In part two of our exploration into the world of enzymes, we are going to be looking at the different types of enzymes and their functions in the body. Enzymes are vital to the health of the body and are the foundation on which everything else in the body operates. No function is carried out in the body without an enzyme being somehow involved. In the following paragraphs, we are first going to study the three different types of enzymes and how they work in the body and then we will look at enzyme supplementation.
As I mentioned previously in part one, metabolic enzymes are involved in pretty much every cellular function of the body. For example, a muscle cell needs at least 10 metabolic enzymes to break down one glucose (sugar) molecule into 2 ATP molecules (the energy currency of the body).1 That’s 10 different enzymes to break down one molecule!
This is just one example of the job that metabolic enzymes perform. They are also responsible for DNA replication and transcription; growth, repair, and maintenance of cells; and a host of other functions.
Metabolic enzymes are produced by the body and are intra-cellular, meaning they are found inside the cells. You cannot get metabolic enzymes from your food or from supplementation; only your body can produce these enzymes.
Digestive enzymes work inter-cellularly, meaning that they work outside the cells. The work of digestive enzymes goes something like this:
- When you smell something that your brain perceives as food, your mouth releases saliva which is full of salivary enzymes to begin the digestion process. Salivary amylase breaks down carbohydrates and complex sugars, and lipase begins to break down lipids (fats). Once the chewed-up food (generally referred to as chyme) moves to the stomach, hydrochloric acid denatures the salivary amylase and lipase.
- However, the enzyme pepsin functions best in acidic environments and is released into the stomach to break down proteins into amino acids and peptides. The pancreas also secretes gastric lipase into the stomach to continue the digestion of lipids.
- As the chyme moves into the small intestine, the pancreas releases a flood of bicarbonate to alkalinize the chyme. (Remember, the chyme is coming from the stomach which is extremely acidic. If it is not alkalinized it will probably tear a hole in your small intestine…not really a desirable outcome). With this alkalization process, pepsin is denatured. Then, the pancreas releases maltase, lactase, and sucrase to digest sugars. Trypsin is also released to digest protein. Once the small intestine has absorbed as much nutrition as it can, whatever remains is sent to the large intestine (colon) to be expelled as waste.2
This is just a basic overview of digestive enzymes; there are many more that we don’t have time to cover. With the work of enzymes, it takes about six to eight hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine.3 Without digestive enzymes, the digestion process would take so long that you would die before you finished digesting your food!
Enzymes that are in fruits and vegetables and other foods that we eat are called food enzymes. These enzymes assist in breaking down compounds in the food itself, making the workload lighter for the body. However, these enzymes are very easily denatured by heat. To maximize enzyme function, it is best to eat as much raw food as possible.
The most commonly discussed food enzymes are bromelain and papain from pineapple and papaya respectively. These enzymes help to break down the naturally-occurring proteins in the fruit as well as proteins in other foods. This is why pineapple or pineapple juice is often used as a meat tenderizer. Bromelain breaks down the proteins in the meat, causing the meat to become more tender.
Increasing Food Enzyme Intake
The best way to increase your intake of food enzymes is by eating sprouted foods. Sprouting grains, legumes, and seeds unlocks rich enzyme stores. While plants are in seed form, the enzymes are inhibited to preserve the seed from decomposing. The inactive enzymes are not useable by the body, but soaking or sprouting activates these enzymes and makes it much easier to digest these foods. (Sprouted foods are also chock-full of nutrients and vitamins). Michael Edwards, founder of Organic Lifestyle Magazine says:
Foods with enzyme inhibitors are very difficult to digest, and they slow down the naturally occurring enzyme activity in your body. Every time you eat regular pasta, bread, cake, cereal, and all other grain products, or nuts, seeds and beans, you are slowing down the communication processes throughout your entire body and suppressing your body’s ability to function at peak performance.
All we have to do is to prepare them correctly to release the enzyme inhibitors. Once the enzyme inhibitors are gone, grains, seeds, tree nuts, and beans are some of the most perfect foods. They are very high in assimilable amino acids (proteins) and extremely rich in the exact kinds of enzymes our bodies need to keep us in good physical condition.4
Hopefully, you now understand why enzyme supplementation is so important to health. (If you don’t understand, well… The Essential Way probably needs to hire a new author). In an ideal world, your body would produce enough enzymes to function at optimal levels. I hate to break it to you, but… we don’t live in an ideal world. Very few people consume raw fruits and vegetables (or even cooked vegetables), processed foods have most of the enzymes cooked out of them, and as we age our bodies produce fewer enzymes.
How do we rectify this situation? As I’m sure you have guessed by now, Young Living has a wonderful line-up of essential oil-infused enzyme supplements targeted to meet your individual needs.
Essentialzyme™ is a bilayered, time-release caplet that supports healthy pancreatic function. It contains pancrealipase (digests fats), pancreatin (a mixture of amylase, lipase, and protease), and trypsin (digests proteins) in the light portion of the caplet. The dark part of the caplet contains bromelain and papain and other herbs as well as anise, fennel, peppermint, tarragon, and clove essential oils to stimulate overall enzyme activity.
A more general and multi-spectrum option is Essentialzymes-4™. It is specially formulated to aid in the digestion of fats, proteins, fiber, and carbohydrates. It has two capsules, one for immediate release and one for delayed release. The time-release technology of the capsules ensures that you get the enzymes you need at the right points in the digestive system, allowing for optimal nutrient absorption.
The immediate release capsule contains protease, amylase, lipase, peptidase (breaks down peptides into amino acids), phytase (breaks down phytic acids), bromelain, and papain; and anise, ginger, rosemary, tarragon, and fennel essential oils. The delayed release capsule contains bee pollen powder (full of enzymes and nutrition), pancreatin, lipase; and ginger, fennel, tarragon, anise, and lemongrass essential oils.
Your body releases different enzymes in different parts of the digestive tract, right? If you get certain enzymes in the wrong parts of the digestive tract, they are destroyed and are useless to your body. The design of Essentialzymes-4™ ensures that you are actually able to use the enzymes in the product.
Other Enzyme Products
Young Living also has Detoxzyme™ and Allerzyme™ which are designed to cleanse and promote healthy digestion. Detoxzyme is formulated to help complete digestion, detoxify, and promote cleansing. Allerzyme is a vegetarian enzyme complex to promote digestion, especially for those with sensitive stomachs.
For All the Speed-Readers…
If you didn’t have time to read the whole article (I may or may not be offended…), here’s the basics of what we talked about:
- Metabolic enzymes work inside the cells and are responsible to catalyze every cellular function. Only your body produces these enzymes.
- Digestive enzymes do their work outside the cells to break down food. Amylase and lipase in the saliva breaks down starches and fats, respectively, pepsin in the stomach breaks down proteins, maltase, lactase, and sucrase in the small intestine breaks down sugars, and trypsin in the small intestine breaks down protein.
- Food enzymes such as bromelain and papain from raw fruits and vegetables assist the body in the digestive process. Sprouting activates a flood of enzymes in grains, legumes, and seeds.
- Enzymes supplementation is so important because our current diet is severely lacking in enzyme content. Young Living’s Essentialzyme™ or Essentialzymes-4™ are great enzyme supplements because they are formulated for maximum absorption.
- McDowall, J. (2004). Enzymes of Glycolysis. InterPro.
- 1MD Editorial Staff (n.d.). From Mouth to Colon: The Journey of Your Digestive Enzymes. 1MD.
- Picco, M.F. (2018). Digestion: How long does it take? Mayo Clinic.
- Edwards, M. (2009). Sprouting to Remove Enzyme Inhibitors. Organic Lifestyle Magazine.