Americans spend many billion dollars per year on food. Our diet consumes more of our budget than any other living expense, except for the medical care that we occasionally seek as a result of our dietary indiscretions. Not only do we overeat, but the foods that we eat have been largely stripped of their nutritional value- processed and preserved for a longer shelf life. These food trends, coupled with the stress of our modern lifestyle, wreak havoc on our ability to efficiently digest foods. This in turn compromises our immune system, making us susceptible to chronic infection and disease.
It is no wonder that the best selling prescription drugs in America are those which mask the symptoms of poor digestion. Over the counter remedies abound, and certain household names have capitalized for years on our ignorance and self-destructive behavior. Prolonged use of antacids has been shown to rob your body of essential vitamins and minerals. Instead of masking our symptoms for temporary relief, we must learn to attack the underlying cause of our diminished health.
Many chronic "syndrome" complaints and auto-immune disorders are increasingly being traced back to digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, parasites, and candida overgrowth. Candida albicans is a yeast microbe that lives in our intestinal tract in delicate balance with other more friendly bacteria. The normal balance of intestinal flora may be disturbed by many things such as antibiotics, bad eating habits, drinking chlorinated water, or even stress. Candida overgrowth is often associated with yeast infections, skin problems, bloating and lethargy. Left to flourish untreated, candida can invade the intestinal walls, breaking them down until they begin to leak harmful bacteria and larger proteins into the blood stream. The resulting long term "leaky gut' toxicity can have devastating consequences to your health.
Such conditions demonstrate how poor digestion can slowly sabotage your health and rob you of your quality of life. Many leading health experts estimate that up to 80 percent of all diseases start in the intestinal tract! Growing up the son of a nutrition pioneer, Carson B. Burgstiner, M.D., I was often told that "the quality of your life depends in large measure upon the quality of your choices". Nowhere is this advice more true than in digestive health. We all need to exercise regularly and limit our intake of fat, alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugar. We need adequate amounts of fiber, rest, and pure, clean water. These are excellent choices for promoting vitality and longevity, but having such foresight and discipline is only half the battle.
The benefits of our dedication can only be realized to the extent that our bodies can absorb and assimilate the nutrients that we eat. In other words, we are not what we eat, but what we digest. One of the most important factors in our digestive efficiency is the level of enzymes present to act as catalysts in converting food into energy. Enzymes enable your body to break down vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates into the basic building blocks that it needs to function, grow and rejuvenate itself.
Enzymes, the Sparks of Life
Enzymes are found in all living things, plant and animal. Without them, seeds would not sprout, fruit would not ripen, and you would not exist. All enzymes can be divided into several different groups. Food enzymes are contained naturally in raw foods, and play an important role in facilitating digestion. Metabolic enzymes control every biochemical function in your body, providing energy, fighting disease and ensuring the smooth functioning of your cells.
Digestive enzymes help turn food into fuel. The typical American diet is drastically lacking in enzymes, while loaded with noxious elements that challenge our every cell. If our meals are not processed, preserved, canned, frozen, or irradiated, they are most certainly cooked. Cooking any food at temperatures above 116 degrees Fahrenheit kills the natural enzymes. Even raw fruits and vegetables contain little or no enzymes if they are picked green (often the case in supermarkets because they have to be transported over long distances). Significant enzymes are produced only when they ripen on the plant.
A diet low in food enzymes forces your body to borrow from its own metabolic and digestive enzymes in order to digest food. This enzyme deficit places an unnecessary burden on your vital organs that can manifest in a multitude of illnesses. As we age, it becomes harder and harder for our bodies to keep up. To make matters worse, as we become enzyme-deficient, we age faster! A newborn baby has a hundred times the enzyme levels of an elderly person.
What To Do?
Fortunately there is a safe and effective deterrent to this vicious cycle of enzyme depletion. In addition to making quality life choices like enjoying organically grown, naturally ripened produce, you can and should supplement your diet with a comprehensive array of digestive enzymes. It seems so simple and obvious, but by the regular addition of digestive enzymes to your diet, you can transform your gut from a toxic dump to a fuel-burning machine!
When selecting an enzyme supplement like Essential Digestion, remember that quality is more important than quantity. Choose a product with a wide range of plant and animal enzymes from a company that demonstrates a commitment to quality. Certain enzymes are more vulnerable to the acidic environment of the stomach than others. Look for products with delivery systems designed to recognize these differences, maximizing absorption and assimilation by the body. Like every Logos formula, products of superior quality will have an unconditional satisfaction guarantee.
Individuals with gastric or duodenal ulcers are often sensitive to animal proteases and may respond better to plant proteases, which are biologically active over a much wider pH range. These people may be best served using a plant based or vegetarian enzyme supplement, or perhaps even none at all. There has been much debate over the efficacy of enzyme supplementation for ulcer patients, but there is no shortage of enthusiastic patients who swear by them. In any event, ulcer patients should use caution with any enzyme supplement, taking them under the supervision of their health care practitioner.
The Unseen World Within Us
In the pursuit of optimum physical and mental health, maintaining the proper balance of intestinal flora is just as important as curbing enzyme depletion. Inside each of us is a vast ecosystem made up of billions of microorganisms that coexist, sometimes harmoniously but often in conflict. This unseen world is largely responsible for maintaining the body s vital chemical and hormonal balance. Like armies in a war, as long as the good bacteria outnumber the bad, peace will prevail. However, there are many obstacles to peace.
For example, antibiotics do not discriminate between good or bad bacteria, but wipe out much of the entire population. This gives harmful bacteria and fungi the chance to dominate, which can lead to serious long term health consequences for you. Likewise, a diet consisting chiefly of processed foods can dramatically alter the acid/alkaline balance of the intestine, giving rise to large colonies of putrefactive bacteria that can discharge highly toxic by-products while reacting with foods in the digestive tract.
Supplementing your diet with probiotics, or good bacteria like Essential Flora , helps to ensure a healthy balance of intestinal flora and opposes the harmful effects of pathogenic species. The actual battlefield for the "flora wars" lies along the mucosal surfaces of the intestinal wall. The beneficial bacteria prevent invasion and colonization by harmful microorganisms by physical displacement, literally competing for nutrients and space on the epithelial surface. Probiotics also produce hydrogen peroxide and lower the pH, both of which produce a hostile environment for pathogenic bacteria and yeasts. Some strains even produce natural antibiotic compounds, called bacteriocins.
Probiotics have been widely and successfully used for years in Europe to treat conditions such as diarrhea, irritable bowel, allergies, chronic fatigue, chronic yeast infections, dairy product sensitivities, skin conditions, and even high cholesterol levels. The most commonly available probiotics are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidam, and Bifidobacterium longum.
In addition to digestive enzymes and probiotics, certain herbs and other plants are known to have beneficial properties in supporting healthy digestion. Among others, ginger, fennel seed, slippery elm bark, burdock root, lemon, cloves, and peppermint all enjoy excellent reputations among natural healers. These plants have long been used to stimulate the digestive organs into action, reduce gas and cramps, and detoxify the by-products of fermentation.
Reprinted with the permission of the World Health News