The Difference Between Enzymes and Probiotics
Many people I talk to get these two important body workers easily confused – and they are NOT the same thing.
Enzymes are complex proteins that stimulate chemical changes or reactions in other substances. Enzymes are a very important catalyst in our bodies, and they do so many important functions. There are three types of enzymes: digestive enzymes, food enzymes and metabolic enzymes. First and most important, digestive enzymes help us to digest, assimilate, utilize and eliminate our food by breaking the food down into a liquid called bile so that we can absorb nutrients in our small intestine. An experiment I do when teaching classes on nutrition is to take 2 bowls and 2 packages of instant oatmeal. In one bowl, put just the oatmeal and water, and in the other bowl, but the oatmeal, water and a capsule or two of enzymes. Within one hour, the bowl with the enzymes in it has turned into a thin liquid, because the enzymes break down the oatmeal flakes. This illustrates how enzymes work to break down our food for us. Enzymes also help to pull toxins out of our bodies, they help to repair tissue, and build new cells, and they also help to prevent buildup of calcium in our bodies, such as gall stones and kidney stones. Food enzymes are present naturally in raw foods. When you ‘snap’ broccoli, you are hearing the enzymes holding onto the nutrients or molecules in the broccoli. When you cook the broccoli “to death” – it kills the enzymes. When you let the broccoli sit in your refrigerator for 3 weeks, it starts to get flimsy and no longer has its snap. That is because the enzymes are now dead or dying off. The more food is commercially processed, the fewer enzymes it has in it.
We are all born with a ‘bank account’ full of enzymes. Every time we eat raw foods, we put enzymes in our bank account. Every time we eat ‘dead’ food, or food with no enzymes, we must pull enzymes out of our bank account to help us digest the food. Once we get to 30-35 years old, our bodies are often depleted of enzymes – our bank accounts are empty! Unfortunately I am seeing this age drop more and more every month with my customers. People do not eat enough enzymes. You may have heard of ‘raw food’ or ‘living food’ diets. This is a diet where people only eat live or raw food that contains enzymes. The idea is that if the food doesn’t have enzymes it is considered dead. Live food has a completely different frequency than dead food. It is actually alive, thereby feeding the person with food that is moving in a positive energy. So let’s say we eat a carrot. We have enough enzymes to digest the carrot and a little bit left over to put in our bank account. But then let’s say we eat a roll. There are no enzymes in the roll. So if we don’t have enough enzymes, what happens? Our pancreas produces enzymes, our liver produces enzymes and our stomach produces enzymes. But if our bank account is empty, where can our body get enzymes? Our bodies then go to our bones to get enzymes – as our body uses enzymes to hold calcium in our bones. So now our body says – digestion is much more important than holding the body up. So now we end up with calcium out of solution from our bones, which causes osteoporosis. Now the good news is you can start to eat more raw foods to get more enzymes in your body. Also you can purchase food enzymes to help replenish your bank account. When purchasing enzymes, you should look for words that end in the suffix –ase. Some popular enzymes are: Protease, Amylase, Glucoamalyse, Lipase, Cellulase, Invertase, and so on. Enzymes in bottles do not have a life span per se, but can die if they are boiled or heated. For example, if you have a high fever, this can also affect your enzymes as it may kill some of them. If I had a bottle of enzymes that was 10 years old, I would probably toss it, but if it was a couple of years old, I would probably still use it if it has been kept in a cool dark place.
Another important fact to know is that all enzymes are not the same. Some enzymes help to digest proteins, others carbohydrates, some digest fats, and some help digest milk products. For example, Lipase is the enzyme that our bodies use to digest fat. If you no longer have a gal bladder, I highly recommend that you take Lipase on a regular basis to help the liver do the job previous done by the gal bladder. Enzymes do so many other important functions in our bodies such as catalyze oxidation-reduction reactions, promote the transfer of a group of one molecule to another and help catalyze the linking together of two molecules.
Enzymes help activate digestion, but also enzymes can help buffer or neutralize acid in our bodies. They can especially help with over acidic stomachs. And it is also important to know that enzymes can vary greatly in what pH they are activated in. It may be best to take your saliva pH, and find the appropriate enzymes that work best with your digestion. Ask your health professional for some help if you have questions on this. Some enzymes are sold with Hydrochloric Acid, others without. Some other popular enzymes are from papaya –simply papaya enzymes, or from pineapples – called bromelain. Finally, metabolic enzymes are those enzymes that the body makes. These enzymes help with detoxification and energy production. They run the body’s systems and are connected to every working organ in the body. Even our spinal disks are composed mostly of enzymes. That is why taking enzymes internally as well as spraying them on topically can help repair disk injuries.
