OK, so maybe enzymes aren’t exactly “magical,” but they definitely work magically wonderful. The minute you place food into your mouth, location specific enzymes are secreted to break down the simple sugars and starches. Salivary amylase (a.k.a. ptyalin), along with salivary lipase, goes to work on them to get a head start on those nutrients to break them down into smaller units for the next stages.
The stomach is where the proteins are broken down by Hydrochloric acid and pepsin (pepsinogen). The heat, acid, enzymes and churning actions of the stomach muscle go to work on the chewed (hopefully) food.
Notice, I said Hydrochloric acid digests protein. While many people have been conditioned to believe stomach acid is the cause for ills, it is actually very necessary. Pepsin even is dependent upon this acid being present to be active. Remember this when you see commercials for those very famous “purple pills” which shut off the proton pumps in the stomach. Proton pumps are where the acid is secreted. If they shut off, they decrease the stomach acid available to “turn on” the pepsin to get those proteins digested. So, yes, they decrease acid reflux….but they may increase indigestion and the feelings of bloat or nagging “rock in the gut” like complaints.
As the food moves out of the stomach, it enters the first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum. This is where the rest of the digestion initiates. Pancreatic amylase goes to work on the partially digested sugars and starches; trypsin and chymotrypsin start the end processing of the proteins; and fats are finally acted upon by lipase in bile. Other, more specialized enzymes, exist to aid in the digestion of certain things. One example is lactase breaking down milk sugar (called lactose). The pulsating waves of peristalsis move this ball of goo through the small intestines to the jejunum and the illium – each section possessing very different, specialized structures – and nutrients being taken into the blood stream by the millions of teeny blood vessels running throughout the organ. The stuff leftover (mostly fluids and fibers) are moved into the large intestine (colon) and the water absorption/regulation takes place.
Those who suffer from bloating, gas, bouts of constipation, and other gastro-intestinal issues may have seen advertisements for dietary enzymes supplements. They are marketed to relieve these types of complaints. Some are marketed to assist with specialty enzymes, like lactose and those which break down beans, in order to ease the symptoms of gastric distress felt by some.
There is some disagreement over whether or not these supplementations are even necessary. Some doctors argue a lot of the enzymes are digested before they even get to the proper spot to be of any use. Others are proponents and support their use, wholeheartedly. What is a confused consumer to do? My best advice is to use your head. Have you tried them? Did it increase your feelings of gastric distress or alleviate them? Do you have a medical condition like a peptic ulcer which would be irritated by them? These are questions only you can answer.
What I will say is this: I use enzymes. They help reduce my feelings of a brick being dropped into my gut and help regulate bowel movements. However, I do not feel enzyme supplementation should be “forever thing.” Of course there’s a lot of varied debate, but a “usual” recommendation is to use them for a few months and then ease off. They can be used after or during heavier (think larger) meals or intermittently. A multi-enzyme supplement may contain the following (but certainly is not limited to these):
- Invertase [Sucrase]
These are both enzymes usually found in the body, and those found in some foods. However, if there is an acid deficiency or a low level of other enzymes, those food bound enzymes may not ever be “unlocked” to work. What a catch-22, huh?
The body was designed to secrete these on its own. As an herbalist, it is my job to suggest natural plant based items which may help your body do what it is designed to do. That being said, check in for the next installment regarding uses for enzymes which may interest you even more.
Sources (among others) :
I’m sure you have seen the commercials for laundry detergents using “enzyme action” to rid your clothing of stains. Perhaps you’ve heard of enzymatic products for cleaning other items, like certain metals? But do you really know what enzymes are?
According to the dictionary, enzymes are “a substance produced by a living organism that acts as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction.” So every single act of breaking something down and putting things together in the body (or pretty much any living organism) is made possible by enzymes. Every single action form the replication of DNA and RNA all the way to breaking down nutrients is made possible by these specialty protein powerhouses. What I am going to concentrate on, here, are the enzymes responsible for digesting foods. These are commonly known as DIGESTIVE ENZYMES.
Digestive Enzymes are classified as hydrolases. These are the types of enzymes which break things down into tiny building blocks. There are many different types of enzymes. Each is specific to a certain type of food or food component. An example is pepsin and trypsin working specifically on proteins; or, lipase working directly upon dietary fats. But, where do these enzymes come from? Are we just born with them? Do we consume them?
