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September 15, 2016

Enzymes and disease

by Helene van den Berg


“We are what we eat , AND can digest and absorb….”

Enzymes digest and break down large food particles into smaller units (protein → amino acids; carbohydrates → simple sugars; fat → fatty acids + glycerol); The pancreas, stomach, intestinal wall and liver, produce 1-2 liters of digestive juices. For the body to make enzymes, it needs nutrients. If you become nutrient-deficient, enzyme deficiency soon follows e.g. zinc is needed to make stomach acid and proteases (protein splitting enzymes) -a zinc-deficient person stops breaking down protein efficiently. Large food molecules end up where they should not be – in the small intestines. If the intestinal wall is not intact, undigested food particles get inside the body where they are seen as invaders and attacked – the basis of most food allergies!. Every time an allergic food is eaten, it causes inflammation. This reaction disturbs the normal balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Digestive enzyme deficiency, which triggers a food allergy, is the cause for: indigestion, bloating, flatulence, digestive pain, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and candidiasis.

Allergic conditions impact on the individual, their family and the healthcare system. Manifestations of allergic disease shift with increasing age of the child: in early infancy, eczema and food allergy are the most common symptoms, while asthma and allergic rhinitis become more important as the child ages. If early forms of disease can be prevented, there is a reduced risk of other forms of allergic disease in later life. Currently there are no interventions that have been clearly demonstrated to prevent children developing these conditions, but early life exposure (during pregnancy and early infancy) may be critical. Experts have recommended to breastfeed for the first 4-6 months of life and if breastfeeding is not possible, the use of partially hydrolyzed whey formula (pHWF) in infants with a family history of allergic disease in a first-degree relative, is recommended. Hydrolyzed formulae are created by using enzymatic processes to break native proteins into smaller fragments. pHWF is particularly promising for allergy prevention, as it is cheap to manufacture and palatable (pHWF is not recommended as a treatment for cow’s milk allergy). Recently, the “avoid allergens – prevent allergic disease” concept has been replaced by an exciting shift in thinking on how allergic diseases may be prevented!. The notion that there is a window of opportunity between 4-6 months of life, which may be critical in the development of tolerance to allergens in our environment. Some important observations:

  • introduction of cereal grains prior to 4 months and after 7 months is associated with increased risk of wheat allergy.
  • Children exposed to cooked egg between 4-7 months have the lowest risk of egg allergy, compared with the introduction after 7 months.
  • Delayed introduction of cow’s milk (after 9 months), increases the risk of eczema, recurrent wheeze and sensitization to inhalant allergens.
  • Early introduction of fish, reduce the risk of eczema and early introduction of peanut, has been associated with reduced risk of peanut allergy.

“There is potential for early dietary exposure to help induce tolerance for allergies“.

In a “journal on Allergy and Clinical Immunology”, it has been reported that gut microbe diversity, rather than the presence of certain strains of bacteria, is essential in protection against allergies. To keep the gut’s natural mix of helpful bacteria in balance, is the best way to resist allergy and asthma. Low digestive enzymes can cause abnormal digestive conditions such as maldigestion, food allergies and sensitivities, intestinal fermentation, putrefaction, peroxidation and “leaky gut”. In addition, low hydrochloric acid secretions in the stomach can cause allergies, asthma, gallstones, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea, dermatitis herpetiformis and vitiligo. Digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas reduce with age.

Depression and a variety of behavioral problems are also linked to an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. The greatest concentration of serotonin (involved in mood control, depression and aggression) is found in your intestines, not your brain. Changes in gut microflora caused by the widespread use of antibiotics and today’s high-fat, low-fibre diet, could be responsible for a major increase in allergies.

The connection between Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and asthma could be malabsorbed carbohydrates, bacteria and fermentation. Certain trigger foods like caffeine, alcohol could relax or weaken the LES muscles and trigger reflux.

Factors causing an imbalance in the gut and digestive problems are:

  • Our low-fiber, high-sugar, processed, nutrient-poor, high-calorie diet
  • Overuse of medications that damage the gut and block digestive function – acid-blockers (Prilosec, Nexium), anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, Advil) and overuse of antibiotics, steroids and hormones.
  • Undetected gluten intolerance, celiac disease or low grade food allergies like dairy, eggs, or corn.
  • Chronic low-grade infections or gut imbalances with overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines, yeast overgrowth, parasites, gut infections.
  • Toxins like mercury and mold toxins.
  • Lack of adequate digestive enzyme function- zinc deficiency/acid blocking medication
  • Stress, which can alter the gut nervous system, cause a leaky gut and change the normal bacteria in the gut.

Neurodegenerative diseases like Autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Schizophrenia, suffer from microglial activation (ongoing inflammatory process in different regions of the brain). Reduced levels of glutathione results in accumulation of heavy metals that weaken the immune system. Microglial activation can destroy the synapses. If the immune system is treated successfully, the synapses can be completely regenerated and the mental illness can be cured!.

“80-90% of immune system is related to digestive health”

We need to create a rich supply of diverse prebiotic and probiotic colonies, through adding fermented foods to the diet like, kefir, yoghurt and kombucha. Also eating a diet high in soluble fibers, will help.

Read more from Enzymes

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