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Enzymes: Digestion and Beyond

Note from Jan:
More good news about enzymes. This is why we carry Plant Enzymes. We have seen the difference in our personal health. You will also notice that Plant Enzymes carry many of the suggested enzymes.
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The body is a cauldron of chemical reactions, and each such reaction requires the services of an enzyme. In the natural products marketplace, enzymes have become known as little facilitators of digestion, breaking down nutrients into their usable parts. Very specific in nature, each enzyme acts on a specific type of chemical, called a substrate, in what is commonly referred to as a lock-and-key relationship—the enzyme’s shape fits only its intended substrate. This is why people with insufficient production of the enzyme lactase struggle to breakdown lactose after ingesting dairy products.

By nature, many of the foods we eat contain the enzymes necessary to digest that food. However, many variables, such as heating, can deplete these food-borne enzymes. Also, while the body makes its own menu of enzymes, this production can be negatively affected by aging and other health factors. Supplementation has become one favored method of ensuring the proper enzyme mix in the body; these enzymes can be sourced from animals, plants, fungi or microbes. Digestive health supplements have dominated the enzyme marketplace, but mounting evidence on therapeutic uses of enzymes, as well as growing demand for functional products is expanding this market to new frontiers.

Enzyme Science

It all starts with digestion. For the most part, digestive enzymes hydrolyze (use water to break down) nutrient substrates. In simple categories, amylase enzymes break down carbohydrate substrates, lipases handles fats and proteases take care of proteins; other types include cellulases, pectinases and xylanases. The proteases, also known as proteolytic enzymes, include the pancreatic enzymes chymotrypsin and trypsin, as well as the plant-derived bromelain from pineapple and papain from papaya.

Saliva in the oral cavity initiates digestion by secreting amylase for breaking starch into simple sugars and lipase for fat breakdown. In the stomach, the protease pepsin is secreted and works on food proteins, breaking them into peptides and amino acids. Then, amylase and lipase, in addition to the endogenous proteases, are secreted in the pancreas, which supplies enzymes to the small intestines for further digestion. Here, lipase breaks triglycerides into fatty acids and amylases reduce dietary starches into various saccharides that are then turned into glucose by other enzymes. Here, chymotrypsin hydrolyzes amino acids such as tryptophan and tyrosine, resulting in smaller peptides, while trypsin tackles aminos including arginine and lysine. Other pancreatic proteases further break down these dietary nutrients.

People may focus on one area of digestion that troubles them, such as indigestion due to lactose intolerance. For this, lactase supplementation has become a popular remedy. In populations where meat is a staple of the diet, help with digestion of meat proteins is desired. Papain and bromelain are both meat tenderizers, due to their ability to handle tough meat fibers, and they are also popular after-meal enzyme supplements.

However, there are small amounts of other enzymes in papaya, including an amylase (for starch digestion) and a lipase (for fat digestion). The Plant Enzymes includes amylase and protease to enhance the digestive function of the product.

A preference for a range of enzymes for improved digestion is taking shape. There are three major advantages to enzyme blends in digestive health.

The first advantage is that the molecules targeted for reduction by enzymes are often complex, so it may be more efficient and rapid to target multiple bonds for degradation with different enzymes rather than a single bond with a single enzyme.

The second advantage is that the molecule targeted for reduction by an enzyme rarely is consumed by itself; usually it is embedded in a matrix of other foods, so adding additional enzymes to break down those other interfering foods in theory should allow the main enzyme for the target molecule(s) to work more efficiently.

The third advantage is in some cases, the degradation products of the target molecules are sometimes as much of a problem or more of a problem in digestive health than the targeted molecule, so to produce the desired outcome, it is necessary to add enzymes to break down both the targeted molecule and these degradation products.

The Plant Enzyme formula containing 9 plant based enzymes that help digest protein, fats, carbohydrates, starches, sugars and all foods. As a core product, Plant Enzymes is what enables all of our other products to be so effective.

It is important to understand that the best way to achieve optimal health is by having high enzyme levels in the body and conserving the body's enzyme levels. When the body has an abundance of enzymes, it can protect itself and repair the damage from virtually all degenerative diseases. Enzymes are a key piece of the puzzle of life, because they make all the other pieces work. Enzymes are the very life force that activates vitamins, minerals, proteins and other physical components within the body, furthermore, they can't do their work without enzymes!

