Sadly, about 60 percent of the food we buy is processed food. Here’s why that’s bad for your digestion.
Enzymes are relatively large molecules. But their protein structures are fragile. The amino acids in the molecular chain link together and fold upon themselves to form intricate and highly specific patterns and shapes.
This structure is what gives enzymes their unique characteristics and specific functions.
When the structure of the chain is broken, the enzyme becomes “denatured”, changes shape, and loses its ability to perform.
Heating most food above 40 degrees destroys most food-based enzymes. Doesn’t matter if it’s on the stove top…in the microwave…or through the pasteurization process commonly used in dairy processing.
In addition to heat, enzymes are also very sensitive to chemicals. Which means it’s critical you avoid foods that are processed using nitrites, sulfites, Aspartame, propylene glycols, and other chemicals.
It’s a good reason to eat your foods raw or very lightly cooked.
Raw foods are enzyme-rich and actually “predigest” inside your stomach through the action of their own enzymes called autolytic digestion.
Thus, consuming enzyme-rich whole foods can give your digestive system a break and improve your digestive efficiency.
Nearly 70 percent of us take at least one prescription drug daily, while more than half take at least two. Incredibly, a full twenty percent are on five or more medications!
Yet, many common medications reduce the absorption of specific nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract. How? Some medications can bind to nutrients, preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Other medications can decrease the supply of stomach acid and enzymes and thereby inhibit nutrient uptake.
Imagine you’re on a savannah. A herd of zebras break from grazing to stop at a water hole.
Suddenly, a lion appears out of nowhere, bearing down on them at lightning speed. Without a thought, the zebras bolt as they recognize an imminent threat to their life.
Scientists call this the “fight or flight” response. For the zebra, every bit of energy is channeled into saving its life. All non-essential bodily functions are turned off, or “down-regulated.” At this critical time, the zebras just aren’t worried about fighting infections…wound healing…or digesting food.
Once the danger subsides, the zebra reverts to functioning normally again.
The stress of modern living causes a very similar reaction inside our own bodies. The only difference is…for many of us it never turns off. Stress about money, work, relationships, and even health can make it feel like there’s a lion lurking in the shadows all the time. That persistent stress—and the resulting digestive down-regulation—causes a drastic reduction in normal enzyme production.
Natural Enzyme Inhibitors
Grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds are rich in enzymes. But they also contain enzyme inhibitors. Unless deactivated, these enzyme inhibitors put an even greater strain on the digestive system than cooking food. Sprouting, soaking in warm acidic water, sour leavening, culturing, and fermenting—all processes used in traditional societies—deactivate enzyme inhibitors, making nutrients in grains, nuts, and seeds more readily available.
For example, the antibiotic tetracycline blocks absorption by binding to calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Weight loss and some cholesterol-lowering drugs bind to fats. Drugs that treat acid reflux or heartburn raise the pH level in the upper GI tract. This blocks absorption of crucial vitamins and minerals. This is especially dangerous for the elderly, who already have reduced levels of stomach acid and nutrient deficiencies.This activity of depleting nutrients causes extra stress on your digestive system causing it to work even harder trying to extract nutrients from the foods you eat, needlessly using up much of your body’s existing “enzyme potential.”
You might assume that your body would make enough digestive enzymes to meet its needs. And for about the first 20 years, you’d be right.
Scientists believe that your natural enzyme production starts to decline by the time you're about 20. And, that for every ten years, your body's production of enzymes decreases by 13 percent.
So by age 40, your enzyme production would be 25 percent lower than when you were a child. By the time you're 70, you could be producing only a third of the enzymes you need to function properly.
And studies back it up. French researchers found that among older people, concentrations of the digestive enzymes lipase and chymotrypsin were significantly reduced compared to younger individuals.
Making matters worse, your stomach produces less hydrochloric acid as you age, and hydrochloric acid is crucial in activating your stomach's digestive enzymes.
When digestion of foods requires such a heavy demand, enzyme supplies run short and your enzyme-producing capacity can become exhausted.
Why does this matter?
The high demand for digestive enzymes depletes your body's production of metabolic enzymes, which every cell in your body needs in order to function.