You’ve probably heard of enzymes, and you probably already know they are important for your digestion. But you may not be aware of just how necessary enzymes are to every cell in your body—not just for digestion but for ALL your body’s processes.
Enzymes are composed of amino acids and are secreted by your body to help stimulate functions that would normally not occur at normal body temperatures. They literally make magic happen and are absolutely vital to your life.
More than 3,000 different enzymes have been identified. Each enzyme has a different function—like 3,000 specialized keys cut to fit 3,000 different locks. In this example, the locks are biochemical reactions.
Enzymes drive biological processes necessary for your body to build raw materials, circulate nutrients, eliminate unwanted chemicals, and many other biochemical processes that go on.
For starters, here are just some of the activities in your body requiring enzymes:
- Energy production
- Absorption of oxygen
- Fighting infections and healing wounds
- Reducing inflammation
- Getting nutrients into your cells
- Carrying away toxic wastes
- Breaking down fats in your blood, regulating cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Dissolving blood clots
- Proper hormone regulation
- Slowing the aging process
And small amounts of enzymes can affect profound changes! Enzymes are the stimulators that cause many essential biochemical reactions to happen—but they are not “used up” IN the reaction. They merely assist—meaning, they accelerate reactions—sometimes to a mind-boggling several million reactions per second!
But enzymes don’t work alone. Enzymes rely on other elements to accomplish their tasks, such as certain vitamins and minerals. These elements are called “coenzymes.”
You are probably already familiar with one of these—coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria (power centers) of your cells where it is involved in making ATP, every cell’s principal energy source. Another example is magnesium, which participates in over 300 enzyme reactions.
There are three basic categories of enzymes:
Digestive enzymes, as their name implies, help you break down food into smaller parts that can be absorbed, transported and utilized by every cell in your body. Digestive enzymes are extra-cellular—meaning, they are found outside your cells.
Metabolic enzymes are intra-cellular—meaning, inside your cells, where they help the cell carry out a variety of functions related to its reproduction and replenishment.
Your pancreas produces most of these digestive and metabolic enzymes. Fortunately, you get (or should be getting) many enzymes from the foods you consume—particularly, raw foods. These directly help with your digestive process.
The more raw foods you eat, the lower the burden on your body to produce the enzymes it needs, not only for digestion, but for practically everything. Whatever enzymes are not used up in digestion is then available to help with other important physiological processes.
Your Digestive System
There are eight primary digestive enzymes, each designed to help break down different foods:
Protease: Digesting protein
Amylase: Digesting carbohydrates
Lipase: Digesting fats
Cellulase: Breaking down fiber
Maltase: Converting complex sugars from grains into glucose
Lactase: Digesting milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products
Phytase: Helps with overall digestion, especially in producing the B vitamins Sucrase: Digesting most sugars
Amylase in your saliva begins to break down carbohydrates. As food passes into your stomach, proteins are worked on by protease. From there, the food passes into your small intestine, where lipase begins to break down fats, and amylase finishes off the carbohydrates.
90 percent of your digestion and absorption takes place in your small intestine. From here, the micronutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream through the walls of your intestines. But what happens when this process goes awry?
Insufficient enzyme production is at the root of much “tummy trouble” in our country.
It is a sad fact that 90 percent of the food Americans buy is processed food. Diets heavy in cooked, processed, and sugary foods, combined with overuse of pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics, deplete your body’s ability to make enzymes.
Heating your food above 116 degrees F makes most enzymes inactive.
This is one of the reasons it’s so important to eat your food raw.
Raw foods are enzyme-rich, and consuming them decreases your body’s burden to produce its own enzymes. The more food that you can eat raw, the better. Ideally, you should get 75 percent of your digestive enzymes from your food.
In addition to heat, different enzymes work in different parts of your digestive tract, based on the acidity or alkalinity each enzyme needs in order to function. Enzyme deficiency results in poor digestion and poor nutrient absorption.
This creates a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, including:
Flatulence and belching
Heartburn and acid reflux
Chronic mal-absorption can lead to a variety of illnesses. If your body doesn’t have the basic nutritional building blocks it needs, your health and ability to recover from illness will be compromised.
Besides breaking down food, enzymes (particularly the proteases) can help with gut healing, controlling pathogens, and immune support. Your immune system begins in your gut—and if you have enzyme and digestive issues, chances are your immune system isn’t functioning as well as it should be. Research has shown that your natural enzyme production starts to decline by the time you’re about 20.
The Metabolic Enzymes
Let’s take a look at another type of enzymatic activity—your metabolic enzymes. Metabolic enzymes are intimately involved with running your circulatory, lymphatic, cardiac, neurologic, endocrine, renal, hepatic, and reproductive systems, and maintaining your skin, bones, joints, muscles and other tissues.
