Does the state of the world have your stomach in knots lately? Has your exercise and nutrition plan suffered? Many people have gained weight in the past few years, and there are multiple contributing factors. The digestive system is very susceptible to stress and the resulting symptoms are not fun. Digestive issues result from many different issues, but one critical area that you CAN control is enzymes.
Chances are you really don’t know much about enzymes. What are they, what do they do, and why do you need them? First, without enzymes, life cannot exist. All living things have enzymes and they are responsible for every biochemical reaction that occurs in living matter. Picture a construction site. All of the building materials on the site; the metal, wood, and nails are the foods you’ve eaten, sitting in your stomach. Those building materials represent the carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and even vitamins and minerals in your food. On their own, they cannot perform any work. They just sit there waiting for the construction workers to come and start using the materials to build something, your body! Those construction workers are the enzymes. Enzymes are energy that have the capacity to do work. All of that food needs to be broken down and absorbed, or digested, to be effective in your body.
Another example of enzymes at work is an apple that has a “bruise” or a “rotten” spot. When that apple fell from the tree and hit the ground, the cells of the apple were broken and the enzymes were liberated from the cells to begin digesting the apple. The apple is simply being digested, that’s what that “rotten” spot is. Those same cells break open when you chew the apple. Chewing your food thoroughly releases the most enzymes. Chewing thoroughly can also prevent excess gas, especially after eating vegetables.
Now you know what enzymes do, and why they’re important. But how do you get them, and what happens if you don’t have enough enzymes? Simply stated, every raw, uncooked fruit, vegetable, and meat contains the enzymes that will digest the food in which it is contained. Once a food is cooked to 118 degrees Fahrenheit or above, the enzymes are destroyed.
Enzymes must be removed from our food supply in order for food products to have an extended shelf life. A new area of advancement if growing hybrid foods like tomatoes that will have a reduced amount of naturally occurring enzymes. Processed foods are especially depleted of enzymes, and it’s important to include mostly fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Our bodies make some enzymes, but not enough to adequately digest everything that we eat. We have some enzymes in our saliva as well as our stomach. The pancreas can also release enzymes to help digest a meal when there is not enough present in the meal. Over time, this greatly stresses the digestive system and results in: food allergies, heartburn, high acid, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation (which is not having a bowel movement daily).
Eating foods raw will give you the maximum amount of enzymes in your diet. A few examples of foods very high in enzymes are pineapple, mango, papaya, avocado (think of how quickly it turns brown), raw honey, and ginger. Salads are a great source of raw foods. Fruit is usually eaten raw, so that’s an easy one. Veggies can be cut up and dipped into hummus or salsa.
Start with a goal of incorporating one raw fruit and one raw vegetable into your daily meal plan. Chew the vegetables very thoroughly to avoid gas and digestive distress. Adding fiber to your diet (by eating more of these foods) can also cause gas and that is normal. Also be aware that not all veggies are safe to eat raw, such as lima beans and potatoes. Dipan-9 is an excellent enzyme option in the supplement store.