Enzymes are the keys to life! As the food we eat consists of large complex molecules that need to be broken down into small particles as they enter our bodies. This is where digestive enzymes come into play…
Digestive enzymes have only three main jobs: digesting protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Proteases are enzymes that digest protein; amylases digest carbohydrate, and lipases digest fat. These enzyme workers take proteins, fats, carbohydrates, starches and sugars, etc and structure them into healthy bodies, keeping everything working well.
A very simplistic overview is that our body produces different enzymes to break down carbohydrates, fat and protein; some are created as soon as we enter food in our mouth to begin the digestive process, while others are produced by the stomach and the pancreas.
So another Nutritionist SECRET to WEIGHT LOSS is–make sure you chew your food properly! Aim for 20 chews. A key thing to remember is that digestion begins in your mouth! Take the time to chew in a relaxed manner and it will be less stressful and more productive when your stomach and intestines take over the process. Your body will thank you and you are ensuring that you are absorbing all essential nutrients.
To further note, large amounts of enzymes are needed to digest the food we eat and if insufficient amounts are made by the body– we bloat and suffer from digestive problems. It can be both embarrassing and frustrating.
In addition, a deficiency of any of these digestive enzymes may result in the most common symptom of constipation (the ideal number of bowel movements should be 2-3x a day. If you are not within this range then you are “clinically” defined as suffering from constipation). Other symptoms include gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain and irritation in the intestines (i.e., mucus or blood in the stools), etc. In the latter case, check with your medical professional for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Colitis and Chron Disease.
Digestive enzymes are important for a healthy digestive system.
If this problem is long-standing it can lead to digestive infections, such as candidiasis, allergies, food sensitivities or intolerences. A poor digestive system and lack of enzymes may even lead to hidden food allergies that are often delayed up to 3 days. At this point, it becomes difficult to pinpoint the culprit without proper testing. This in particular is out of the scope of this article but as a simple overview, these tests include blood tests, like the ALCAT or Celiac Food Intolerance Test.
The latter determine sensitivities to gliadin, gluten intolerance and proper absorption. Other food allergy tests include skin tests and the most non-invasive procedure an elimination or allergy food diet. The main point here is that a deficiency in digestive enzymes, food sensitvities or intolerences will cause digestive symptoms and wreck havoc on our digestive system. As a result to this common problem, we put on weight!
But, if our bodies are supposed to digest food and make sufficient enzymes, this raises two questions:
- Why are people not producing sufficient enzymes?
- Why would this lead to weight gain
So why is our natural diet not meeting our needs?
There are several reasons for this…
We eat very little raw food that contains NATURAL enzymes.
Unfortunately, the enzymes found naturally in foods are destroyed at temperatures of 118°F and above, which means that most any food that is cooked has had its enzymes destroyed.
Modern day farming methods provide us with a glut of food and we no longer have to buy according to the seasons.
In most cases, food that has been imported, especially fruit have not been fully developed with all natural enzymes. They do this to ensure that by the time it reaches its destination they have not gotten spoiled and the exporter has not suffered a financial loss. A tip would be to buy what is in season and at local farms.
Modern day farming depletes the soil of nutrients.
Many harsh chemicals that are used such as chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, all affect the quality of our foods and what we are putting into our bodies. They also change the DNA of foods and their production of vital nutrients and enzymes that we need. If you can, buy organic, especially spend the extra $$ and go organic with “porous” fruit, like blueberries and strawberries.
Food processing and refining strips away even more nutrients.
For example, “white” breads and other flour based products has become an every day dietary stable for many people. And as much as people will say grains are ‘healthy’, it is important to note, amongst other factors, that the making of bread used to be a very time consuming process, unlike today where breads are mass produced in huge factories with highly refined flours, chemicals and shortcuts, which take away all essential nutrients from the bread. Another tip– do NOT buy “Enriched” Bread. All this means, is that all the nutrients have been stripped from processing and have then been “added back”.
Why would you want to buy food that has been stripped of its “natural” nutrients to then be injected with man made and synthetic nutrients? (And the reasoning behind this manufacturing process is way beyond this article) Buy WHOLE grains, Rye, Oats, Barley, Brown Rice, Millet, Cracked wheat, etc. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. So whenever you can, choose whole grains over refined grains. (FIBER is another key factor in weight loss–but remember are you getting the right fiber? There are different types of fiber and its DOES make a difference! The right choice is especially important for those that suffer from constipation).
We eat high protein diets that require more digestive enzymes.
It’s a factor of supply and demand. And if we stress our bodies in producing more protein enzymes eventually it will S-L-O-W down and we then need to take the necessary steps in correcting it. A common consequence is weight gain. Many people eat diets high in Fat, which can be difficult to digest if the body lacks lipase enzymes. We eat too much sugar and so need more sugar and starch digesting enzymes. It is also important to read the label for “hidden” sugars like, sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.
The most common culprit in the lack of the body to produce sufficient digestive enzymes is STRESS!
Our bodies are not equipped to digest while we are stressed. It is a mechanism that the body automatically employs for its “survival”. All this means for us is that, digestion will only take place when our body finally has a moment to relax! Sometimes digestion is halted for hours! This is alarming because, during that time, we are not getting essential nutrients that our body needs, not only for survival, but it becomes vital in fighting disease and daily stresses. And not to mention, if we readily eat while we are stressed— food will ferment! The image that should come to mind is your garage can when it has not be dumped! (I will discuss this in another article and its affects on disease and health)
It should also be noted that the metabolism SLOWS with aging and less stomach acid is produced. Less stomach acid produced, the inability to digest foods and leading to many factors such as weight gain. There are other factors in our food choices that cause lower stomach acid (Hyaluronic Acid or HCL).
There are many other mechanisms by which enzymes help control body weight that are beyond the scope of this article, so it should come as no surprise many people are turning to supplement enzymes to lose weight.
So… what can I do to lose weight?
You can get supplemental digestive enzymes through your local health food store or through a Holistic Health Practitioner. A few tips, look for a good quality digestive enzyme that comes highly recommended.
Also, look for plant enzymes rather then animal enzymes from animals like trypsin, pepsin and pancreatin that works in a very narrow pH range and work to a limited degree in the stomach and small intestines, but do not do anything for digestion in the upper part of the stomach…when the pH is too high, they are inactive.
Papaya produces an enzyme called papain and this enzyme works best in temperatures considerably higher than the body. Plant enzymes are much more effective in the pH and as the temperature ranges in the body and they help digest both cooked and raw foods in the upper part of the stomach. This helps decrease and conserve the digestive enzyme secretion from the body needed for digestion.
Now you know how digestive enzymes can help you lose weight!