Most health products focus on giving the body the materials it needs. We need water, vitamins and ionic minerals. We also need to give the workforce of the body back its power and ability to function more effectively. Our Plant Enzymes take the drain off the workforce and give them the chance to regain their strength and focus. Taking the Plant Enzymes will help the body develop a stronger disease-fighting capability and increase the body's ability to mend and heal itself. As a matter of fact, digestive enzymes can do as much or more for the human body than any other health product available!

The original digestive enzyme product was probably basic animal pancreatin, which is a blend of several proteolytic enzymes, as well as lipase and amylase. The introduction of microbial enzymes enabled more variety in enzymatic activity, and a variety of these enzymes are usually combined. There are still some targeted products that contain only one or two enzymes, such as lactase, which is marketed to manage lactose intolerance, or alpha-galactosidase, sold as the familiar BEANO® product [from GlaxoSmithKline] and used to control gas and bloating. People are assuming a diet that emphasizes one macronutrient over the others. Enzyme blends that focus on protein digestion, for example, are becoming more commonplace to facilitate the optimal digestion of a diet that is high in protein.

Where lactose intolerance has been well-addressed in digestive enzymes, gluten intolerance is only beginning to pick up steam. In late 2010, scientists from the University of Salermo and the European Laboratory for the Investigation of Food-Induced Diseases at the University of Naples Frederico II in Salermo, Italy, published a report in Enzymes Research on the various methods being explored to use enzymes in the detoxification of gluten and its protein constituent gliadin. Enzymes can break down the peptides from gluten that are resistant to the body’s endogenous proteases in people with gluten intolerance. However, these enzymes can be deactivated in the acidic stomach environment; encapsulating these enzymes does little good, as they can not efficiently break down gluten peptides before they reach the small intestines, where they cause the most trouble.

A prolyl endoprotease, derived from food-grade Aspergillus niger, has been found to degrade gluten peptides and intact gluten proteins in the stomach. This endoprotease has an optimal pH for the stomach environment and is resistant to degradation from pepsin. In addition, a lyophilized powder combination of a glutamine-specific endoprotease and a propyl-specific endoprotease from Sphingomonas capsulate also survives the stomach and detoxifies the gluten peptides before they reach the intestines.

Enzymatic approaches to gluten intolerance are certainly attracting innovative researchers, as are theories on systemic mechanisms and benefits from enzyme supplementation. In the immune system, enzymes are prized for their ability to break down proteins—many would-be pathogens, such as bacteria and the outer shell of viruses, are protein-based. Proteases can break down such protein invaders to the body, but they can also help activate immune cells.

In 2001, scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine detailed their in vitro and in vivo research on bromelain and immune response. The mixture of cysteine proteases enhanced T cell and B cell immune response, including antibody stimulation. They noted bromelain was able to both enhance and inhibit T cells, indicating a possible role in immune management. Their other research work showed bromelain can stimulate macrophages and natural killer (NK) cells.

Further, German researchers reported in 2005 an in vitro study of bromelain and trypsin on human mononuclear cells revealed the pineapple protease mix, but not trypsin, activated monocytes and macrophages—two early response immune cells—as well as interferon (“interferes" with pathogens) and TNF-alpha (destroys cells). They noted bromelain achieves these effects independently from the underlying disease and may therefore stimulate both the innate and adaptive immune responses.

Proteases can also inhibit immune system malfunctioning. For example, when an antibody attaches to an antigen (the substance triggering the antibody response), it forms an immune complex. These complexes can lead to the destruction of the antigen, but they can also deposit in the organs and lead to autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome. However, proteases can cleave immune complexes, neutralizing this autoimmune threat.

In 2002, Danish researchers tested several proteases—trypsin, papain, chymotrypsin and bromelain—on immune reactivity in both pre-diabetics and patients with a recent onset of type 1 diabetes. The proteases showed immunomodulatory actions indicating a potential role in the management of chronic inflammatory diseases.

University School of Connecticut researchers published results in 2008 showing oral treatment with bromelain had a therapeutic effect in an animal model of asthma and may similarly affect human asthma. The enzyme appeared to influence inflammation in the airway.

Bromelain has also demonstrated anti-tumoral and anti-leukemic activity, in addition to decreasing the number of lung metastasis in one animal trial.7 University of Oxford, England, researchers reviewed the literature on bromelain and cancer, suggesting several possible mechanisms, including a direct impact on cancer cells and their microenvironment, as well as in the modulation of immune, inflammatory and haemostatic (anti-hemmorrhagic) systems.

The effect of protease on the flow and health of blood factors occurs not only in cancer, but also in cardiovascular health. Excess fibrin can promote inflammation and plaque formation in blood and lymph vessels, blood clots and hardened tissue around varicose veins. Many proteases are considered fibrinolytic, including the primary blood-born enzymes plasmin and thrombin. The fibrinolytic system is involved in thrombosis, arteriosclerosis, endometriosis and cancer.

