Enzymes are the “work horse” of the human body, as they are the catalyst to any chemical reaction which takes place inside the body. A protein which is rounded in it’s molecular shape, each enzyme has a specific and particular function, whether in circulation in the prevention of excess blood clotting, or in tissue repair after an injury, to the digestive functions of the body, which is discussed here.
There are two main types of enzymes: metabolic and digestive. The primary function of digestive enzymes are to break down the food we eat into nutrients that our body can easily digest and use. Over 20 different digestive enzymes have been identified. Enzymes are also found in the foods we eat, and therein lies the reason for supplementing digestive enzymes. Foods that are in their “raw” or “whole” state (i.e. vegetables, fruits and grains fresh from the field) are high in the content of “live” (active) enzymes. Foods that have been cooked, processed, refined, etc. have been depleted of their enzyme content. Given the way the average American citizen eats these days, not much if any, enzymes are consumed within the foods we eat, putting the bulk of the work on the body itself to breakdown those foods. Although the enzymes within our digestive system (saliva, stomach acids, small intestine) were created for this purpose, by not having the added action of enzymes coming from the food that is eaten to help with the digestion, more stress is placed on the body. The pancreas, which is involved in enzyme production, has to create more digestive enzymes to help with the process, and in effect, becomes enlarged over time. By supplementing with a digestive enzyme product, the body has an improved digestive process to work with, especially in the upper part of the stomach, where food is “pre-digested” for up to an hour! Improved digestion is obviously one area that make the case for supplementing with digestive enzymes. That same thought would include such things as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), because by moving the food more quickly and thoroughly through the stomach and intestines, the chance of irritation is lessened. Also included would be the effect of aging on the digestive system.
Many elderly people find they have more trouble with their digestion as they age, but supplementing with digestive enzymes could help to strengthen the bodies depleting store of digestive enzymes. A subject popular with alternative medicine is using digestive enzyme supplements as a nutritional support for cancer patients. The theory is partly to soothe the side effects from the radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but also in the belief that the enzymes can have a direct effect on the cancer itself. One such doctor is Nicholas Gonzalez M.D., a cancer specialist located in N.Y. city, who has seen some success in using high dosages of enzyme therapy on tumors. Also reporting some success with enzyme therapy is Dr. Arnold Renshaw from Manchester England. His clinical study involved over 700 people with rheumatoid arthritis. Over half reported some instance of improvement, either “marked” or “somewhat” over the course of the study, with the shortest time of improvement showing up in 2 months.