Are we what we eat? Allergies & Digestion

Allergies and Factors that Effect Digestion

Does eating great food, organic when possible, and taking supplements make us healthy (“healthy” means balanced and feel alive)?

The answer is both yes and no. Bottom line, we are only as healthy as the nutrients we are able to break down, process and assimilate. If one suffers from allergies, our body has a hard time handling the nutrients we eat because it’s working overtime trying to deal with allergic reactions. Our body’s ability to break down, process and assimilate nutrients is impaired not only by allergies, but also by age and by how we live in these times, by things like stress, medication, breathing polluted air, depression, poor lifestyle choices like smoking and processed foods. The enzymes our body needs to break down and assimilate nutrients are compromised by all those factors.

What are enzymes?

They’re catalysts, spark plugs that initiate chemical reactions in our body. Enzymes are both metabolic (systemic) and digestive. Metabolic enzymes instigate various chemical reactions in cells including energy production and detoxification. They pass thru the stomach, are absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and travel to their specific sites of action via the bloodstream. Metabolic enzymes include superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, which need digestive enzymes to fuel their metabolic enzyme activity so we stay alive and functional.

It’s those digestive enzymes needed to activate metabolic enzymes we’ll talk about here — digestive enzymes produced in the pancreas and released into the small intestines, which break down food and which are required for absorption of vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and carbs. The pancreas gives us digestive juices with enzymes like amylase to digest starches, proteases for proteins, lipase for fats, lactase for dairy and cellulase for cellulose or fiber.

Food that is not broken down spoils inside us. It can be reabsorbed and re-circulated in the body, hurting the liver and the immune system and leading to disease, especially autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.

If the body has to struggle to digest food, energy is diverted which might otherwise be used to stimulate our brain and help us repair tissues, organs and cells. “Is it any wonder that we are an entire society suffering from constipation, gas, indigestion, allergies and halitosis (bad breath)?” Dr. DicQie Fuller says in The Healing Power of Enzymes.

With age, our own enzymes production decreases and our enzymes are not as active.

In 1930 Dr. Edward Howell wrote Enzyme Nutrition: the Food Enzyme Concept and stated that, “The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism.” According to Dr. Howell, each of us has an “enzyme bank account.” We take enzymes out of our bank account for normal digestion and also for emergencies caused by viruses, strenuous exercise, emotional crises, bad diets, breathing unclean air. Dr. Howell advocated making “deposits” through supplementation. He stated that the enzymes available to us in raw fruits and veggies are usually only enough to digest their own particles.

According to German researchers in the 1880’s enzymes taken orally also help improve circulation, decrease the rate of inflammation from injuries and aid in rehabilitation. After oral ingestion, enzymes could be detected in the lip of a wound! Enzymes were demonstrated to dissolve blood clots as well as normalize blood flow equilibrium.

Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, maintains that almost all disease derives from poor digestion. Ayurveda uses herbs like ginger, coriander, cardamom, cumin and turmeric to help to aid digestion. (These are great for gas!) Its tradition considers dairy “holy” and recommends, for instance, boiling (organic) milk, letting it cool, and then adding one of these digestive spices. Or mixing half a cup of (organic) yogurt, half a cup of water, and cumin seeds to make a drink taken with or between meals. Ginger and honey is often taken at the start of a meal.

According to Anthony Cichoke in The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy, anyone with dull skin, acne, eczema, skin cancer, wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, brown spots, or fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, would be wise to explore enzyme therapy.

Lack of enzymes have been linked to a variety of health problems such as heart disease, depression, allergies, arthritis, fatigue, skin problems, malnutrition, leaky gut, bloating, gas. Regular use of digestive enzymes with meals is said to help one shed excess pounds. Why? Remember when you were young and lean? That’s when your body produced quarts of digestive juice to help you handle everything you ate and normalize digestion and metabolism.

Enzymes can be taken before, during or between meals depending on the therapeutic goal. Interestingly, they have been found when taken with an herb, medication or drug, to improve absorption and utilization of that second substance — i.e. garlic helps fight circulatory disorders. Taking enzymes with garlic supplements improve garlic’s efficacy.

As stated above, when you take enzymes dictates what they’ll do for you. Taken prior to or with a meal, they break down foods, freeing nutrients for absorption and use by the body; taken between meals, enzymes are absorbed into the bloodstream and break down toxins in the system at the cellular level. Taken together with other medicinal substances, enzymes enhance their activity, absorption and bio-availability.

Enzymes are found naturally in raw fruits and vegetables, in fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, cultured vegetables, yogurt, miso, tempeh and ume plum vinegar, to name a few.

How do enzymes differ from probiotics?

Well, to throw another rmonkey-wrench in the whole equation – we also need probiotics, those beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract like acidophilus and bifidus, the friendly, good bugs to complete the process. Without probiotics and without proper elimination, digestion counts for nothing. Oy ve. And vice versa, without digestion, the good bugs are compromised and there’s not proper elimination either. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine states that proper elimination means eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of water and taking probiotics.

So what should one do?

Take digestive enzymes, at least with each meal, between meals if you need to, take probiotics to keep the good bugs in the gut happy, take several deep breaths before each meal. Eat several small meals. Chew food well since enzymatic activity begins in the mouth. Don’t eat on the run, don’t eat late at night. Eat well most of the time. Taking those digestive enzymes should clear up some of the problems you’ve been dealing with and will make sure that the other supplements you take are utilized, that you’re not throwing your money away. One caution: If you have gastric or duodenal ulcers, or if gastric irritation occurs after the use of any digestive enzyme, discontinue.
Dot’s all for now.