By Janet L. Hall, CKP, CBT
The chemical reactions that keep us alive and the functions of our metabolism rely on the work that enzymes carry out.
What do digestive enzymes do? They help the body break down larger complex molecules into smaller molecules, such as glucose, so that the body can use them as fuel.
How do they function? Digestive enzymes can only function in a certain pH range (acidic/alkaline). Their PH preference depends on where they are found in the body. For instance, enzymes in the intestines work best at 7.5 pH, whereas enzymes in the stomach work best at pH 2 because the stomach is much more acidic. This is why drinking alkaline water with meals can disrupt stomach acid and worsen digestive issues.
Confused about the particular functions of enzymes? If you are having trouble breaking down specific foods you can’t seem to digest, or if you have a particular problem with your body, here is a list (in alphabetical order) of most enzymes and their functions, so you can see just what it is you may be needing:
- Amylase breaks down carbohydrates, starches and sugars found in grains, rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, snack foods.
- Alpha Galactosidase breaks down the polysaccharides and oligosaccharides (complex sugars) in foods such as legumes (beans and peanuts) and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, among others).
- Beta-glucanase: helps in the breakdown of plant cell walls (cellulose) beta-linked glucose polymers often associated with fibers, grains and cereals, such as in barley, oats, and wheat and other products such as soybean meal and locust bean gum.
- Bromelain: a protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzyme complex found in fruit and, in higher concentrations, in the stem of the pineapple; able to hydrolyze or break down a wide variety of protein types in a range of both acid and alkaline environments.
- Catalase: an antioxidant enzyme helps the body to convert hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.
- Cellulase breaks down food fiber (cellulose) found in fruits and vegetables.
- Glucoamylase breaks down long chain carbohydrates or starches (corn, potatoes, wheat and rice) into sugar that will afterwards be used as fuel by the body.
- Hemicellulase breaks down hemicellulose, which is a type of cellulose and a key component of the cell wall in all plants; has the ability to take non-cellulose polysaccharides (long chains of sugars) and convert them into usable constituents.
- Invertase breaks down white and simple sugar (fructose and fruit sugar).
- Lactase breaks down lactose, a simple sugar, found in milk sugars (milk products).
- Lumbrokinase is Lumbricus rubellus, a species of earthworm. Sold as a dietary supplement, lumbrokinase is classified as a fibrinolytic enzyme (a substance that promotes the breakdown of fibrinogen, a protein involved in blood clotting).
- Lysozyme is an enzyme secreted by the salivary glands. It kills bacteria. Mucus is a fluid secreted by the cells in the stomach. It protects the stomach.
- Maltase is an enzyme that helps convert food to the simple sugar glucose for energy.
- Papain: derived from the fruit of the papaya plant, that catalyzes the breakdown of proteins by hydrolysis (addition of a water molecule).
- Nattokinase is commonly used orally for cardiovascular diseases, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, chest pain (angina), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), hemorrhoids, varicose veins, poor circulation, and peripheral artery disease.
- Pectinase breaks down pectin, a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls. Found in many fruits and vegetables
- Peptidase breaks down proteins into amino acids.
- Proteolytic enzymes (systemic enzymes) can effectively “digest” scar tissue – particularly in the circulatory system. Scar tissue can be broken up. Moreover, breaking down scar tissue can be detrimental to patients – in some cases it’s actually necessary to restore full movement or range of motion. Maximized immune system: The primary vehicle the immune system uses for destroying invaders is enzymes. Macrophages, for example, literally digest invaders with proteolytic enzymes.
- Sucrase is secreted by the small intestine where it breaks down sucrose into fructose and glucose, simpler sugars that the body can absorb.
- Xylanase breaks down plant nutrients from vegetables with a high fiber content (fibrous veggies, grains, and legumes).
In a nutshell, enzymes play a huge part in our day-to-day running of the human body. They are vital for the proper functioning of the digestive system, the nervous system, structural muscles, and much more.
If you need help determining what enzyme products (especially digestive) are right for you, call us for a kinesiology or biofeedback assessment.
Janet L. Hall is a Naturopath, Certified Kinesiologist, Herbalist, Biofeedback specialist, Nutritional Counselor and Essential Oil Expert. Her center is dedicated to helping people “rise above!” anything in their lives.
(505) 294-WELL (9355). www.alternativewellnesscenter.org