Starch digestion begins in the mouth with the enzymes contained in saliva. This breaks down simple sugars as the food is mechanically broke down by the action of chewing. In the stomach, hydrochloric acid and pepsin work to break down the proteins as the stomach itself churns and works the food around (incidentally, did you know acid is required for the production of pepsin? hmmmm). The small intestine is where the liver and pancreas sends enzymes to break down the long chains of proteins into smaller and smaller amino acids which can then be adsorbed by the small intestinal walls, into the blood stream and sent out to the cells for fuel. These are the enzymes which the human body is responsible for producing by itself. This is a list of enzymes, along with their sources and functions: https://scioly.org/wiki/index.php/Digestive_Secretion_List
There are wsome enzymes present in the foods we eat which can act as digestive aids. An example of this is bromelain and its ability to help break down meats. When I was a kid, my grandma used to cook pork with pineapple. I’m sure it was because she liked the taste, but she was helping make that pork easier for our stomachs to digest. Many veggies and fruits contain enzymes with various beneficial roles.
Any damages to the lining of the gut (stomach and/or intestine) can impair the body’s ability to secrete enzymes and/or absorb the broken down food products. This can be very concerning as painful conditions like indigestion, acid reflux, etc often occur. And if you noticed my note above, acid is required for the activation of some enzymes. What catch 22!
The next series of post installments will deal with enzymes. I want to investigate their functions, benefits, and how you can use them to help yourself.
A plethora of stars have been in the spotlight lately for flipping their age to the big 6-0. Aging is one thing that no one escapes. We all get older, whether we like it or not. So what have these stars been stressing? SELF CARE.
That’s right, they have been stressing the importance of taking care of yourself. Eat right; sleep well; exercise…all of it…the total package. How many times have you heard, “take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anyone else” ? As a mother, I hear it. However, for most of us it is much easier said than done. The biggest thing I have heard from my clients, and even myself, is the financial costs associated with purchasing supplements and/or the lost wages in taking the time away from income earning pursuits. I know the struggle. Believe me I understand! But I also understand what happens when a person gets so run down s/he cannot function any longer. Many times I catch myself pushing things to the limit. Throughout the years I have come down with influenza A, influenza B, multiple UTIs, and frequent migraines. I have found them to be challenging learning processes – very blunt life lessons taught through pain and humbling circumstances. I am now even more dedicated to taking care of myself. After all, it is truly the best insurance you could ever have!
Below is a video where I talk about self care being the best insurance a person can have. It is from a periscope live video I did a while back. I want to make sure all of you know I am dedicated to work with anyone who is dedicated to taking care of him or her self. I am open to discussing working with medical doctors, other natural practitioners, etc. After all, we are all on this planet together and we must all use every single resource possible to further the experience for all. So, watch the video and, as always, take care of yourself.
Energetic healing is something I think a lot of people misunderstand. Techniques such as Reiki, Touch for Health, Therapeutic Touch, or others too numerous to list look at the individual as consisting of a physical, flesh and blood body, and an energetic body. Each effects the other and, in these modes of thinking, must be kept in proper working order to achieve balance.
Energetics have always fascinated me. I have countless books throughout the years on the above mentioned approaches and the ancient Ayurvedic chakra systems and the Barbara Brennan Healing Hands methods and Traditional Chinese Medicine….on and on. So, when a friend of mine put me in contact with someone who was a Reiki Master and Teacher, I jumped at the experience! I wanted to know how to do that. I wanted to be able to help people I wanted to be able to soothe energies and be that channel. And so I went. I did my level I and II training with the same woman. She was gracious enough to travel from Rhode Island to Ohio in order to share with us. But as things go, I lost contact with her. I was unable to line things up to continue my training.
A few years later, I ran into a woman who had a wonderful energy about her. She was a yoga teacher and a Reiki Master and Teacher. She and I traded services for some time. After about six months of trading Reiki sessions and essential oils, she offered to pass along the Reiki Master/Teacher level attunement. I am honored she felt I was ready and I am blessed to have received it.
Fast forward through the last ten years and my receiving more and more Reiki training in various styles, techniques and modes. I have received attunements not only in Usui Reiki but in Khundalini and Reiju, as well as others. I now teach and offer the attunements, as well as seeing clients for sessions. It has made a difference in my life. After a few weeks of feeling myself slip off the edge energetically, I come back to my teachings. I center. I focus. I soothe the energies. Even if I cannot realize what I need in the moment, I find it back. I pick up my teachings, and I begin again.
What is Reiki?
As I was taught, Reiki is a Japanese word meaning Divine Wisdom or Divine Love life force. It refers to the energy which flows through all. It is not originated with the practitioner. He/she is merely a channel for the energy from the universal life force to the client. Some like to refer to this as the healing energy of God. Some like to call it prana, or the breath of life. Does it really matter what it is called?
