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What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are proteins specially tailored to break down foods into macronutrients that your body can easily and readily digest. The human body produces some 22 different digestive enzymes. Many more digestive enzymes are found in the fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and other foods we consume on a daily basis. However, when we cook food to or above 118 degrees 100% of the enzyme potential in those foods has been destroyed. Itís a good thing for us that enzymes are now available in supplemental form. Sadly, most of us have no clue why we need them, how to use them, or where even to get them.

When food is consumed digestive enzymes are released from your salivary glands, stomach, and small intestine, which go to work immediately in order to break down the food and speed up the digestive process. Each enzyme acts on a specific type of food. A variety of different proteases, for example, break down the components of protein. Amylases help digest carbohydrates; lipases break down fats; and cellulases, found in plants, digest fiber.

Many nutritionally trained physicians often proscribe digestive enzyme products to promote good digestion and enhance nutrient absorption. Many of these physicians contend that people are lacking enzymes because of inadequate diets, over-refined foods, environmental toxins, and poor health. These problems become multiplied due to improper chewing and or eating on the run, of which all of us are guilty of from time to time. Unfortunately, the alarming fact is, the majority of physicians are not aware that cooking foods to temperatures over and above 118 degrees destroys 100% of the available enzymes in that food, thus leaving the body to steal from its own supply to at best partially digests those cooked and soon to be rotting substances that are now inside the body.

Many alternative practitioners/physicians may recommend plant-based digestive enzymes, such as bromelain (from pineapples), papain (from papayas), and enzymes grown on the fungus aspergillus. They may also prescribe animal-based products (often called pancreatic enzymes because they are derived from the pancreas) either alone or together with plant-based enzymes. We at and Ripple Effect Transformations strictly adhere to the plant based type of enzymes and suggest you do the same. However, the choice will always be yours.

The Health Benefits

Many nutritionally trained physicians recommend digestive enzyme supplements for various ailments, from simple heartburn and bloating to more persistent problems, such as chronic indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. The supplements also are given as digestive aids for patients battling cancer, and sometimes for non-digestive complaints, such as allergies or skin ailments like rosacea or eczema. Some practitioners even advise patients to take enzymes daily in the belief that doing so will result in peak digestive performance.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes may help to:

Stop and reverse the digestive issues that can occur with normal aging. Many practitioners contend that digestive problems often develop in the later years of life because the supplies of digestive enzymes usually decline with advancing age. Taking supplemental enzymes helps to restore good digestion by replenishing these dwindling supplies.

Reduce or eliminate flatulence, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive complaints. Nearly all types of digestive problems can benefit from enzyme therapy. Take for instance the case of heart burn, the thinking is that any means of accelerating the stomach's emptying of food may well reduce stomach acid and lessen irritation along the digestive tract. Those whose stomachs are upset due to irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis) may also experience major relief from symptoms with the use of enzymes.

Provide the much needed nutritional support for cancer patients. Even though definitive studies are still in the works, some practitioners prescribe a high-dose enzyme therapy in conjunction with the treatment for cancers of the pancreas, colon, lung, and other organs. Enzymes are also given to soothe the side effects associated with harsh chemotherapy and radiation regimens. Some physicians who use alternative therapies to treat cancer include high doses of enzymes because they believe the enzymes can have a direct effect on the cancer itself. Evidence is compiling each day to support this theory.

Ease the symptoms associated with Candida yeast syndrome. This notorious illness, thought to be due to runaway growth of Candida yeast in the intestines, can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, joint aches, and many other discomforts. Plant-based digestive enzymes may help to restore good digestion. The best way to see for yourself if you may be suffering from an invasion of these blood terrorist is to have it viewed by a trained practitioner of dark field microscopy, live blood analysis.

Control skin ailments and other allergies. Taking digestive enzyme supplements with meals have been known to improve chronic skin complaints as well as ongoing allergies. Patient testimonials and a handful of small studies indicate that it can be an effective approach. I first hand have seen a complete reversal from eczema in my daughter once enzymes were implemented into her diet. I canít say 100% it was from enzyme therapy however, enzymes were the only thing added or changed in her diet and environment.

How much should I take?

Before one purchases a digestive enzyme product, look for one that mixes several enzymes together for a synergistic effect (all enzymes end in the letters "ase"). The highest quality products contain amylase (for starches and carbohydrates), lipase (for fats), protease (for protein), and lactase (for dairy). Most plant based enzymes, of which I recommend taking, are made of bromelain (from pineapples) and papain (from papayas). These two ingredients are often contained in many enzyme products. Obviously, if you know you have a particular problem digesting a certain food (such as dairy), find the specific enzyme to combat the enzyme deficiency your dealing with. In the case of dairy that would be lactase.

