I wasn’t very good at chemistry as a child. I just didn’t get why it mattered that a metal would turn pink when you put it into a flame… Biochemistry on the other hand, well now that’s just fascinating! Although I have to admit that I like reading the simple stuff – not too many long and complicated words otherwise I start to lose the plot.
And so to enzymes…
Apparently these chemical catalysts are needed to sustain life. Nothing would work without them; we couldn’t see, hear, move, think, feel, digest food… Unbeknown to us, there are thousands of biochemical processes going on in our bodies 24/7 and enzymes are crucial in the mix.
So what do they do? There are two different kinds; digestive enzymes, which help break down food so that we can extract nutrients and energy, and metabolic enzymes, which help run all the systems in our bodies.
Digestive enzymes are in our saliva, which is why it’s so important to chew properly, in our stomachs and are released by the pancreas, liver and gallbladder as food moves into the small intestines.
And here’s more:
- Stress decreases saliva and reduces digestive enzymes and stomach acid.
- Some stomach enzymes are only activated by the increase in stomach acid when we eat – but as we get older we produce less stomach acid
- The pancreas normally secretes about 2.5 liters of juices a day, and the liver and gallbladder each secrete about 700 ml of bile a day. However this is controlled by hormones, which again may be deficient as we age.
- If our digestive system can’t break down food properly then that means we won’t absorb nutrients properly, which in turn can lead to chronic inflammation…
So what do we do?
- Heat kills enzymes that naturally occur in fresh fruits and vegetables so we try to eat some raw food every day – be it fruit or salad. Some fruit are particularly high in enzymes, such as papaya and pineapple, so we eat those from time to time too.
- We prepare food from scratch for every meal so that it is as fresh as possible. Also, processed food usually contains enzyme inhibitors to increase shelf life but these can then block the enzyme process.
- We try to take time to eat – and especially to chew. And really try not to eat in a hurry. It’s a real challenge, especially as life is so busy, but my own stomach acid is so low that eating in a hurry is the worst thing I can do…
- We take digestive enzymes called Essentialzymes-4, produced by Young Living. They contain many different enzymes along with anise, ginger, rosemary, tarragon, fennel and lemongrass essential oils, all of which help with digestion. If you would be interested to purchase from Young Living then you can read how in the suppliers we recommend.
Want to understand more?
Dr Josh Axe has a few good articles on digestive enzymes but this one is a great introduction: Do Digestive Enzymes Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies & Boost Gut Health?
Dr Russell L Blaylock MD also writes about the role of enzymes in digestion in his book ‘Health and Nutrition Secrets that can save your life’ (Health Press ISBN 0-929173-48-1)