This energy flows through all living beings. At times the channels in the energetic body are thought to become clogged or dys-functional. The attuned practitioner acts as a funnel and conduit to redirect those energies. The practice involves the person performing the Reiki to be mentally focusing on the receiver. He/she may lay hands on the receiver or hold them slightly above the receiver’s physical body. This does not require the removal of clothing, although some massage therapists may incorporate it into their practices. This would mean the client was partially disrobed anyway. It should never feel threatening or uncomfortable in any way to the receiver not the giver. The receiver may experience a sensation of heat, vibration, mood shifts, or nothing at all. The sender’s hands may become hot or feel as if they were buzzing. The experience seems to be a bit different for everyone. However, now science is showing the promise of these modalities.
In the American Journal of Palliative Care a study on Reiki being used for oncology patients at a day facility (Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2012 Jun;29(4):290-4. doi: 10.1177/1049909111420859. Epub 2011 Oct 13.), favorable results have been found for the use of Reiki. “Overall, the sessions were felt helpful in improving well-being, relaxation, pain relief, sleep quality and reducing anxiety. Offering Reiki therapy in hospitals could respond to patients’ physical and emotional needs.”
In a 2015 study involving bariatric surgery patients (Explore (NY). 2015 May-Jun;11(3):208-16. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.02.006. Epub 2015 Feb 17.), ” Healing Touch intervention is feasible and acceptable to patients undergoing bariatric surgery, and significantly improved pain, nausea, and anxiety in these patients.” This study looked at patients receiving Healing Touch sessions in day one and two of post operative care.
A 2010 article in the Journal of Holistic Nursing states (J Holist Nurs. 2010 Sep;28(3):193-200. doi: 10.1177/0898010110368861. Epub 2010 Jun 28.) that when “compared with those who received usual care, participants who received TT had significantly lower level of pain, lower cortisol level, and higher NKC level.” TT stands for Therapeutic Touch, which is an energetics system taught and practiced by medical nurses.
A June 2016 article in the Journal of Oncology Nursing (Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2016 Jun 1;20(3):E77-81. doi: 10.1188/16.CJON.E77-E81.) points out that Reiki outperformed massage and yoga as a method to help manage pain, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve mood of cancer patients.
There is research to support Reiki as a way to aid community mental health professionals suffering from burnout type symptoms (J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Aug;21(8):489-95. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0403. Epub 2015 Jul 13.). Reiki recipients have been shown to use less pain medications after C-section births (Holist Nurs Pract. 2016 Nov/Dec;30(6):368-378.).
There is more and more research done on this type of therapy every single day!
In a world where prescription pain medications are now thought to act as gateway drugs to dangerous street drugs like heroin; diseases associated with high stress and increased chronic pain like fibromyalgia and post traumatic stress disorders are running rampant, why could we not turn to trying Reiki? It does no harm.
Anyone interested in Reiki sessions (both in person and distance recipients) and/or learning more about it and receiving attunements, please do not hesitate to let me know!
Stress can be detrimental to a person’s health on all levels. Each and every bodily system seems to be effected on so many levels. The connection between the heart and cardiovascular system and stress has been well documented and, now, is widely known to the general public. But what about the connection between stress and the digestive system? How much do we know about it?
We know that stress can cause the esophagus to spasm. That same stress that can cause the esophageal spasm can shut down the mill action of the stomach, in turn, causing nausea. The stomach lining is filled with nerve endings which are constantly sending information back and forth from the brain. It has been found that some neurotransmitters are present in a higher concentration in the digestive system than anywhere else! This nervous system network, now referred to as the enteric nervous system, has its own nerve plexi and sends reflexive information to and receives it from the brain, independently of the divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).
Knowing this, and doing things to prevent the effects of stress from ravaging one’s digestive tract, can be quite different matters. For example, I have had trouble swallowing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, food would get stuck in my throat routinely. During periods of high stress and anxiety, it would become worse. Dinners where arguments ensued would just produce pain. In fact, just a couple short months ago, I found myself in a position where I suffered the consequences of not “practicing what I preach.” I was at my “real world job,” and I ended up working alone. I was hoping to stay ahead of the game by working and eating at the same time. However, upon my first bite of chicken, I found myself choking. After a brief flash of my life before my eyes, the real panic set in. You see, I am the emergency responder on my shift. I am supposed to give aid to others in a situation such as this. What in the world was I supposed to do for myself?
I threw myself over the back of a chair. This moved the bite of chicken, but it became lodged in my throat. Therefore, no water, food, etc could get down and the chicken would not come back up, either. I finished my shift, in pain, went home to see my children off to school and then drove myself to my doctor’s office. MY family doctor, even though he knew I did not want to go, sent me on to the emergency room of the local hospital. There, they could not offer any more aid. A surgeon had to be called in. Three hours later, I was the recipient of an esophageal dilation. While I realize the necessity of the procedure, I do not suggest anyone signing up for it unless absolutely needed.
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