You Are What You Digest
by Anthony J. Cichoke, DC
September 2, 1999
Does your dinner creep back to
haunt you in the ghostly morning hours? Does a mere glance
in the direction of the local Mexican cafe or barbecue
palace fill you with dread (to say nothing of internal
We tend to ignore our digestive systems-the ever-ready,
always reliable iron-clad stomachs of our youth, into which
we stuffed pizza, peppers and beer-until diarrhea, gas,
heartburn, bloating, constipation, stomach pain or other,
much more serious, problems develop.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than
62 million Americans experience some type of digestive
distress. More than 10 million people suffer from
hemorrhoids, nearly 3 million from gastritis and duodenitis,
2.3 million from inflammatory bowel disease, almost 4.5
million from constipation and 1.4 million from irritable
colon. (Statistics from Digestive Diseases in the United
States: Epidemiology and Impact, edited by James E. Everhart
and published in 1994 in Washington, DC, by the US
Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health
Service, National Institutes of Health, National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.)
Many conditions such as hemorrhoids or constipation are
relatively benign, while others, notably chronic liver
disease, malignancies and ulcers, can be life-threatening.
In my long career as a chiropractor with an intense
interest in nutrition, I have studied and written about the
powers of enzyme therapy to prevent and treat the common and
related problems of indigestion, heartburn, gas, lactose
intolerance and constipation.
Poor Digestion: The Costs
Impaired digestion takes a dangerously high toll in causing
nutrient deficiencies. For example, the stomach needs
sufficient hydrochloric acid to activate the digestive
enzyme pepsin, a substance which helps break down the
proteins you eat into the short chains of amino acids
(protein building blocks) that go into strong muscles, fight
disease and produce a healthy supply of blood.
Poor digestion can also impair your absorption of
carbohydrates and fats as well as many vitamins and
minerals. Vitamin E, for example, is fat soluble, that is,
stored for long periods in the body's fat cells, rather than
rapidly excreted like the water soluble vitamin C.
Impaired pancreatic function, or insufficient lipase or bile
production, will inhibit fat digestion, possibly causing
insufficient absorption of vitamin E, according to the book
Present Knowledge in Nutrition (International Life Sciences
Institute, Nutrition Foundation, Washington, DC), which is
edited by Myrtle L. Brown.
Thus, any difficulty in digesting and absorbing dietary
fat can appreciably decrease vitamin E digestion and
absorption. In fact, insufficient fat intake coupled with
troubled digestion and absorption can affect the body's use
of all the fat soluble vitamins-A, D, E and K.
The Enzyme-Digestion Team
Enzymes are molecules naturally produced by the body. These
dynamos are involved in all physiological functions but are
probably best known for the many jobs they perform during
the process of digestion.
Digestive enzymes break the food you eat down into
smaller particles so the body can better absorb vitamins,
minerals and other nutrients. Unfortunately, in many cases,
we may become deficient in digestive enzymes. Or, on the
other hand, the enzymes we do produce may be inadequate for
proper digestion. Luckily, supplemental enzymes can
compensate for nature's shortfalls.
Supplemental enzymes, available in tablets, capsules,
powders and pills, can help enhance the digestive process.
The most popular enzymes for this use include:
Proteases help the body digest proteins by breaking them
down into their component amino acids.
Lipases break down fat molecules into smaller pieces for
Amylases break down carbohydrates.
Digestive enzymes also function in a wide variety of
They detoxify and cleanse the colon and stimulate the
beneficial bacteria in the gut, thereby helping relieve a
number of digestion-related disorders.
They help mobilize and remove toxic products from the
Supplemental enzymes can be used in basically three ways:
as digestive aids, taken with or just prior to meals to help
break down foods, freeing their nutrients for absorption and
use by the body; as systemic enzyme therapy taken between
meals and intended to be absorbed into the bloodstream and
carried throughout the body to work intensively and
thoroughly at the cellular level. They are consumed between
meals to avoid mixing them with food as it is consumed.
Enzymes used systemically can energize the digestive,
immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. In addition,
they can also help fight viruses, bacteria, toxins and
inflammation, a common symptom with many digestive disorders
including diverticulitis and gastritis.
The third way to take supplemental enzymes is in a form I
call Enzyme Absorption System Enhancers (EASE), commercially
produced enzymes combined with herbs, vitamins, minerals and
other nutrients designed to improve their activity,
absorption and bioavailability (readiness and ease with
which the body can take them up).
Enzymes for Common Conditions
From my extensive research and experience, enzymes as
digestive aids, in systemic enzyme therapy as as EASE, can
treat more than 150 common health conditions.
Choose your enzyme supplements carefully, scrutinizing
the label thoroughly for:
directions for use formulation (coated or uncoated) the
enzymes in the formulation and their sources; a vegetarian
would want to avoid enzymes from animal sources and those
with allergies should ensure that the formulation is free of
potential allergens. However pervasive digestive problems
are, there's no reason why they have to get you down, ruin
your digestion or inflate you. These are very useful
substances: Enzymes can set your digestive system - and most
of your body's functions - back on track.
Remember, enzymes are essential keys to the smooth,
efficient function of that wonderful machine, the human
body. Because enzyme production and activity decrease with
age, trauma and illness, make a firm commitment to daily
enzyme supplementation for a healthier, happier, longer