We are what we eat, digest, absorb and assimilate into our bodies. People digest food in stages beginning in the mouth, then in the stomach, and finally in the small intestine. At each step specific enzymes break down different types of food. An enzyme designed to digest protein, for example, has no effect on starch, and an enzyme active in the mouth will not be active in the stomach. This process is balanced through acidity; each site along the digestive tract has a different degree of acidity that allows certain enzymes to function while inhibiting others. As enzymes begin digesting food in the mouth and continue their work in the stomach, plant enzymes (derived from food itself or taken as a supplement), also join in and becomes active. The food then enters the upper portion of the small intestine where the pancreas provides pancreatic enzymes to further break down the food. Final breakdown of remaining small molecules of food occurs in the lower small intestine. Ideally these enzymes should work together, digesting food and delivering nutrients to cells to maintain their health. Failure to extract the nutrients we need during digestion constitutes a serious form of malnutrition now epidemic in our society. The inability to extract and assimilate nutrients from provided foods (malabsorption) constitutes a form of malnourishment just as compromising and debilitating as an improper and unbalanced diet, or slow starvation itself. Malnutrition appears to be a leading factor, if not the major cause of, most of the diseases and illnesses known to man.

For many, the integrity of the digestive system may have been compromised to some degree since birth causing all kinds of problems from asthma to immune dysfunction to cancer. And for the rest of us the digestive system grows inefficient due to erratic poor diet, bad nutritional habits and impurities of the food we eat.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control has concluded that even small amounts of antibiotics added to animal stock feed have subsequently caused animals to develop resistant strains of bacteria which are then passed on for human consumption in all meat products.
Digestive Disorders

Digestion refers to a mechanical and chemical process of breaking down food, from large molecules to small ones. Assimilation (or absorption) refers to the transport of nutrients across membranes of the gastrointestinal tract to the bloodstream and lymph system where eventually they are carried into cells throughout the body for utilization. The first phase of digestion, the cephalic phase, actually begins before you take the first bite. Signals that are triggered by the odors of food, the anticipation of eating, the sensation of hunger, prepare the digestive organs for the work in which they will be engaged. Because of poor digestion and absorption various ailments occur. These are a few.

The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach and close to the duodenum. It secretes powerful digestive enzymes that enter the small intestine through a duct. Each day the pancreas secretes about 2.5 pints of pancreatic juice into the small intestine. These enzymes help to digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas caused by an obstruction of the pancreatic duct from stones, scarring, or cancer. Alcoholism, viral infection, abdominal injury, obesity, poor nutrition, and drugs increase the risks of developing pancreatitis.

Pancreatic enzymes include lipases which digest fats, proteases which digest proteins, and amylases which digest starch molecules. As well as being necessary for protein digestion, the proteases serve several other important functions. For example the proteases, as well as other digestive secretions, are largely responsible for keeping the small intestine free from parasites (including bacteria, yeast, protozoa and intestinal worms). A lack of proteases or other digestive secretions greatly increases an individual's risks of intestinal infection.

Pancreatitis usually begins with pain in the upper abdomen that may last for a few days. The pain is often severe. It may be constant pain, just in the abdomen or it may reach to the back and other areas. The pain may be sudden or intense, or it may begin as a mild pain that is aggravated by eating slowly growing worse. The abdomen may be swollen and tender. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and increased pulse rate. The person not only feels sick but often looks sick. Greasy, fatty, floating stools, diarrhea, and stools with a lot of undigested foods may be additional symptoms.
Peptic Ulcer Diseases

Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD), is loosely used to refer to a group of ulcerative disorders of the upper gastrointestinal tract. The development of PUD is generally thought to be the result of the digestive enzyme pepsin and stomach acids damaging the lining of the duodenum or stomach. Normally there are enough protective factors to prevent the ulcer formation. Symptoms of a PUD may be absent or vague, most are associated with abdominal discomfort 45-60 minutes after meals or during the night. Typical pain is described as gnawing, burning, cramping, aching or as heartburn. Eating or using antacids usually result in relief. Medical treatment of PUD focuses on reducing gastric acidity with antacids which decrease stomach acid secretion. Though effective these treatments are relatively expensive, carry some risk of toxicity, disrupt normal digestive processes, and alter the structure and function of the cells that line the digestive tract. The latter factor is responsible for an increase in the recurrence rate for PUD if the medications are discontinued. People with PUD are counseled to avoid fried foods, heated or poor quality vegetable oils, red meats, coffee, hot spices, alcohol, excessive salt, vinegar, citrus fruit, plum, and chewing tobacco. To heal the inflamed lining of the stomach use preparations of water, soups, or congees of oats, barley, or rice; honey and water, bananas, avocado, tofu, and soy milk; also herbal teas of licorice root, marshmallow root, flax seed, or chamomile. The above remedies can be relied on but remember whatever avenue is taken absorption is essential. It has been shown that bacterial organisms cause both stomach and duodenal ulcers. Approximately 95 percent of persons with PUD have bacteria in the stomach. The organisms have not been found in people who are absorbing foods.
Lactose Intolerance

