Magic (noun): the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious forces
When you think of magic, what comes to mind? A rabbit emerging from a black hat? Magic showcases a change of events, resulting in an exciting reaction.
The moment you took a bite of oatmeal this morning, your body began creating its own unique reactions. Classic examples of magic don’t compare to the 3,000 identified enzymes at work in your body as we speak. Amazingly, there’s believed to be approximately 50,000 human enzymes, all playing their own specific role.
Enzymes may not be supernatural or mysterious forces, but they do create incredible reactions. They help your body perform multiple functions that wouldn’t normally occur. Think of each enzyme as a unique key, that unlocks a specific function. Basically, if you did not have enzymes within your body, you wouldn’t survive.
More specifically, there’s digestive enzymes performing miraculous conversions each and every day. These enzymes break down the foods you consume, help heal your gut, allow your body to absorb nutrients, and provide immune support.
Although this process is highly complex, here’s a brief breakdown of the digestive process.
1. Digestion begins in our mouth where the amylase in our saliva begins to break down carbohydrates.
2. Next, protease in our stomach works on breaking down some of the protein.
3. At this point, our food is only partially broken down. In fact, up to 90% of our food is broken down within our small intestine. Various enzymes continue to break down additional carbohydrates and protein while lipase digests fats.
4. What remains of your digested food is then moved to the large intestine. This is where nutrients, water, and salt will be absorbed back into your body. What’s left is turned into stool, so I will spare you the details 🙂
When there’s a lack of enzymes or reduced efficiency, this is when issues arise.
A classic example is lactose intolerance. In this case, a specific enzyme known as lactase is missing. Meaning, the reaction it’s intended to facilitate doesn’t occur. The sugar found in milk (lactose), cannot be broken down, which is why individuals notice significant digestion issues.
Lactose intolerance is manageable, but enzyme deficiencies can put your health at risk. Age plays a role, but it is mainly a lifestyle issue which causes a drop in enzyme potential and overall efficiency. The combination of our American diet, overuse of pharmaceutical drugs, stress, and environmental pollution have caused a significant depletion in enzymes. Temperature is also a key inhibitor, which is why processing or cooking your food destroys natural enzymes.
You may be thinking, I’m going to the bathroom regularly, what’s all the fuss? If I’m going to the bathroom, isn’t my food being digested properly?
It’s critical to remember that our digestive system doesn’t absorb food, it absorbs the nutrients that our foods provide. Without sufficient enzymes, your food will not be properly broken down into smaller nutritional components. It’s not about the foods you eat, but the foods you absorb.
90 percent of the American diet is based on processed foods that are high in calories, fat, and sugar, and it is putting a strain on our digestive system and enzyme reserves. The average person spends 80 percent of their available energy digesting food, our digestive systems are working harder than ever, yet absorbing fewer nutrients. When you do eat more enzyme-rich foods, you reduce your body’s burden of producing enzymes. This is very important, as each year your body’s enzyme production decreases by 13 percent.
If you believe that you’re currently suffering from an enzyme deficiency or would simply like to improve your overall health, here are a few tips:
- Diet: It’s critical that you consume more raw and living foods. Raw foods are extremely enzyme-rich. They contain food enzymes which aid in the digestion process. Instead of relying so heavily on your body, 75 percent of your digestive enzymes should come from the raw natural foods you’re consuming. Fermented and sprouted foods are particularly high in digestive enzymes, as are fermented vegetables, coconut water, kefir, raw honey, avocado, pineapple, melon, garlic, ginger, sprouts, spirulina, and chlorella (find a more comprehensive list here).
- Manage Stress: Chronic stress is a growing concern. We have two modes regarding stress levels: fight or flight mode and rest and digest mode. When you’re constantly under stress, digestion becomes a low priority in terms of bodily functions.
- Don’t Chew Gum: When you’re chewing gum, you trick your body into believing that it’s ready to digest something. In turn, digestive enzymes are unnecessarily pumped out.
- Digestive Enzyme Supplement: In addition to raw foods, an enzyme supplement may benefit you. When sourcing a supplement look for an option that provides a mixture of enzymes, including protease, amylase, and lipase; ingredients that are all-natural; and labels that provide the enzymatic strength of each ingredient, not just the weight. My favorite, high quality digestive supplement is Enzymendica’s Digest Gold ATPro.
Although there’re no smoke and mirrors when it comes to digestive enzymes, they perform some of nature’s greatest magic tricks. Start making simple changes today to protect these critical enzymes, improving digestion and overall health.