When considering digestive health its interesting to note that for as long as medical writings have been in existence the concept of ‘health starting in the colon’ has always been around. We know that a healthy bowel (colon) is essential for a healthy body but we do expose our gut to a daily barrage of potentially damaging toxins and harmful organisms. In a way, its testament to the effectiveness of gut and its immune system that we are all not ill on a daily basis but we all could do a lot to help this system along and reduce some of the detoxification burden. Its worth considering that an over-burdened intestinal tract is often the trigger for a flare of IBS which in turn can have wider implications on the healthy functioning of the immune system and any background inflammatory conditions that may co-exist. Bowel ‘toxicity’ can be related to poorly digested foods that decay in the colon. This process inevitably aggravates the delicate balance of bowel microbes and can shift the digestive process to one of breakdown too fermentation. Over time, the absorption of nutrients can be impaired and the overgrowth of opportunistic gut organisms such as Candida albicans can occur.
In order to help this process reverse and stimulate healthy digestion over the more unhealthy fermentation process digestive enzymes can be used with great effect. For example, when polysaccharides (the starchy or fibrous part of vegetables) enter the digestive system and are not correctly processed they arrive in the lower bowel (colon) where bacteria and other fermentation orientated organisms set about generating gas as an end product of their actions. Abdominal bloating, colicky cramps and upset bowel actions can be a direct result of this process. Using a specific enzyme that splits up the indigestible type of polysaccharide that is found in dietary fibre, for example, will help reduce the amount reaching the lower bowel and ease the IBS symptoms. These enzymes are known as hemicellulase and cellulase. What makes the story interesting is the fact that the human gut does not make any cellulase which is the reason why cellulose (plant fiber) based foods, although being ‘healthy’ do not digest well in some people. However, certain bacteria within the human bowel actually produce the enzyme known as hemicellulase. Bowel toxicity is a common environmental change that can damage these bacteria to a point where the enzyme is almost absent within the bowel. This, along with other digestive issues can be viewed as another contributing factor causing an aggravation of IBS symptoms.
In addition to the fiber splitting enzymes another specialist ingredient, also an enzyme, can help prevent the inevitable Candida overgrowth that accompanies a toxic colon. Known as chitosanase, the enzyme specifically breaks down chitin, a key structural component that forms the cell wall of fungi and years including Candida. By punching holes in the cell wall chitosanase and other enzymes may effectively digest and eliminate these organisms. Enzyme actions can also go further than the digestive process by beneficially influencing the inflammatory reaction that can occur within the body. A protein splitting enzyme called Peptizyme SP (serratia peptidase) can exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that not only eases digestive inflammation but can ease the inflammation related to arthritis and even some skin inflammations such as acne and rosacea.
Supporting enzymes also play an important part in overall digestive efficiency. Adequate levels of fat splitting enzymes (lipase) are required to help process even the small amount of fat found in the leanest of meats. If you are a vegetarian the oils found in nuts and dressings (eg olive) may be healthier options but still require lipase to digest them effectively. Proteins commonly accompany fats in a meal so the need for proteases (protein splitting enzymes) along with sugar splitting enzymes (amylase) is important in a balanced enzyme supplement.
Most enzyme preparations are considered safe to use but following the manufacturers instructions is important since potency and blends will change from brand to brand. Colon ClenZyme (from the Canadian manufacture Natural Factors) contains all the key enzyme ingredients mentioned above; hemicellulase, cellulase, chitosanase, Peptizyme SP along with amaylase, lipase and protease. The vegetarian capsules can be taken with meals or opened so that those who find swallowing capsules difficult can sprinkle the enzyme powder on their food. Adjusting the level of enzyme needed can be quite a personal thing. Starting off with 1 capsule with small-medium sized meals would be a start. This can be increased to 2 capsules if needed or if the meal is larger. Enzymes only have an action for that meal. Once they have passed through the digestive tract they are naturally broken down and eliminated, they do not accumulate over repeated use. Unless otherwise stated, enzyme supplements are suitable for daily and long term use.