s digestive functions start to deteriorate.
This results in a variety of symptoms like gas and bloating. It can also cause food to only be partially digested. Sometimes nutritional deficiencies or even inflammatory conditions result because of inadequate enzyme activity.
This can often be traced back to diet, food choices and how we prepare our food. Natural enzymes are readily found in raw fruits and vegetables. However, the moment we cook our food, we destroy the natural enzymes.
We also know now that the amount of enzymes produced by the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine declines with age.
That’s why older people often suffer with poor digestion, decreased nutrient absorption, and a lessening of intestinal motility. These all contribute in one way or another to variety of complaints like problems with increased gas and bloating, problems eliminating, and even malnutrition.
As early as 1999 – double blind research verified that supplementing with digestive enzymes is very effective.
Taking digestive enzyme supplements ensure a healthy breakdown and assimilation of food. Not only do they help with the breakdown of food, but they also play other imprtant roles.
Yes, now we are fortunate to have advanced enzyme formulas that make it possible to protect the body against systemic inflammation and also improve digestive function, prevent gastric distress, speeding up healing after surgery and even curbing malnutrition that often occurs in the elderly
In conclusion, there is another very important consideration. That is auto immune disease. In autoimmune diseases we find that immune complexes, which are large groups of antigens (molecules that trigger immune responses) and antibodies (immune proteins that neutralize foreign invaders), lock together in a tangled mesh.
They cause damage when they deposit in tissue. We are led to believe that they play a role in immune system diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Now we are looking in to the fact that supplementing with enzymes can have immunomodulatory activity and thus play a role in reducing the incidence of these immune complexes.