The Importance of Enzymes for Digestive Health

What is the key to good health? Proper digestion.

How can we dramatically improve our digestion? Enzymes.

Enzymes are complex protein molecules that are manufactured by all plant and animal cells. They are important because they break up large food molecules into smaller units that get absorbed into every cell.

Unfortunately, with the Standard American Diet (SAD) heavy on processed foods and drinks, too many people have poor digestion. Plus, as we age, we become more challenged by various forms of stress, environmental pollution, and emotional issues. This leads to depletion of our body’s natural ability to make enough enzymes to meet our enzymatic needs necessary for optimal digestion. Poor digestion means inadequate nutrient absorption.

You know the saying, “You are what you eat”? Well, that isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more like, “You are what you digest.”

What are the keys to proper digestion? You guessed it…ENZYMES.

Enzymes are necessary for every cell in your body, not just for digestion but for all of your physiological processes. The body needs enzymes to function properly, not just for digestion. Without enzymes, we wouldn’t be able to breathe, swallow, drink, or eat.

Two major categories of enzymes are digestive and metabolic.

Digestive enzymes help you break down food to be absorbed and utilized by every cell in your body. In addition to breaking down food, they help with gut healing, controlling pathogens, and immune support. Since your immune system begins in your gut, if you have digestive and enzyme issues, it is likely your immune system isn’t functioning properly.

Metabolic enzymes help the cells carry out a variety of functions related to reproduction and replenishment. They are involved with running your circulatory, lymphatic, cardiac, neurologic, endocrine, hepatic, and reproductive systems. They also maintain your skin, bone, joint, and muscle health.

Here are just some of the activities in your body that require enzymes:

  • Energy production
  • Absorption of oxygen
  • Fighting infections
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Getting nutrients into your cells
  • Carrying away toxic waste
  • Breaking down fats in your blood
  • Proper hormone regulation
  • Slowing the aging process

Sadly, 90% of the food Americans buy and eat is processed food. That means the American diet is high in cooked, processed, and sugary food. Combine that with the overuse of pharmaceuticals and you have a body that is depleted in its ability to make enzymes. Insufficient enzyme production is at the root of much of the stomach issues plaguing our country.

Enzymes help the body digest and assimilate nutrients from proteins, carbohydrates, fats and plant fibers and they assist in all chemical reactions taking place in the body including regeneration of cells and tissues and the elimination of toxic waste products. A healthy immune system depends on enzymes.

That begs the question, do we have an infinite supply of enzymes? The answer is no. We do not.

Our fast-paced lifestyle with a preoccupation with convenience has resulted in overly processed, polluted food-like products, all of which create free radical damage in our body known as accelerated aging.

According to Dr. Edward Howell, the pioneer of Enzyme Therapy, “Enzymes are substances that make life possible. They are needed for every chemical reaction that takes place in the human body. Without enzymes, no activity at all would take place. Neither vitamin, minerals, or hormones can do any work without enzymes.”

Dead foods are devoid of enzymes and place a heavy burden on our body to tap into its enzymatic reserves. It takes a lot of energy for the body to make these enzymes.  Our body will tap into its reserves to break down dead foods, but it can only do so for a limited time, until finally it reaches a point where it gets tapped out and depleted. Since we do not have an unlimited supply of enzymes, it leads to enzymatic failure. Repercussions of enzymatic failure are indigestion, constipation, and inflammation. Inflammation eventually leads to chronic disease and ultimately death.

Yikes!

So where can we get enzymes? How can we make sure we don’t use ours up? Raw foods. Plants.

Raw plant foods (foods not heated above 117 degrees Fahrenheit) are enzymatic rich foods and consuming them decreases your body’s burden to produce its own enzymes. The more foods you can eat raw the better. Ideally, it is suggested that you eat at least 75% of your food raw. When food is heated above 117 degrees, the natural enzymes present are also heated and denatured, meaning they become inactive, making the enzymes ineffective in the digestion process.

The most powerful enzyme-rich foods are those that are sprouted (seeds and legumes). In addition to sprouted foods, papaya, mango, grapes, pineapple, avocado, bee pollen, and raw honey are also rich in enzymes.

The more living foods you eat the more your body can direct its energy into producing metabolic enzymes. You can also lower your body’s demand for producing digestive enzymes by avoiding chewing gum. Chewing gum fools your body into believing it is digesting something, so it pumps out digestive enzymes. Why waste that precious resource?!

Avoid the situation where you are depleted of crucial enzymes. Eat mostly raw foods, as they contain their own enzymes and reduce your body’s need to make its own.

A great way to get an abundant amount of raw foods in your diet is juicing and blending. Fresh pressed juices and smoothies are nutrient rich, healing, and full of essential enzymes.  Beware of bottled juices, though, as they are generally pasteurized to ensure they are shelf stable and to kill harmful bacteria, but by doing so, they are rendered nearly devoid of all enzymes (leaving you with just a sugary caloric beverage). Investing in a juicer is a great option. You can juice your fresh produce and drink it straight away to flood your body with vital nutrients and enzymes. The only thing you are missing with juicing is the fiber, as that is what is removed during the juicing process. This is where blending comes in as a nutritional option. With blending you use the entire plant food, getting the nutrients, enzymes, and the fiber.

Also, you can never go wrong with a huge salad of leafy greens and a variety of veggies!

For juice and smoothie inspiration, check my juices/smoothies tab for delicious recipe ideas!

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