Enzymes are taken orally and no other route of administration should be attempted unless you're under the supervision of a physician familiar with enzyme therapies. Oral supplementation should be more than sufficient in most cases.

For most issues, the dosage of plant-based digestive enzymes recommended is 2 to 4 capsules with each meal. Higher amounts are needed for larger meals especially if the food has been cooked over 118 degrees. Specific needs vary from person to person, so experiment until you find the right dose to relieve your symptoms.

For poor digestion due to normal aging: Take 2 to 4 pills with meals.

For common digestive complaints, such as flatulence, heartburn, or irritable bowel syndrome: Take 1 to 2 capsules with smaller meals; 2 to 4 with large meals.

To enhance digestion during cancer treatment: Take 2 to 4 pills with meals.

For Candida overgrowth syndrome: Take 1 to 2 capsules with meals and in between meals.

For allergies Take 2 to 4 pills on an empty stomach.

I as well as others believe in taking enzymes on an empty stomach. This is a great way to rid the body of unwanted parasites, chemicals, metals, and any other toxins in the body. When enzymes are taken on an empty stomach they can concentrate on breaking down these toxic intruders in the body for elimination and allow the body to focus on rebuilding strong, healthy, and vibrant cells.

Other Guidelines for Use

Concerning digestion-related complaints, take an enzyme product at the start of a meal. I think itís a good idea to divide the dosage up and take before, during, and after meal time. This allows for an equal distribution of the beneficial enzyme properties to the food consumed. However, what ever is easier for you works best.

Non-digestive complaints, such as skin inflammation, practitioners typically recommend taking digestive enzyme supplements on an empty stomach to enhance absorption and allow the enzymes to focus on the problem rather then digesting food.

If you don’t like swallowing pills, buy a powder, or sprinkle the contents of a capsule over your food.

Those people who are prone to take an antacid after meals please wait a couple hours after taking the digestive enzymes, since acid neutralizers (such as TUMS or Mylanta) may interfere with the activity of certain enzyme supplements. However, various acid-blocking drugs (such as Tagamet or Prilosec) will not interfere with enzyme function.

• If you don’t notice any improvement after using digestive enzymes for a month or so, discontinue taking them and check with your physician. However, the case is likely that the enzyme has been diluted in some way to increase the profits of the company creating the product. Do your homework so you can avoid this pitfall. Integrity is a word used a lot but not many have it.

General Information

The majority of digestive enzymes have no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with their use.

Pancreatin, a pancreatic enzyme from pigs that is prescribed as a drug, may interfere with diabetes medicines such as miglitol (Glyset). However, plant based enzymes will not have this effect.

If you're on any blood thinning medications or anticoagulants, notify your doctor so he or she may advise you. Some enzymes, such as bromelain, can thin the blood further and possibly cause complications. Itís always best to notify your physician anytime you make changes in your lifestyle especially if you already are dealing with health issues.

The Possible Side Effects

Digestive enzyme products have an excellent safety record, and serious side effects are extremely rare. Even if large doses of enzymes are taken, the body rapidly puts them to use. Cramping, diarrhea, or digestive upset may arise during the first few days or so of treatment, but typically subside rather quickly. These conditions usually arise due to toxins being stirred up in the body. This occurrence is natural and is usually necessary to eliminate unwanted toxins in the body. However, if any reaction is unbearable or persistent, please see your doctor.

A few people are highly sensitive to enzyme supplementation. As stated above see your doctor if you develop severe stomach or intestinal distress or develop other troublesome symptoms.

Stop taking the supplements if a rash, sore throat, or red eyes develop. These symptoms may be an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the product. Don’t use a particular enzyme if you know you're allergic to its source, such as bromelain (from pineapples), papain (from papayas), ficin (from figs), or pancreatic enzymes (from pigs, cows, or oxen). However, some symptoms may also be a beneficial occurrence, taking place because of toxins leaving your body, so monitor closely.

Until the benefits of enzyme supplementation are scientifically proven, do not take enzyme supplements as an alternative for conventional, and potentially lifesaving, treatments for cancer and other serious ailments. Enzyme products are best suited as a nutritional complement to standard therapies.

People with diabetes should consult their doctors before taking digestive enzyme supplements, since they can alter levels of nutrients and sugars obtained from foods.

Like many supplements, enzymes have not been tested extensively in pregnant or breast-feeding women. Let your doctor know if you're pregnant or are planning to have a child.

The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. You should not stop taking any medication without first consulting your physician.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent and disease

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