Early studies showed bromelain therapy promotes the conversion of plasminogen to plasmin, thereby increasing fibrinolysis, the process of breaking down fibrin. Bromelain can help eliminate thrombosis in heart patients, utilizing fibrinolytic and anti-thrombotic actions, and reduce human platelet aggregation and their adhesion to endothelial (blood vessel) cells.

Nattokinase, a protease derived from natto (fermented soy), has also demonstrated fibrinolytic and thrombolytic properties. Japanese researchers have led the way on this research, finding nattokinase cleaves directly cross-linked fibrin in vitro and is substantially more effective at restoring blood flow via thrombolytic activity than plasmin.

The research and discovery of enzymes on fibrin, thrombosis and vascular health is ongoing, as other fibrinolytic enzymes from natto have been recently identified. A 2007 Japanese study indicated a novel protease from fermented soy was superior to nattokinase in dissolving fibrin when absorbed into the blood. And, fibrinolytic enzymes recently have been discovered and extracted from all sorts of sources including mushrooms, chives and viper venom.

Serratiopeptidase, which helps silkworms digest their cocoons, is another fibrinolytic enzyme eyed for systemic benefits. While the research is scant and relatively inconclusive, early results showed serratiopeptidase is anti-inflammatory and anti-edemic, and recent evidence suggests this enzyme can reduce swelling and pain due to surgery.

Superoxide dismutase (SOD), derived from cantaloupe, can be another powerful enzymatic tool against systemic disease, but it struggles to survive the early GI tract. However, recent technology has combined SOD with wheat gliadin biopolymer to provide protection in the GI. With this protection, SOD has demonstrated various antioxidant benefits. A 2005 report in Phytotherapy Research noted SOD supplementation promotes cellular antioxidant status and protects against oxidative stress-induced cell death. Other research showed GliSODin protects against DNA damage, ultraviolet radiation damage to skin and stress-induced cognitive impairment. Further, researchers studying serum SOD activity and risk factors of atherosclerosis and intima-media thickness (arterial wall thickening due to oxidized low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol trapped in the wall) have found low serum SOD levels correlated with metabolic syndrome and intima thickness.

Enrich Gifts recommends enzymes for systemic health benefits be taken on an empty stomach, so they are not used for digesting food and can, therefore, reach the other parts of the body where they can be systemically beneficial.

Enzyme Survival

As stated, enzymes can come from the diet or from production in the body, but many factors can impact enzyme survivability. Heat and premature activation are two big factors that can degrade or denature enzymes. This makes any processed dietary product a challenge. Humidity can lead to early activation, which makes functional beverages or any liquid-based product difficult to produce. There is also a risk in both formulated products and the body that the enzyme could encounter its proper substrate and engage it sooner than desired; some nutritional compounds, including drugs, that can mimic the shape of a given substrate and use the enzyme before it accomplishes its designed mission.

With increasing advances in coating capabilities, the use of orally delivered enzymes for more novel applications will certainly grow. Such technology is still in its infancy and is inspired by the desire to incorporate the benefits of supplemental enzymes in conventional foods and beverages. Even now, there are beginning to be products that are timed-released to deliver specific enzymes to select points in the digestive tract to maximize their digestive capability. Products sold for systemic purposes where maximum enzymatic activity needs to be available in the small intestine for intestinal absorption can profit substantially from this type of coating system. These products go beyond standard enteric coating, which has its drawbacks as far as predictable release of the active enzyme.

Enzyme Education

Education dominates the arena of enzymes. While many loyal, longtime customers may be in-tune to the actions and benefits of enzymes, new customers might have a more limited knowledge and want to learn more about how enzymes work.

Enriching Gifts is determined to improve consumer knowledge on the use and benefits of digestive enzymes. This is one of the reasons we are so focused on our Wednesday evening tele-conferences.

The nice advantage of digestive enzymes, compared to other dietary supplements, is they can deliver noticeable benefits in a short period of time. Many people feel results on the first meal or first couple of meals. The enzymes are working immediately on contact with food.

On the other hand, much like other therapeutic supplements, systemic enzymes usually require more time to create responses people require. But, once results are achieved typically in days to a couple of weeks, real positive changes begin to result to that person. Those benefits remain in many cases temporarily even after the product is discontinued.
Excerpted from an article by Steve Myers
Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of the author(s). Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of the authors. You are encouraged to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.