The primary digestive enzymes – proteases, amylases and lipases – function as biological catalysts, helping to break down protein, carbohydrates and fats. Raw foods also provide enzymes that naturally break down food for proper absorption.
Supplemental enzymes typically come from two sources, either extracted from the pancreas of animals or prepared from plant products. Each has particular benefits, depending on what they are used for.
Plant-based enzymes are usually derived from the fungus Aspergillus oryzae. Several human studies suggest that the proteolytic enzymes derived from this fungus may play a role in anti-inflammatory and fibrinolytic therapy, as well as providing digestive support.
Digestive enzymes are also found naturally in fresh ginger root, raw pineapple, green papaya, and kiwi fruit, but are weak compared to pancreatic or plant enzyme products. For example, the optimum temperature of activity for papain from papaya is between 140 and 158°F, way above the body's temperature to be very effective in aiding digestion.
Plant-based enzymes are more effective at digesting food than pancreatic based enzymes because their activity is not dependent on an optimal acid-alkaline environment. Optimal pH is the range of acidity or alkalinity in which the digestive activity is the greatest. Plant-derived enzymes operate effectively at a very wide pH range, digesting actively in the acidic environment of the stomach and the alkaline environment of the small intestine.
Pancreatic enzymes improve digestion and assimilation of proteins and other nutrients as well as reducing circulating immune complexes that cause antibody and autoantibody formation. They are more easily degraded than plant enzymes, and less effective for supporting digestive activity. Pancreatic enzymes are only effective in the slightly alkaline environment of the small intestine.
Plant enzyme use may help restore your body's natural ability to produce stomach acid and the enzymes needed for digestion.
A short-term trial of 1-2 digestive enzyme capsules per meal, especially plant-based enzymes, will help determine if digestion is compromised in some way. If taking enzymes with meals results in improvement, continue use at the dose found most beneficial for an extended period.
Stool analysis or a pancreatic trial will reveal if pancreatic enzymes are necessary.
A trial using plant-based enzymes to enhance digestion demonstrated their additional benefit of improving hydrochloric acid production in those individuals who were hypochlorhydric.
Digestive enzymes improve digestion and assimilation of proteins and other nutrients, reduce circulating immune complexes that cause antibody and autoantibody formation. Protein digestive enzymes are found naturally in fresh ginger root, raw pineapple and kiwi fruit. Quality proteins support mucous membrane integrity.
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