Enzymes are one of the biochemical miracles of the body. Digestive enzymes act as catalysts to break down food nutrients into fine enough molecules to be absorbed into the blood stream and sent to all the body’s cells. Without them neither we, nor our pets, could survive. Vitamins, minerals and hormones could not do any work - without enzymes. Digestive enzymes are produced in the digestive organs, particularly the Pancreas and the Liver, and are present in raw meat, vegetables, and fruit.
Enzymes are an integral part of the digestive process. From the time food enters the mouth, enzymes are at work breaking the food down into smaller and smaller units until it can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. These enzymes come from two sources, those found in the food itself, and those produced in the body. (In the absence of food enzymes, an enzyme supplement is an efficacious alternative).
All raw food naturally contains the proper types and proportions of enzymes necessary to assist in the process of decomposition. In addition, when raw food is eaten, chewing ruptures the cell membranes and releases these indigenous food enzymes, many of which survive and contribute to the digestive process. These enzymes include protease, which breaks long protein chains (polypeptides) into smaller amino acid chains and eventually into single amino acids; amylase that reduces large carbohydrates (starches and other polysaccharides) to disaccharides including sucrose, lactose, and maltose; lipase that digests fats (triglycerides) into free fatty acids and glycerol; and cellulase, which breaks the bonds found in fiber.
Cooking temperatures above 118 degrees kills the enzyme component of foods. This creates increased demand on the body to produce digestive enzymes, and it does not fully succeed. This problem exacerbates itself as a dog or cat ages and its enzyme production decreases. If we, or our pets, are not eating optimal diets, and we rarely are, we are not maximizing our constitutional strength and our immune systems. This results in less than less than optimal health, making us more subject to disease, allergies, and premature ageing. The only way to get more enzymes into our pets’ bodies is to feed them raw foods (as, for example, the new Raw Food diets), or to supplement with a good enzyme supplement. (Adding fresh fruits (i.e. apples) or vegetables (i.e. carrots) to their meals will add considerable enzymes to help break down the nutrients of the meal.
The Enzymes involved in the digestive process are protein molecules that act as catalysts. They initiate or speed up a reaction. When food is ingested, enzymes are released in the mouth (ptyalin) that aid in breaking open carbohydrate cell walls. As the food progresses through the digestive tract, other enzymes are released. The ultimate breakdown of food occurs in the small intestine assisted by the release of pancreatic enzymes. Raw food contains its own enzymes, which help to facilitate this process. However, if food is cooked or processed, these "food" enzymes are inactivated, and therefore the burden of digestion is left to the body's own enzymes, mostly those produced by the pancreas. Incompletely digested food is passed into the colon taking vital nutrients with it. Enzymes are an integral part of the digestive process. From the time food enters the mouth, enzymes are at work breaking the food down into smaller and smaller units until it can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. These enzymes come from two sources, those found in the food itself, and those produced in the body.
The enzymes most often utilized in dietary supplements function in the same way as the enzymes found naturally in food and as digestive enzymes in the human body. There are supplemental enzymes available that are capable of breaking down almost any food.
Supplemental enzymes of microbial and plant origin work at the pH found in the upper stomach. Food sits in the upper portion of the stomach for as long as an hour before gastric secretions begin their action. Several studies have shown that the enzymes in saliva continue their digestive activity in the upper stomach and can digest up to 30% of the ingested protein, 60% of ingested starch and 10% of ingested fat during the 30 to 60 minutes after consumption. Although salivary enzymes accomplish a significant amount of digestion, their activity is limited to a pH level above 5.0. Supplemental microbial enzymes, and some plant enzymes, are active in the pH range of 3.0 to 9.0 and can facilitate the hydrolysis of a much larger amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat before Hydrochloric Acid is secreted in sufficient amounts to neutralize their activity. Obviously, these enzymes can contribute significantly in improving food nutrient utilization.
When considering an enzyme supplement, it is important to purchase one with known efficacy. Since there is no correlation between an enzyme’s weight and its activity, selecting a supplement in which the activity levels are listed is preferable. There are many assays used to detect enzyme activity. However, two independent scientific organizations have attempted to standardize ingredients used in foods (and dietary supplements) and pharmaceuticals. The Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) focuses on food grade ingredients used in foods, food packaging or as food processing aids. The United States Pharmacopoeia and National Formulary (USP/NF or USP) is directed toward ingredients used in pharmaceuticals. The FCC methods are the most widely recognized assays for microbial and plant based enzymes used in dietary supplements. Animal derived enzymes are more commonly assayed by the USP methodology.
So… if enzymes are so important, why isn’t this information disseminated more? This is an often-neglected part of nutritional advice, both for us, and our pets. We encourage you to do your own research (use the world wide web; also, contact us here at PetHealthStore), and speak to a veterinarian who is knowledgeable regarding the role of nutrition in optimizing health. Information empowers us to make our best decisions. The importance of enzymes in diet cannot be underestimated in their relevance to our pet’s long-term health.
AT PETHEALTHSTORE, TO MAXIMIZE THE HEALTH OF OUR PETS, WE ENCOURAGE THE USE OF THE FROZEN AND FREEZE-DRIED DIETS, OR THE USE OF HUMAN-GRADE DRY AND CANNED FOODS, PLUS THE ADDITION OF A GOOD ENZYME SUPPLEMENT (OR ENZYME-RICH RAW VEGETABLES AND FRUITS).