Digestive enzymes

One thing I’ve learned in the past few years whilst practising is that there isn’t a ‘single specific thing’, the panacea so to speak that is a cure-all. I would love it to be the case to make your lives easier but unfortunately working at your health is a moment by moment project. At times depending on how well you are in general will determine how much time you end up spending on your health and well being.

As our foods become increasingly fast, processed, with longer shelf lives, and with fewer of us than ever cooking or making our own foods, it’s no wonder really that I’m ending up using more digestive enzymes now in my practise with clients to support their digestion.

Enzymes help to speed up the metabolic reactions in the body, metabolic enzymes are made in and used by every cell, they are integral for the functioning of every system in the body, and there are thousands of enzymes working within your body at any one time. We could not exist if we didn’t have enzyme reactions happening, and this shouldn’t be under estimated because the number of enzymes in our body is huge, each having their own specific function. Basically an enzyme acts on a specific substance to to change it to another one. The digestive enzymes are where I’m going to focus today and they are produced in the saliva, pancreas and stomach.

Where our foods would have been providing the nutrients for digestion to effectively happen, this is no longer the case to the extent that it would have been. Our food is often devoid of life when we are eating it, and if the life in our food is missing then we are not going to be benefiting in way we should be doing. Nutrients are key for our digestive and systemic enzymes, but if we are eating foods in such a way that isn’t supporting the process of digestion, we are going to have more issues with or without the addition of those enzymes.


Chewing our food is a much ignored aspect of digestion. I was laughing this morning as I had fed everyone something that people were forced to chew, a lot. The “all you can do is chew” song started in between mouthfuls. Mostly we are in such a rush that we eat our foods down in 2 or 3 bites, but the process of chewing enables salivary amylase to mix with the food in our mouth. This helps to begin the breakdown of the food, in particular carbohydrates for the rest of the digestive tract, in effect predigesting it. This predigestion takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the digestive tract and often just this change alone can make a large difference to bloating, reflux and increased acidity.

Then into the stomach…

Then as the food moves into the stomach with the process of predigestion of foods happening ready for the HCL and pepsin to start it’s process about 1 hour later, at this point the stomach is a high acid environment. This is where the process of protein digestion starts. Well unless you are highly stressed or having copious amounts of tea and coffee that are suppressing this action from happening. Much of what we do in our lifestyles are affecting how our digestion is performing. Whilst more of us are taking PPI medications, we would be better to review when we are eating, our hydration levels, and tea and coffee intake first. I used to see the condition of low stomach acid with those who were more elderly, but in the past few years I’m increasingly seeing it with a client base in the 30-40’s. This is a significant change, and for me is telling of the state of our health and diets.

Ready for the intestines…

The body creates a chyme that is then released into the small intestine, the pancreas releases alkaline substance bicarbonate which helps to neutralise the acidity and other digestive enzymes such as lipase, protease, and amylase. These digestive enzymes are so important for the full digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, but with a processed diet, many of the key nutrients are ingredients that enable this to happen. We are refining B vitamins, and zinc out of our foods, our water soluble nutrients degrade over time, and much of our foods are transported 1000’s of miles allowing this to happen. So these nutrients are either missing or low in the foods. If they can’t be extracted from the foods in the first place because of food processing and manufacturing, how are you going to get these nutrients to actually use them?

Once these foods have been broken down by the enzymatic reactions, the next part of the process is that these digested foods move through the intestinal wall into the blood stream to be used by us.

Raw foods bring natural enzymes, and as we move into the warmer months of the year adding a raw and uncooked menu such as salads will bring the nutrients to help create these enzymes. Raw foods as found in their natural form have an abundance of enzymes. These will help to boost the enzymes that we so often don’t get due to our modern over cooked processed diet. Our diets are already putting increased pressure on the pancreatic function, and then we increase it by adding an enzyme devoid diet. We are in effect over working our pancreas and of course over time much like any donkey asked to pull too heavy a cart too frequently it starts to run out of steam. Our foods need to be alive, most cooking processes such as canning, pasteurising, baking, roasting, stewing and frying raise the temperature of the foods to a point where the enzymes are destroyed.

Those fresh juices you are buying in a bottle that are pasteurised have no enzyme activity otherwise you couldn’t store them. The roasted breakfast cereal most of us are eating is devoid of enzymes, and this is what most of us start our days with. We are eating foods that are enzyme deficient and this is having a knock on effect on our health and longevity. The coffee we are drinking to gain energy in the short term should be reflected on, because with stimulants we are increasing the metabolic activity, but it’s a false energy which uses up enzymes to enable it to happen. I constantly now get asked can I just take a supplement to resolve this, sometimes this is the case, but the work has to be done if you want to remain healthy and you have to address the issues that are the underlying cause not just play the lottery with a supplement!

We are what we digest.

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