Every one of your 10 trillion cells depends on these enzymes and their ability to catalyze energy production. As I said before, each of these enzymes is highly specialized as a function of its particular molecular structure.
One of the most important functions of metabolic enzymes happens in your blood. We know that bacteria, fungi, and parasites are comprised of protein, as is the shell encompassing viruses. Enzymes in your blood—primarily proteases (proteolytic enzymes)—serve to break down protein-based foreign bodies, effectively cleansing your blood.
As blood cleansers, these enzymes combat chronic inflammation, which left unchecked, can lead to everything from autoimmune diseases, to cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Enzymes reduce inflammation in your body by:
Breaking down foreign proteins in the blood that cause inflammation and facilitating their removal via your blood stream and lymphatic system
Removing “fibrin,” a clotting material that can prolong inflammation
Reducing edema in the inflamed regions
It follows, then, that any disease caused by inflammation—which is practically every chronic disease we face today—can be benefited by increased levels of functional enzymes in your blood. Although taking an enzyme supplement may be helpful, NO manufactured product can duplicate the positive effects of a nutrient-rich diet.
Boosting Your Enzyme Levels Naturally
There are four ways to naturally increase your enzyme levels:
Increase your intake of raw, living foods
Eat fewer calories
Chew your food thoroughly
Avoid chewing gum
The very best way to get enzymes into your body is by consuming at least 75 percent of your foods raw. For many of you, you’ll have to work toward this goal gradually.
While all raw foods contain enzymes, the most powerful enzyme-rich foods are those that are sprouted (seeds and legumes). Sprouting increases the enzyme content in these foods tremendously. Besides sprouts, other enzyme-rich foods include:
Papaya, pineapple, mango, kiwi, and grapes
Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
Raw meat and dairy
By eating these types of foods, you supply your body with the amino acids and the enzyme co-factors needed to boost your own natural enzyme production.
Another way to lower your body’s demand for enzymes is to reduce your caloric intake. The average person spends 80 percent of his available energy simply digesting food?
By reducing overall consumption, as well as introducing more living foods, you reduce your need for digestive enzymes, which allows your body to put more of its energy into producing metabolic enzymes.
Which brings us to the subject of chewing. Quite apart from the esthetic pleasure of an unhurried meal, there are important reasons to chew your food well.
Chewing stimulates saliva production, and the more time you spend chewing, the longer your saliva enzymes have to work in your mouth, lessening the workload of your stomach and small intestine. Chewing also stimulates a reflex that sends a message to your pancreas and other digestive organs, “Gear up—we’ve got incoming!”
And don’t chew gum. Chewing gum fools your body into believing it is digesting something, so it pumps out digestive enzymes unnecessarily. Why waste those precious resources?
Digestive enzymes should be taken WITH a meal.
Besides digestive enzyme supplementation, there is another way to use oral enzymes—for systemic use. This requires taking enzymes between meals so they can be absorbed through your gut and into your bloodstream, where your cells can use them metabolically.
Getting enzymes from your digestive tract into your bloodstream isn’t as easy as it would seem. They are often given an “enteric coating” to help them survive the journey through your digestive tract. And then, there is the matter of absorption.
It is crucial that, in order for enzymes to be used systemically, they must be ingested on an empty stomach. Otherwise, your body will use them for digesting your food, instead of being absorbed into the blood and doing their work there.
Hopefully you can now appreciate just how important enzymes are to your overall health, right down to the cellular level. Once you understand this, you may begin to see just how important it is to eat a diet rich in fresh, organic, raw foods. You may even want to try juicing some of your vegetables as a way of getting more nutrients—and enzymes—into your body.
It has been said, “You are what you eat.” But really, “You are what you digest” is closer to the truth.
Improve Your Digestion; Build Digestive Health
These are excellent products by Dr. Eric Berg that we recommend.
Trace minerals are involved in millions of chemical reactions in our bodies. Enzymes, those tiny proteins, which break down food, build our body tissues and take waste out all require trace minerals to function. Trace minerals are needed in DNA replication and repair. Trace minerals are becoming more deficient in our food supply and soils.
Read more about Dr. Berg’s Trace Minerals
Support a Healthy Digestive System:
Dr. Berg’s Digestive Kit
Gallbladder Formula contains natural ingredients to help break down gallstones and provide bile salts for bloating and digestive stress.
This product has a blend of gallbladder targeted nutrients to thin bile, reduce digestive stress, break down stones and improve the digestion of fats. Most digestive drugs work by reducing acid and this natural product enhances the bile, a commonly omitted factor.
Support a Healthy Digestive System
Read more: Dr. Berg’s Digestive Kit
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