Beneficial Bacteria, or Probiotics as they are often called now, are the good bacteria that live inside our small and large intestines. Also called Microflora, it is estimated that there is between 40-80 trillion of these microorganisms in our bodies, with the majority found between the end of the small intestine and the distal colon. Also, it is now known that our Appendix holds a reservoir of beneficial bacteria. These little organisms do many important functions for us, including killing harmful bacteria, killing fungus also known as candida, and building B vitamins for the rest of our body to use. They also help our bodies produce enzymes, help to change the acidity within our body and many other important functions, too numerous to mention. Two of the most damaging substances to our delicate intestinal flora balance are chlorine and fluoride – which is in most tap waters. Antibiotics (which kill helpful bacteria as equally as they go after the harmful bacteria), birth control pills, alcoholic beverages and many other drugs also contribute to the destruction of this valuable intestinal flora. Poor eating habits, stress and antibiotics used in our foods also can wreak havoc in the gastrointestinal area by destroying good bacteria and allowing bad bacteria to multiply. When your body is low on beneficial bacteria, it can cause problems such as gas, bloating, bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, intestinal toxicity and poor absorption of nutrients. Taking probiotics can also help people that are under stress by helping them build important B vitamins. If you are like me and you don’t have an appendix, it is a good idea to take beneficial bacteria on a regular basis, so that you always have a good supply available for your body to use.
If you already have an infection and are taking an antibiotic, it is a very good idea to take probiotics when are done with your medication. This will replace what the antibiotic killed.
Where the confusion may come from is the that there is an enzyme called Lactase that is used by our bodies to digest milk, and is also put in milk sometimes to help people digest it better. People may be confusing Lactase with L-Acidophilus which is the beneficial bacteria that is put in yogurt or Acidophilus milk. Many people think that if they just take L. Acidophilus, after a round of anti-biotics, that they will be fine. But this is just one of about 600+ strains of probiotics that live in our bodies. It is important to know what the drug you are taking actually pulls out of your body. We have an on- line computer system here that lets us look up each drug (updated in real-time) and see exactly what the drug pulls out of your body when you take it. Most antibiotics pull out more than just L. Acidophilus.
Many people think if they eat yogurt or take Acidophilus milk that they are replenishing probiotics efficiently. But what they don’t understand is two things: 1- there usually isn’t enough beneficial bacteria in there to make it past the acid in your stomach to your small intestine, and 2- these typically are not ‘enteric coated’ – which means they are coated to make it past your stomach acid to your small intestine which is where you get the most bang for your buck. Probiotics are living organisms. Unlike enzymes, probiotics do have a life span usually of a few months or a few years depending on the strain. The colder these organisms are, the longer their life span. The warmer it is, the shorter their life. If they get over 100 degrees, that will typically kill them. That is why many probiotics you see are refrigerated or frozen to ensure their natural life span. There are many new strains out on the market that are now sold as ‘shelf-stable’ meaning they don’t have to be refrigerated. I still wouldn’t leave them in a hot car or a window sill with the sun shining on them though. Because they have a life span, you should always check the bottle for an expiration date. If there is no date, I would not purchase that product. I would also make sure that the capsules or liquid that you take are enteric coated or treated to make it past the harsh stomach acid, which can kill them. Each strain of beneficial bacteria feed on different food. Some eat yeast, some eat carrots, and some eat short- and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). When you look on the bottle of probiotics, there should be food in there for them to eat. If there isn’t, I wouldn’t purchase that product either.
Some probiotics are food based, and others are soil based. It is sad that most people’s food supply is so treated with pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones, genetically modified and void of soil-based bacteria, that they are not replenishing these on a regular basis. That is one reason organic food is so important as it allows us to get these important good bacteria to help our body fight against more harmful organisms. Many illnesses that people get are often because people have inadequate supplies of beneficial bacteria, including yeast infections, thrush, toe fungus, dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, and other fungus illnesses. If you have a fungus issue, getting on some quality probiotics can make a big difference. There are probably many other functions performed by the microflora of the intestines of which science is still not aware.
Another interesting fact about enzymes and probiotics is that they both benefit from trace minerals in the body. Minerals help to activate enzymes, and can also help probiotics by feeding the cells and tissues where the organisms live, providing them much needed nutrients to keep reproducing. So now you know the difference, and hopefully you can utilize this important information in your health regime.
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