I write about digestion a lot because it’s a concern for many of our customers at Organico and healthy digestive systems are so important in determining overall well being. Understanding the role of enzymes in the digestive process and discovering how best to support your digestion can make a huge difference to the digestive process and therefore to quality of life.
Enzymes help our bodies to break down food into a form in which we can absorb. They are critical to digestion. In order to learn more about enzymes and the role they play in our health, I have been reading a book by Tom Bohager called ‘Everything You Need To Know About Enzymes’. My father was a champion of digestive enzymes and at Organico we have recommended supplemental digestive enzymes for many years. However I recently realised that there is a lot more to enzymes. It turns out that supplemental enzymes are now being used to treat much more than poor digestion; they are being used for everything from weight control to sports injuries to stress and anxiety. It’s a huge area of research; researchers have identified more than 5000 different enzymes that our bodies manufacture and use but there are likely far more. Tom suggests we think of enzymes as tools, every one having a slightly different function. You would never use a screwdriver to hammer a nail in place, and if you think about the hundreds of different size heads for screwdrivers then you can start to imagine how many different enzymes there are.
There are two groups of enzymes that are important for life. Digestive enzymes mentioned above are responsible for the digestion of food, the assimilation of its nutrients into our bodies and the elimination of its non-essential and toxic ingredients. Then you have metabolic enzymes, which are what you find in every cell in our body – metabolic enzymes create chemical reactions in our cells that allow us to see, hear, breathe, feel, walk, and talk. Simply put, without enzymes, life would not exist.
Understanding enzymes and the role they play in health is obviously a very complicated and complex field, which could get very confusing. However, Tom stresses that the first step in improving our overall health should always be to address our digestion, which makes complete sense to me. Whether you’re in a health crisis or just want to live a healthier life, this is where you must start. He explains that digestion takes up more energy than any other function the body performs (and just moving food through the digestive system takes up most of that energy). The easier we can make this process the more energy our body will have to maintain strong bones, a healthy immune system, let alone to build a healthy baby or overcome an illness.
Tom’s advice to someone like me is to: Reduce the size of meals by 25 per cent adding more raw snacks to make sure I’m is getting the right amount of calories.
Make at least one meal a day raw foods only (luckily I can eat in Organico Cafe most days which makes this bit easy and tasty!).
Take a high potency digestive enzyme with each meal.
Fast every three months by eating only raw foods for five days
We have all read about people who eat a completely raw food diet; now I am beginning to understand why! I have to say though, I do like cooking and eating cooked food, so for me it’s a good idea to take an enzyme supplement in capsule form. The fasting for five days on raw foods will be a challenge for me.
However, even though it will be a challenge I can see a huge amount of sense in trying to follow Tom’s advice, especially regarding the raw food days. When we eat raw foods, the food itself contains the enzymes necessary to digest it, so it places less of a strain on our system. But most of us in Ireland eat a lot of cooked foods and during the cooking process enzymes are destroyed. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables that have been ripened using gas, or that have been irradiated, have little if any enzymes left alive in them (which is why they don’t go bad, as that process needs enzymes just as our digestion does). Foods like pasta and bread made from grains and flour have been processed, which has robbed them of their enzymes. When we eat foods like these, that have little or no enzymes left in them, our body has to produce the enzymes necessary to break the food down and absorb it. Unfortunately, as we age our body produces less and less enzymes; this probably explains why people get worse and worse at digesting food, as they get older. Hence it makes a lot of sense to makes sure we get as much raw organic and local fruit and veg as possible into our daily meals, which would have it’s own natural enzymes, or when we can’t to consider using supplemental enzymes to help break down our food.
Tom argues ‘If you want to stay healthy or get healthy you need to free up as much digestive energy as you can spare. This will help ensure all the other systems of the body have the energy they need to function properly. Fasting, restricting calories, eating more raw food, or taking high potency plant based digestive enzymes at each meal can facilitate this’. (page 33).
The key is making healthy decisions and choices. You decide what works for you, what you can live with, and if the odd time you eat a few things that aren’t great then you make sure to do better then next meal. Given that digestion takes up so much of our energy it makes sense to make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure our digestions works as well as it possibly can.
If you would like to know more about digestive enzymes and whether it might benefit you to take one, or you have any other questions regarding digestive health that we might be able to help with, do call in to Organico and have a look at what is available. In Organico we are going to expand our range to include some high strength Enzyme products from a company called Enzymedica that specialises in Enzymes – call in to see what it’s all about!