Deficiency of the enzyme lactase responsible for digesting the lactose from dairy products is common worldwide. It has been estimated that 70 to 90 percent of Orientals, Blacks, Native American, and Mediterranean adults lack this enzyme. The incidence of deficiency is 10 to 14 percent in northern and western Europeans. While almost all infants are able to digest milk and other dairy products, most children lose their lactase enzyme by three to seven years of age. Lactose maldigestion should not be confused with milk allergy which is much less common. Milk allergy is sensitivity to the protein in milk and occurs most often in infants. Sometimes it is hard to figure out if one suffers from maldigestion of lactose, since it can show up in so many different ways. One may have rashes, hives, joint pain mimicking arthritis, headaches, bloating, gas, irritability, or depression. Some evidence suggests that osteoporosis is more common in lactose maldigesters. It is not known whether it is due to the avoidance of calcium containing milk, and milk products or is a result of impaired calcium absorption. It has been reported that lactose maldigestors, who consume gradually increasing amounts of lactose along with digestive enzymes for one year as a part of their usual diet, came to tolerate the lactose without complaints.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (lBS) is a common condition in gastrointestinal disorders. IBS affects the large intestine. The muscular contractions of the intestine are irregular and uncoordinated and interfere with the movement of waste material through the bowel. The result is an excess of mucus and of toxins in the bowels and blood stream. It is also known as nervous indigestion, spastic colitis, muscous colitis and intestinal neurosis.

IBS can lead to cramps, pain, gas, bloating, and change in bowel habits. Some people with IBS have constipation, others have diarrhea; and some people experience both. Sometimes the person with IBS has a crampy urge to move the bowels but cannot do so. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress but it does not cause permanent harm to the intestines and most times does not lead to intestinal bleeding of the bowel or to a serious disease such as cancer. Often IBS is just a mild annoyance but for some people it can be disabling. Some believe IBS is often caused by stress or emotional conflict. Sufferers of IBS may be afraid to go to social events, to go out to a job, or to travel even short distances. Most people with IBS are able to control symptoms through diet (absorption) and stress management. Once other conditions have been ruled out, there appear to be four major treatments. They are increasing absorption of dietary fiber, eliminating allergic and/or intolerant foods, controlling psychological stresses, and using the appropriate herbal therapy.

The most likely culprits in IBS seem to be diet and emotional stress. Before changing your diet it is a good idea to keep a journal noting foods which seem to cause distress. Large meals can also cause cramping and diarrhea with people with IBS. Eating causes contractions of the colon. Normally this response may cause an urge to have a bowel movement within 30 to 60 minutes. In people with IBS the urge may come sooner with cramps and diarrhea. The strength of the response is often related to the number of calories in a meal and especially the amount of fat in a meal. Fat in any form (animal or vegetable) is a strong stimulus of colonic contractions after a meal. Many foods contain fat, especially meats of all kinds, poultry skin, whole milk, cream, cheese, butter, vegetable oil, margarine, shortening, or whipped toppings. Remember the problems can be helped with proper food absorption (which should be assisted with enzymes) and stress reduction.
Celiac Disease

Celiac disease, also referred to as celiac sprue, is an inflammatory condition precipitated by the ingestion of wheat or other grains which contain gluten. Gluten belongs to the class of proteins called prolamines which are found in wheat barley, rye and oats. The symptoms which include diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, weight loss, muscle cramps, joint and/or bone pain, are similar to those of other chronic intestinal disorders and so may be easily misdiagnosed. Some individuals present with anemia related fatigue and have no symptoms referable to the gastrointestinal tract. Such individuals likely have disease limited to the proximal small bowel where iron is normally absorbed, with the remainder of the bowel adequate for nutrient and fluid absorption. Gluten sensitivity can also manifest as a blistering, burning, itchy rash on the extensor surfaces of the body.

There is no test yet which definitely diagnoses celiac disease. The intestinal lining becomes damaged and defective in this disorder, and its ability to absorb nutrients is impaired. The gluten is not digested, perhaps because of a lack of pancreatic enzymes. There are also many cases in which prior intestinal damage brings on celiac disease. The damage may be caused by mental stress, long term use of laxatives, intestinal infections and/or parasites, excessive coffee drinking, and protein deficiencies caused by nonabsorption of food and vitamins.

The inability to digest any healthful food suggests a weakened spleen/pancreas severely lacking in energy and/or digestive fire. Often those with celiac disease are deficient in B vitamins and other nutrients supplied by whole grains. Because of nutrient malabsorption, the treatment of celiac disease must also address the likehood of anemia and malnutrition. In order to restore the small intestine and the digestive system in general the dietary approach should include recognition of possible stagnation.

