Digestion : Know Your Enzymes

When you think of enzymes, you probably think of digestion. Enzymes are essential for breaking down the foods we eat, but that’s not all—they’re important for all physiological processes. They’re necessary for circulating and absorbing nutrients, eliminating unwanted chemicals, producing energy, fighting infections, regulating hormones, and more. Taken therapeutically, enzymes can help reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and even alleviate allergies (both food and seasonal).

There are three basic families of enzymes:

• Amylase: Breaks down starches into sugars.
• Protease: Breaks down proteins into amino acids.
• Lipase: Breaks down fat into its component parts.

We naturally produce a variety of different enzymes in these families in different phases of the digestive process, first in the mouth, then the stomach, and finally in the small intestine. But as we age, the body’s enzyme production starts to drop—studies show that every 10 years, the body’s enzyme production decreases by 13 percent. A deficiency of enzymes can result in poor nutrient absorption and digestive issues, including gas, bloating, and heartburn.

In addition to eating a wide variety of enzyme-rich raw foods (good choices include papaya, pineapple, mango, and coconut oil), consider an enzyme supplement if you suffer from occasional digestive upsets and suspect that your enzyme production is low. An enzyme supplement will contain a combination of the above enzymes plus additional ones, including any or all of the following:

• Cellulase: Breaks down carbohydrates and fibers in fruits and vegetables.
• Maltase: Converts complex sugars from grains into glucose.
• Lactase: Digests lactose in dairy products.
• Sucrase: Breaks down most sugars.
• Protease: Breaks down proteins.

Most people will benefit from a multi-enzyme formula, and a quality supplement will list the strength/potency of each enzyme. Be sure to take digestive enzymes with a meal.

© 2014 Living Naturally
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