Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing and secretion of
amylase enzyme, then continues in the stomach where pepsin, hydrochloric acid and bile are
released. Enzymes come into play very strongly only in the duodenum, the first part of the
small intestine. What exactly are enzymes, and why should you ever consider supplementing
your diet with them?
Enzymes are microscopically-small substances that occur
naturally in all living things. All life processes consist of a complex series of chemical
reactions called metabolism. Enzymes are the catalysts that make metabolism possible. Enzymes
play important roles in breathing, digestion, growth, blood coagulation, reproduction, in
fact, in every function of your body. Life would be impossible without them.
Food is composed
primarily of proteins, fats,and carbohydrates. To digest these three basic
food groups, we need proteolytic, lipolytic, and amylolytic enzymes,
respectively. Unfortunately, sometimes the body doesn't make enough of a
particular enzyme. For instance, if you have intestinal bloating, gas, or
diarrhea after ingesting dairy products, you might not have enough of the
enzyme, lactase. This enzyme's job is to break down lactose (milk sugar).
If you don't have enough lactase, the lactose will sit
in your colon and ferment. This problem can now be helped by taking
lactase enzymes. In another example, beans, cabbage, garlic, whole grains
and other foods can be more easily digested by using BeanO®, which
contains enzymes to break down the complex sugars found in these foods.
We can acquire enzymes in the foods we eat, but
unfortunately, much of our food is enzyme-dead because it has been cooked, processed, or
sprayed with preservatives, pesticides, insecticides and other enzyme killers. If you
can't eat an organically-grown, fresh fruit and vegetable diet, then enzyme supplements
might be the only way to ensure an adequate enzyme intake.
The first enzyme supplements were made from hog or ox
pancreas, and include pancreatin (which contains protease's, amylases, and lipase's),
chymotrypsin, and trypsin. Other enzyme supplements are extracted from plants, including
bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), and ficin (from fig), as well as some
amylolytic enzymes from cereal grains. Bromelain and papain are available individually (as
well as in combinations). Another source are enzymes are of bacterial or fungal origin
("microbial"), and are derived from fermentation processes involving fungi or
bacteria such as Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus niger. These fermentations are grown
on substrates such as rice, barley, and soy under very strict conditions. In recent years,
microorganisms have increasingly been used as a source of enzymes, now representing some
90% of all enzymes produced commercially.
Enzyme digestive aids are helpful for relief of gas,
indigestion, intestinal and systemic toxicity, skin blemishes, digestive disorders, and
insufficiencies (to name a few). But enzymes are also used to treat a number of acute and
chronic conditions. This type of therapy is referred to as "systemic enzyme
therapy." Enzymes used in this type of therapy are protected from the stomach's acid
and are designed to work in the small intestine. Systemic enzyme therapy has shown great
promise in fighting inflammation, arthritis, cancer, circulatory disorders, sports
injuries, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, and other conditions.
As we age, our body's enzyme supply decreases in amount and
activity level. Enzyme production can be over-taxed by poor diet, illness, injury,
environmental toxins, stress, and the aging process, in general. Therefore,
augmenting your body's enzyme supply with supplemental enzymes can help slow the aging
process and improve your health. Lastly, it's important to remember that coenzymes (or
cofactors) such as vitamins, trace minerals, and minerals are essential for the activity
of many enzymes. For instance, there are over 300 enzymes in the human body that require
zinc in order to function properly. Other enzymes may require B vitamins, magnesium, iron,
copper, and selenium. Adding enzymes to a good supplement program insures the best