Football season is here and our family loves the Dallas Cowboys. I love to watch football with the men of my house. The quarterback is the primary playmaker on the team and sets the game in motion. Digestive enzymes are like the quarterback in the digestion game in our gut. They get the ball rolling and involve the entire team in reaching the goal…digestion of foods so our bodies can get the nutrients to thrive on. Digestive enzymes are needed to completely break down the foods and peptides for several reasons: to reap the all the nutrients in the food, and so the bad bacteria or yeast don’t have more food to eat and grow on.
Our body naturally produces digestive enzymes to break down foods before they start their trek through the intestines. We have enzymes in our saliva that aid in food breakdown. These enzymes are amylase, which break down carbohydrates along with our chewing of the food. Next stop is the stomach where stomach acid, muscles and the enzyme pepsin, breaks down proteins and work on the food for approximately an hour before it continues to the small intestine. Our small intestines release enzymes as well as our pancreas. Enzymes released in our small intestines are lactase (breaks down milk sugars), DPP IV (breaks down the milk and other protein bonds), and disaccharides (breaks down starches and sugars).
You can see that digestive enzymes have a lot of work to do and without them, our bodies cannot function properly just like a football team can’t function without its quarterback. Enzymes are required for your body to function properly because without enzymes you wouldn’t be able to breathe, swallow, drink, eat, or digest your food. Our cells won’t get the glucose for energy, amino acids for protein and toxins wouldn’t be removed from our blood.
Some Digestive Enzyme Facts:
- Enzymes are proteins made by cells in our bodies and all living organisms.
- Enzymes exist in all raw food. All raw foods, including meats, have some enzyme activity.
- The more raw food you eat, the less digestive enzymes your body needs to produce.
- Cooking or other types of processing destroys enzyme activity.
- Digestive enzymes, used properly, can provide a substantial benefit to most everyone, especially those consuming a great deal of cooked or processed food.
Poor dietary habits, fast food consumption, and excessive intake of fat and sugars, all require excessive amounts of enzymes to digest our foods. Over eating foods that are void of enzymes (processed pre-packaged foods) and eating too much food results in a depletion of enzymes in the body. In particular, there is strain put on the pancreas to secrete greater amounts of enzymes than normal. The result is an exhausted pancreas. To reduce the load on the pancreas, the immune system lends its white blood cells which have stores of enzymes to aid in the digestive process. The result of this is impaired immune function. By ensuring our body has sufficient enzymes not only supports the digestive process, but the immune system as well.
Eating a food or food group too frequently will also contribute to an enzyme deficiency. Foods that are more likely to cause allergies/sensitivities are the ones that are consumed the most: eggs, wheat/gluten, milk, corn and soy. When these foods are consumed several times a day for years it creates an enzyme deficiency for that food and the body can no longer break down the proteins or starches and causes a reaction when the peptides enter our bloodstream.
When food is properly digested, it is broken down into substances that the body recognizes and can utilize. If food molecules are not broken down into their smallest form (by enzymes) when they enter the bloodstream the body recognizes them as foreign invaders and attacks. When the body no longer can handle the overload of food that it cannot properly digest and utilize, the result is food allergies and intolerance, indigestion, gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea. There are other symptoms of our body’s imbalance from incomplete digestion such as asthma, environmental allergies/sensitivities, candida over-growth, arthritis, obesity, eczema, fatigue, headaches, and hyperactivity.
One digestive enzyme that tends to be insufficient in a lot of ASD kids, as well as kids with ADHD, is DDP4 (dipeptidyl peptidase-IV). This enzyme is found in the gut and is responsible for breaking a bond between amino acids in peptides formed during protein digestion. Problems occur when there is a lack of DDP4 which causes incomplete digestion of the gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) molecules, leaving a mischievous peptide. In the case of damaged or leaky guts, these peptides called gluteomorphin (gluten) and caseomorphin (casein) can pass into the blood, where they do harm because they evoke an immune response. They can also mimic endorphins that cause changes in perception, mood, and behavior. This is one reason why the gf/cf (gluten-free/casein free) diet is so effective in reducing behaviors in kids with autism. It’s the elimination of the offending peptides from the diet.
Types of Enzymes
- Amylase – breaks down carbohydrates, starches, and sugars (found in fruits, vegetables, potatoes and a lot of snack foods)
- Protease – breaks down proteins (found in meats, eggs, cheese, and nuts)
- Lipase – breaks down fats (found in most dairy products, meats, oils, and nuts)
- Cellulase – breaks down cellulose, plant fiber
When one supplements digestive enzymes, plant derived enzymes are the most effective. They are obtained from the lysosomes of live plant cells. They are more effective because they can survive the acidic environment in the stomach and different PH levels in the small intestines. Animal derived digestive enzymes that mimic our pancreatic enzymes only survive in the alkaline environment of our small intestine.
Digestive Health & Foods That Support It
In order to keep our digestive and overall health at its best, eating more raw vegetables, nuts, and fruits is important. Papaya and pineapple are the best sources of foods that contain naturally occurring digestive enzymes. Papaya contains the naturally occurring digestive enzyme papain, which helps to digest protein. Pineapples contain the digestive enzyme bromelain, which acts as an aid for indigestion. Pineapples also contain multiple anti-inflammatory enzymes. Mangos, watermelon, blueberries, raspberries and grapefruit also contain naturally occurring digestive enzymes. Parsley, kale, broccoli, celery, cabbage and beets and beet greens are excellent choices for raw vegetables that contain naturally occurring digestive enzymes. Wheat grass and aloe vera juice contain a lot of enzymes.
All raw food contain digestive enzymes; naturally fruits and vegetables are excellent sources. Some smart fruit choices are fresh apples, figs, pears, cherries, peaches, strawberries and apricots. For vegetables, all of the bell peppers: red, yellow, green and orange, as well as tomatoes, are excellent choices.
Balancing your meal with raw foods in addition to cooked foods can assist your body in the digestive process, just as the quarterback balances out the game with running plays, passing or handing off the football. For example, a salad or raw veggies along with your steak or chicken breast will help ease the demand on your body to release digestive enzymes since the veggies in the salad contain enzymes. Same goes for the quarterback when he hands the football off to the running back; which saves his throwing arm and reduces the risk of interceptions.
For more information on using digestive enzymes for your child, refer to my page on enzymes.
Filed under: Biomedical interventions, Diet, Supplements Tagged: | animal enzymes, digestive enzymes, DPP4, enzyme pepsin, food allergies, health, Joanne Allor, pancreas, peptides, plant enzymes, protein, protein bonds, raw food, small intestines