In the past, when people were picking and preparing their own food, suffering from the lack of digestive enzymes was something that was unheard of. Freshly picked plants, prepared locally, contained all the enzymes that a human body would ever need to sustain its health and ensure longevity.
With the advent of modern agricultural practices and industrial food production, all that changed – and for the worse. The moment a ripe fruit or vegetable is picked from the vine, the deterioration of its enzyme content inevitably starts. By the time the fruit or vegetable reaches your local grocery, it will retain only ten percent of its enzymes (or less).
But – you may ask – why is that important, and what does it have to do with me and my well-being? Unfortunately, your health and longevity directly depends on having an abundant supply of enzymes!
Your body is given a limited supply of digestive enzymes at birth. You need to replenish that supply from the food you eat, or you will suffer from bad health and shorten your life span.
You may be eating the most nutrient-rich food on Earth, but if for any reason the digestive enzymes are not present to break down proteins to amino-acids, carbohydrates to simple sugars, fats into fatty acids etc., your body won't be able to use the nutrients. You don't absorb food, you absorb nutrients from the food! Digestive enzymes help our bodies break down foods, so that their nutrients can be absorbed into the bloodstream and used in various bodily processes. Without them, our bodies cannot get the most value from the food we eat, and the consequences can be grave.
Some researchers on the topic of digestive enzymes and health even claim that the length of our life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the “enzyme potential” in our organism. In simpler terms, that means that when you exhaust your supply of digestive enzymes, and aren't getting them from the food that you eat, you die.
Digestive enzymes are produced mostly in the pancreas and small intestine. Illnesses that affect these organs, like pancreatic cancer, acute or chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, Chron's disease and chronic celiac disease, also prevent the normal production of digestive enzymes.
Nevertheless, the most common reason why people suffer from enzyme deficiency is stress! When you are under stress, your digestion process is put on the back burner – along with the production of digestive enzymes. Sadly, this is exactly the situation when having more than adequate amounts of digestive enzymes is essential. It is not only the classic “fight or flight” reaction that puts your body under the stress, however. People living in a very hot or cold climates, pregnant women, frequent air travelers, and those otherwise living under the pressure – all require higher than normal amounts of digestive enzymes.
Having low stomach acid has also been associated with having inadequate amounts of digestive enzymes in your body, as well as suffering from low-grade inflammation of the digestive tract. Aging processes also deprive our body from its normal ability to produce all the digestive enzymes it needs.
Problems with digestive enzymes lead to a host of digestive problems: from acid reflux and heartburn, to either constipation or diarrhea, or alternating constipation and diarrhea. People having problems with their digestive enzymes will notice the repeated occurrences of floating stools, undigested food in their stools, or oily stools. They will have a sensation of a brick sitting in their stomach, feeling full after only a few bites of food. After meals, they will frequently suffer from gas and bloating.
Uncooked food naturally contains enough enzymes to help you digest it without any problems, and in most cases without any assistance from your own digestive enzymes. Obviously, the problem is that we no longer eat raw food – with the exception of fruit and some vegetables – very often. Once the food is cooked, the enzymes are inactivated (“denatured”) and cannot assist in the digestive process.
When you eat the cooked or processed meals, where all the enzymes that were naturally present in the food are destroyed, your body must step forth and generate its own digestive enzymes to handle the digestion, which is an energy intensive bodily process and can wear down your organism.
Until recently, it was believed that our bodies can produce an infinite supply of digestive enzymes, and use them and reuse them indefinitely. Sadly, now we know that that is simply not the case.
As we age, our body slowly loses its natural ability to produce digestive enzymes. It is believed that major drops in enzyme production capacity occur roughly every ten years. That is the reason why we might suddenly discover that we cannot tolerate the food that we used to enjoy when we were younger anymore. The enzyme depletion may be also related to the frequently observed loss of energy levels in the aging organisms.
Digestive enzymes are not only important for their vital role in the nutrient absorption: they also play a role in the elimination of toxins and scar tissue that, over time, builds up inside the organism.
Once you wear out your enzyme reserves given by the nature – and this will inevitably happen as you age – your only choice if you want to avoid serious digestive, and related health problems, is supplementation.
There are three main sources of digestive enzymes used for supplementation: fruit, vegetable, and animal. Fruit sources include fruits like papaya and pineapple, among others, from which the digestive enzymes are isolated and extracted. The ones from animal sources are often listed as “pancreatin”, and the ones from plant sources actually come from fungus. Digestive enzymes which break down proteins are called proteases. Lipases break down fats (lipids), and carbohydrases, such as amylase, break down carbohydrates.
Read more about AquaSource’s Digestive Enzymes.