Malabsorption becomes a serious problem. The resulting loss of vitamins, calories, minerals, and/or diarrhea compounds the problem; and the lost nutrients must be replaced.

The liver, the largest organ in the body, weighs about three pounds and is roughly the size of a football. It lies in the upper right side of the abdomen situated mostly under the lower ribs.

Nearly all the blood that leaves the stomach and intestines must pass through the liver. The liver has thousands of functions including regulation of several hormones, metabolism of cholesterol, storage of energy to fuel muscles, maintenance of norrnal blood sugar concentrations, the detoxification of drugs and poisons including alcohol; and production of clotting factors, blood proteins, bile and more than a thousand different enzymes.

Cirrhosis is a term that refers to a group of chronic liver diseases in which normal liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue, decreasing the amount of normal liver tissue. The distortion of normal liver structure by scar tissue interferes with the flow of blood through the liver. It also handicaps the function of the liver which, with the loss of normal liver tissue, leads to failure of the liver to perform some of its critically important functions.

Many liver conditions involve excess of one kind or another. The most frequent kind occurs when too much food is eaten especially rich greasy food, and the liver becomes swollen and sluggish in its attempt to circulate energy smoothly through the body. The energy then stagnates in the liver and is not properly distributed Swelling occurs in areas of the body when the liver is swollen and its energy is stagnant. The most common location of swelling is near the liver/gall-bladder area.

The thyroid gland governs how fats are burned by the body. When the liver is stagnant, a lump may be felt in the throat: goiter is also a sign of a congested liver. The chest or abdomen may also become distended, or the breast enlarged. Swelling or lumps can occur in the neck, groin, sides of the body, and the lateral portion of the thighs. The eyes become inflamed, swollen, or pulled out of the sockets by muscles that control them. Cataracts, glaucoma, inflamed, red or dry eyes, night blindness, excessive tearing, near or farsightedness, and other visual abnormalities basically mirror the condition of the liver.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a degenerative, inflammatory disease. which damages and hardens the liver cells. The liver is unable to function properly due to its scarred tissue, which can eventually prevent the passage of blood through the liver. The most common cause of cirrhosis of the liver is excessive alcohol use. Malnutrition (caused by not absorbing nutrients) and chronic inflammation can also lead to liver malfunction. In its early stages cirrhosis of the liver is characterized by constipation or diarrhea, fever, upset stomach and jaundice.

Hemorrhoids are large blood vessels at the end of the intestinal tract. They are a condition of dilated, inflamed, and sometimes thrombosed or clotted rectal veins causing itching, bleeding, and pain. They are swollen veins around the anus that may protrude from the rectum, though they may be internal or external. They are usually related to constipation, pregnancy, improper diet (or malabsorption), lack of exercise, prolonged periods of sitting, heavy lifting, liver damage, and allergies. Hemorrhoids may itch, tear, and bleed causing discomfort and pain. It is very important to include foods high in fiber and drink plenty of fluids. Most doctors think that hemorrhoids are caused by a tight sphincter that squeezes the arteries and veins as they carry blood to and from the last part of the intestines. Since pressure in arteries is much greater than in veins, the arteries remain open, while the veins collapse, increasing pressure in the veins and causing them to widen, hurt, and bleed. In the United States, hemorrhoids are usually treated with surgery, which is often ineffective as other veins enlarge to replace the one that was removed. One out of ten Americans, mostly women (particularly after pregnancy) suffer with hemorrhoids.
Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

Diverticulosis is a condition affecting 10 percent of Americans over age 40, and 50 percent of those over age sixty. Most people do not have symptoms and would not know they had diverticulosis unless an x-ray or intestinal examination were done. Diverticulosis however may lead to a serious condition known as diverticulitis. Diverticulosis is a condition not a disease. It affects the colon, the flexible tube like organ responsible for removing water from the contents of the intestine. A normal colon is strong and relatively smooth. A colon affected by dirverticulosis has weak spots in the walls. These defects allow the development of balloon like sacs or pouches. These pouches called diverticulae, occur when the inner intestinal lining has pushed through weakened areas of the colon wall.

Experts are not sure what causes diverticulosis, but it may be related to an increase in pressure within the colon. The wall thickens with age and when it contracts it causes increased pressure that promotes the formation of diverticulae. The second theory relates to nutrition. Diets are deficient in dietary fiber and/or malabsorption of fiber.

Common symptoms are bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and constipation followed by diarrhea. Greatly increased pressure is required to force small portions of hard, dry stool through the bowel. Some medical advisers still prescribe a bland, low residue, refined food diet of dairy, meat, white flour products, and soft vegetables for this condition.

