The purpose of this article is to give you some practical guidelines regarding whether or not you should take digestive enzymes and probiotics in order to maintain and optimize our digestive health.
In order to be able to make a decision whether or not digestive
enzymes and/or probiotics are suitable for you, I like to introduce
you to some basic health concepts about digestion and what I refer
to as “The Garden “Within”.
Enzymes are protein molecules that are produced in our bodies and are catalysts for all kind of chemical reactions. In other words, they allow these necessary chemical reactions to occur more easily and more quickly.
The main task of enzymes is to break down our food. Many of our whole,raw foods contain digestive enzymes and are sometimes referred to as “live food”, but because most of our food is now processed, many of the
enzymes found in whole foods are destroyed.
Most of our enzymes are made by the body in the pancreas, liver, stomach,
and salivary glands. They are designed to promote the breakdown of
carbohydrates, proteins and fats into usable fuel.
Normal Digestive Process
Digestion begins in the mouth as soon as you begin to smell food or even
think about food. This stimulate the release of saliva within your mouth
in the anticipation of eating. Saliva primarily contains amylase (ptyalin),
which hydrolyzes our carbohydrates into simple sugars.
The act of chewing actually breaks up your food into particles and the
saliva works to moisten your food and begin to breakdown the sugars
so that your food is more easily digested.
Therefore, when your mother told you to chew your food well, she was
correct in assuming that this is good for your digestive health.
Since you can only taste food when it is in your mouth, I would encourage
you to enjoy the experience and at the same time begin to digest your food
more effectively. What good does it do when you quickly chew and swallow
your food so that it will be dumped into your stomach prematurely?
You can’t enjoy the pleasure of eating as long as the entire process of
digestion is hindered.
Your food enters a very acidic environment in your stomach, due to the
hydrochloric acid your stomach produces. The Ph of the stomach is normally
around 2.5. This acidic environment is critic in beginning the breakdown
of your food, destroying micro-organisms, and converting pepsinogen,
the stomach also makes to pepsin. Pepsin is the key active enzyme in the
stomach and its role is to breakdown proteins into peptides or smaller
protein fragments. The stomach is continually chewing up your food,
which also allows your food to literally starts to dissolve.
Many things can increase your stomach acid or irritate the lining of your
stomach. For example: aspirin, NSAIDS, alcohol, stress, and spicy foods.
You may a have a tendency to just take additional antacids or acid
suppressing drugs to give ourselves symptomatic relief.
However, I would suggest to avoid those medications, foods and stress
as best as we can to eliminate the cause of your problem.
Neutralizing or decreasing the amount of acid you make will significantly
decrease your ability to digest food. This in itself can lead to indigestion,
irritable bowel syndrome, and even reflux.
If you are not effectively digesting your food, it becomes stuck in your
stomach and can slow down the entire digestive process.
After your food passes out of your stomach, it enters into the first portion
of the small bowel called the duodenum. When people develop ulcers,
It is here where they primarily occur . In your duodenum begins most
of the digestion and absorption of your food. Here the digestive enzymes
from the liver and the pancreas pour into the small bowel and begin the
final phases of digestion.
The pancreas is the primary digestive organ in the body. It secretes
several different enzymes that are needed to digest your food.
Pancreatic juice contains sodium bicarbonate, which neutralizes the
the acidic material from the stomach. Pancreatic juice also contains
amylase, trypsin, chymotrypsin, and lipase.
Pancreatic amylase then further breaks down the carbohydrates into
simple sugar, completing the digestive process of the carbohydrates
that began in your mouth.
Trypsin and chymoprysin digest proteins that are now mainly peptides
because of the action of pepsin in the stomach.
This allows the proteins to be better absorbed and in a form (amino acids)
that the body can use and utilize. Pancreatic lipase breaks down fat
into fatty acids and glycerol.
Your liver is also an important organ for digestive health. The liver produces bile,
which is stored in the gallbladder and transported to the duodenum
via your bile ducts.
Fat within any meal or snack stimulates the contraction of the gallbladder
to secrete and increased amount of bile into the duodenum during the
digesting process. Bile emulsifies fats (separates it into small droplets)
so they can mix with water and be acted upon by enzymes.
The liver is also your primary detoxifying organ.
The liver detoxifies the blood from the intestines via the hepatic portal
vein. For example, the ammonia produced by the digestion of proteins
in the small bowel is converted to a less toxic compound (urea) by the liver.
It is also a storage area for or those quick glucose stores when your
body needs some additional glucose quickly.
Your food now begins to traverse the long small intestine, where the digestive
enzymes are able to continue breaking down or digesting, as well as absorbing,
your food. Almost all absorption of your food occurs in the small intestine.
The colon or large bowel is primary responsible for reabsorbing water from
your food and creating a more solid waste or stool.
However, the large intestine is also the area where most of the bacteria, fungi,
and other micro-organisms live and is what is also called:”The Garden Within.”
You can read about “The Garden Within” in my next article.