‘Zymes for your Good Health

I ‘zyme, you ‘zyme, we all should take enzymes! They are a necessary part of digestion and good body health and yet they are sadly undiscovered and under appreciated. Most of us just accept that indigestion is part of eating, or burping is a polite way to say you enjoyed the meal. When all the gas and indigestion becomes too much we reach for Tums and down them by the handful. Folks there is nothing good for you in a Tums and it is merely a band-aid that temporarily covers up the problem but does nothing to help solve it. Improving digestion will actually stop the pain and the gas thus healing what ails you and this is where digestive enzymes enter.

So what exactly do enzymes do in the digestive tract? Whether a person has indigestion, acid reflux, gas , bloating, fatigue after eating, etc. these are all side effects of an inefficient digestive system. If your digestion is inefficient you are not getting the proper nutrition to support a healthy body and over time you will become debilitated and chronically ill. Your body is not keeping up with the demand for making its own enzymes and adding either plant based enzymes or animal based enzymes will help you digest your food completely thus allowing your body to use all the nutrients you are consuming.

I think of it as the same kind of reaction that occurs when you add baking soda to vinegar, (sorry but that is what comes to mind as I use that mixture to clean my toilets every week). If you add digestive enzymes to your mix of food it works like the vinegar on the baking soda and you have this kind of dissolution of the food (like the baking soda) thus making it easier for your body to utilize every morsel. That takes the pressure off your body which is constantly in overdrive trying to digest your food and allows it to use its energy to heal itself and you become a healthier human being.

Just think of how clean your toilet is after the vinegar works with the baking soda, the solution bubbles up, eats all the bad stuff off your toilet bowl and you flush it all down the drain. Your body has the same mechanism, the enzymes work on the food you eat mushing it all up, you absorb the more completely digested food, utilize the vitamins and minerals that have been made more available and the waste is flushed away leaving you with a healthier body. Food is therefore not allowed to sit undigested in your gut where it will ferment and cause burping , bloating and gas.

My family is notorious for indigestion, gas, and bloating and there are jokes around the world about the burping and farting that we are capable of. That is no exaggeration, my daughter had a British friend who when seeing her after years of being apart asked her, in her distinct Hampshire England accent, “Andrea do you still boorp and faht like you used to?” Sadly my daughter had to laugh and say she did. We have laughed about this and other digestive maladies over the years but I find it less humorous these days as I realize it is the sign of a troubled digestive tract. If your digestion doesn’t work properly eventually your brain won’t work properly, your eyes will fail you, your heart will become congested and lethargic, you will have aches and pains and life will seem less appealing. You will die one of those people who asks for death to be swift and merciful with the feeling it cannot come too soon. I do not wish for this future scenario and I feel digestive enzymes will help my digestion and make “boorping” and “fahting” something of the past.

Now if you are a devotee of Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions” or Sandor Katz’ “Wild Fermentation” you have in your hands a mighty source of plant based enzymes. You can ferment food and get a tremendous benefit because the fermentation works just like enzymes on the raw food, breaking down the hard to digest particles and leaving you with an enzyme rich concoction that your body can easily digest. In fact, I made my favorite mixture this weekend and will share with you the technique.

First I gathered small and not totally ripe veggies from the garden. Green Roma tomatoes, tiny eggplant, small buds from the milkweed in our field, cucumbers, green beans, lots of fresh basil, 5 garlic cloves, peeled and one oak leaf (this will keep the vegetables crisp). I washed and dried them all and placed them carefully in a clean Ball jar. In with the mix I did add two dried cayenne peppers for a bit of  spice.

Next I put approximately a pint and half of filtered water in a measuring cup and to this I added 3 tablespoons of Celtic Sea Salt, stirring to dissolve the salt completely and pour this on top of the vegetables in the jar.

You need to assure that the vegetables stay covered with the salt brine, so I use a small porcelain ramekin, filled it with leftover salt solution and placed it on top. The jar thus prepared then went in a dark, coolish (as coolish as you get in the dog days of August) cupboard and will stay there about 4 days. After it has fermented to the taste I prefer I will skim off any muck that forms on top (usually doesn’t) and cap it and keep it in the refrigerator until we have eaten it all. This process mellows even the tiny, sometimes bitter eggplant and milkweed buds and creates a bite of vegetable that is at once luscious and  piquant and, need I add, full of digestive enzymes.

So what do you do if you don’t have a garden from which to pluck your vegetables?  First you can increase the amount of raw vegetables and fruit in your diet this small adjustment will increase the intake of plant enzymes. These can be purchased from your local grocery store, so no difficulty there. In addition you should take enzymes in capsules with your food to increase the digestibility of the food. Enzymes like protease help with protein digestion. Lactase will help you digest dairy. Catalase acts as an antioxidant by breaking down hydrogen peroxide in to water and oxygen. It is one of the most potent antioxidants found in nearly every cell of the body. All enzymes are useful and protective and can be used with or without food depending on what your specific purpose is for taking enzymes.

There are many reasons to take individual enzymes as they each serve a purpose but perhaps the easiest thing to do is to take a blend of enzymes.  Enzymatic Therapy’s Mega-Zyme are animal based enzymes according to Tom Bohager (Enzymedica’s founder and operating chairman) in his book “Enzymes: What the Experts Know”. He strongly believes that if you are dealing with gall bladder problems, pancreatitis, or liver cancer the animal based enzymes work better. He also mentions Michael’s and Jarrow formulas as being enzymes he has had good luck with in treating the above causes of indigestion.

I recently purchased Now brand Digest Platinum as the price was right and many people had had good experience  (iHerb reviews) with the Now brand relieving their indigestion and acid reflux. I have also used Digest Gold by Enzymedica but the expense puts me off. Having read Bohager’s book I may try Enzymatic Therapy’s Mega-Zyme  as my specific issue is at this point and time due to a congested gall bladder and it would be interesting to see if the animal based enzymes are more efficient than the plant based enzymes I have been taking.

Here is my final take on enzymes and on many things I try and write about. Taking digestive enzymes will not hurt you and it is possible that they will save your life, I guess you may never know. I am suddenly reminded of a story my husband always uses when I talk about preventing disease rather than curing it. He compares preventive medicine to the man standing in a room waving his arms. Another fellow asks him why he is waving his arms and he replies “To keep the elephants away.” “But there aren’t any elephants in this room,” the second fellow states with certainty. “See” the first fellow replies, ‘it’s working!”

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