What are Digestive Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins and the catalyst to many changes going on in our body.
Digestive enzymes break down our foods into simpler substances that can be more easily absorbed. Nutrients are trapped in the food we eat and our digestive system was designed to set these nutrients free, but not without the help of the enzymes found in raw and fermented foods. The enzymes in these foods are highly active during the first 45 min of digestion but because we eat such a poor diet of processed, highly refined foods we often lack these important enzymes in our food.
The body produces around 22 digestive enzymes that all work on different types of food. If you constantly eat cooked processed food your body is forced to supply all of the enzymes needed to digest that food which requires a lot of energy, and is the reason for feeling tired after eating a meal. However your body will eventually use up its ability to produce enzymes and this causes symptoms such as fatigue, wind, constipation, headaches and bowel problems.
So what are the enzymes that we have in our body to help with digestion?
• In the oral cavity the salivary glands secrete ptyalin which digests starch.
• The gastric enzymes that get secreted in the stomach are pepsin which breaks down proteins, gelatinase, gastric amylase and lipase.
• The pancreas secretes enzymes such as trypsin that breaks down peptides in the small intestine, pancreatic amylase that degrades most carbohydrates, protease that digests proteins, lipase that digests fats, steapsin, carboxypeptidase, and bile from the liver that emulsifies fats.
• The small intestine secretes a juice called succus entericus which contains six types of enzymes to degrade disaccharides into monosacchrides.
Acid or alkaline?
The enzymes work best at their optimum pH, so for example, the enzymes secreted in the pancreas and will only work in an alkaline medium, and those in the stomach require a strong acidic medium.
The pancreas produces the pancreatic juice that changes the acid contents from the stomach into an alkaline in the small intestine. However very often there is an acid-alkaline imbalance that can cause indigestion (heartburn) and bloating within an hour after eating.
Many people experience what they think, and what is often considered, an over acid stomach which gives them heartburn. Infact in many cases this is certainly an acid issue but more so not enough acid at the right strength, or a low enough pH. For perfect digestion in the stomach you require digestive juices at a very low pH, in other words, very, very strong acid, between 0.9 and 2.4. Often it is working inadequately and very hard at a pH of 4 or more, and if the stomach is not acidic enough, the enzyme pepsin will not work properly. The food then does not get digestetd properly, ferments and so produces gas that bloats the stomach, causing discomfort. The next stage is a feeling in your ‘heart’ or throat of soreness partnered with that terrible burning sensation.
So what can you do about this?
Digestive enzymes may be helpful for those who can get bloating almost immediately after eating food. There are some supplements that include hydrochloric acid to help with the digestion in the stomach which is really helpful for that burning sensation. I would recommend nutrigest.
Other supplements have a highly concentrated plant enzyme formula without the hydrochloric acid, and the good thing about plant enzymes is that they are stable and active in an acid or alkaline environment, such as similase.
There are some enzyme supplements that will include an acid/alkaline balancer within them which is helpful for people who suffer flatulence and indigestion soon after eating, such as Catalyst 7 which contains calcium, magnesium and barley grass.
We have a range of products available on our store that contain digestive enzymes.