Fiber has known and suspected health benefits due to its varying properties and perhaps because of its interaction with components in other foods. Insoluble fiber, when taken with adequate amounts of water, causes stool to become larger, softer and easier to pass. Because of proper absorption of fiber it helps prevent constipation and reduces the risk of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Fiber absorption may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, reduce the size of hemorrhoids and lessen hemorrhoid bleeding.
Gallbladder Disease

The gallbladder is a small pear shaped organ that averages three to six inches in length. It is located underneath the liver in the upper right side of the abdomen. It connects to the liver and small intestine by small tubes called bite ducts. Bile is a greenish brown fluid utilized by the body to digest fatty foods and assists in the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. The gallbladder serves as a reservoir for bile. During meals the gallbladder contracts and empties bile into the intestine to assist in digestion. Excess cholesterol is removed from the body by the liver and is then secreted into bile. Bile contains cholesterol bile salts, lecithin and other substances. When the gallbladder becomes inflamed, the patient has severe pain in the upper right abdomen. This is accompanied by fever, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated the inflammation called cholecystitis can become life-threatening. The cholesterol crystallizes and combines with bile to form gallstones. Most people with gallstones will have no symptoms, but when a stone blocks the bile passage, nausea, vomiting, and severe pain occur. These symptoms arise after the patient has eaten fried or fatty foods. Gallbladder problems are often triggered by high fat, low fiber, high sugar, and refined diets which the body does not absorb. Symptoms of gallbladder disease include indigestion, flatulence, periodic pain in the right upper abdomen, tension in the back of the shoulders near the neck, bitter taste in the mouth, chest pain, and nausea. Because of the pain that spreads to the chest, shoulders and back, gallbladder disease may be mistaken for a heart attack. In addition to these symptoms, gallbladder disease can also cause even more serious problems and complication. This occurs when gallstones are expelled from the gallbladder during contraction and become lodged within bile ducts. This can lead to infection and obstruction of the ducts. Occasionally gallstones block the bile duct at the entrance to the pancreas and intestine causing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). If gallstones block the bile ducts for many years, liver damage occurs, leading to liver failure. In rare cases large gallstones may move into the small intestine and cause obstruction near the junction of the small and large intestines.

Constipation results when waste materials move too slowly through the large bowel resulting in infrequent passage. Older people are more likely than younger people to have constipation. Many ailments arise from constipation including hemorrhoids, gas, insomnia, headaches, bad breath, varicose veins, obesity, indigestion, appendicitis, piles, hernia, and bowel cancer. In most cases constipation arises from insufficient amounts of fiber, drinking too little or misusing laxatives. There is no right number of daily or weekly bowel movements. Regularity may mean bowel movements twice a day for some people or just 3 times a week for others, although the body normally excretes waste in 18 to 24 hours. Proper elimination is very important as the bowel is a potential source of many toxins. People may become constipated if they start eating fewer vegetables, fruits and whole grains and/or if they are not absorbed. Lack of exercise or lengthy bed rest from an accident or illness may also cause constipation. If people ignore the natural urge to have a bowel movement they may also become constipated. Constipation may be caused by abnormalities or a blockage of the intestines. These disorders may affect the muscles or nerves responsible for normal bowel movements. It is well established that a low fiber diet causes constipation. Equally well established is the efficacy of dietary changes which increase fiber in the treatment of chronic constipation. Increased dietary fiber increases frequency and quantity of bowel movements, decreases the transit time of stools, decreases the absorption of toxins from the stool and appears to be a preventive factor of several diseases. The dietary guidelines for reducing constipation include restriction of meats, fats, and other rich foods. But don't forget whatever is taken in must be absorbed.
Why Enzymes

A comprehensive nutritional support program is important in interrupting the self-perpetuating cycle of malabsorption. Vitamins are essential, but because they are not produced by our bodies we must obtain them from the food we eat and/or from supplements. Our food is stripped of nutrients through processing techniques and cooking. Vitamins and enzymes work with the minerals from the earth. Enzymes are by far most important. They serve as large complex proteins and actually initiate metabolic processes. Without them we would not exist. Enzymes also break toxic substances into smaller, more manageable components so the body can eliminate them.

When we are deficient in digestive enzymes, the body robs the metabolic enzymes to digest food. Some believe that digestion is foolproof and automatic, requiring only a balanced diet to ensure good health; but there is no guarantee that all potentially available nutrition will be assimilated.

The integrity of the digestive system itself relies on a constant sufficient source of appropriate stomach acid levels, protein digesting amino enzymes, carbohydrate digesting amino enzymes, fat digesting amino enzymes, as well as amino vitamins, amino chelated minerals, free form amino acids, neurochemical and transport mechanisms to breakdown foods sufficiently to transport and carry them to wherever they are needed in the body.


By John Nobors, Dip.Ac

Share this with your friends