Digestion Starts in the Mouth
The Importance of Predigestion
What you eat is important, but if you don’t digest it you don’t get the necessary nutrients from your foods. The most complicated foods for the body to digest are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are any food that is not a fat or a protein and includes grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, nuts, seeds, sugar, starches, herbs, spices, etc.
Carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth when we chew our food. The salivary glands secrete mucus into the mouth, which lubricates the food prior to swallowing. Saliva contains the following enzymes:
Amylase is secreted from the parotid glands and breaks down carbohydrates
Protease is secreted from the submandibular glands and begins protein digestion Lipase is secreted from the sublingual (under the tongue) glands to initiate fat digestion.
The importance of chewing in the digestive process is often overlooked. Chewing is necessary to expose as much surface area as possible on the food particles so that enzymes can begin digestion. If the food is not chewed thoroughly, this puts a stress on the digestive system especially if the meal has a lot of carbohydrates and if there is any digestive difficulty.
People with chronic illness or digestive difficulties should chew their food until it is a liquid. This takes stress off the body and can do much to help repair the digestive tract.
In addition the enzymes found in the food also begin working in the mouth. Raw food is full of enzymes while cooked food is devoid of inherent enzymes. Vegetables that contain cellulase are covered with a thin coating of cellulose. Human enzymes cannot penetrate cellulose and if the cellulose is not removed either by cooking or fermentation, then it must be chewed thoroughly. If the cellulose is not broken down, then people may develop gas when eating raw food.
After swallowing, the food moves through the pharynx and esophagus, which make up the pathway to the stomach. When food enters the upper part of the stomach it begins to stretch the stomach. The lower part of the stomach remains flat and closed while the upper part opens up to accommodate the food. During the time that the food sits in the upper section, acid secretion in the stomach is minimal for at least 30 – 45 minutes.
Digestive enzymes from the saliva and in the food itself are still at work. The more digestion that takes place here, the less work the body has to do later. If the food is cooked and the food gulped down (not chewed properly) minimal digestion is taking place.
Taking digestive enzymes can help to digest the cooked food and should be taken toward the beginning or in the middle of the meal (especially if eating cooked food or a high carbohydrate meal) to assist in the digestion process. This all takes place before the stomach begins its own digestive process.
Why Take Digestive Enzymes?
We are born with a set amount of enzymes and this limited supply must last us a lifetime. Cooked, enzyme-free food depletes the body’s limited enzyme capacity. Taking digestive enzymes help to spare the body’s enzyme supply.
“Enzymes are the construction workers of the body. They use the vitamins and minerals as building materials to maintain the body. At times there is an ample supply of building material but not enough workers to complete the job. The building materials will remain unused until enough workers show up at the site.”*
Digestive enzymes are essential for processing the nutrients in food – vitamins, proteins, minerals, etc. to make them available for the body. Therefore, using a digestive enzyme supplement is one way to improve general health and well-being. For best utilization, the capsules can be opened and sprinkled on the food or swallowed towards the beginning or mid meal. This way, the enzymes can go to work immediately. Also, taking extra enzymes is a way to neutralize any enzyme inhibitors that are in unsprouted seeds, nuts, and grains.
Plant enzymes can work in the acidity of the stomach, whereas pancreatic enzymes can only work best in the alkalinity of the small intestine. Therefore, concentrates of plant enzymes are better for predigestion of food than tablets of pancreatic enzymes.
If the enzyme tablet has an enteric coating, then it's not suitable, since it will only release after it has passed the stomach. By this time, it's too late for food predigestion. The body itself has already used its own enzymes to digest the food.
Premier Research Lab's Digestive Enzymes are highly purified plant enzymes that work in both an acid and alkaline media. They are best taken at the start of a meal or mid meal. Take 1 – 3 capsules with meals that contain cooked food.
Note: If you have a peptic ulcer, do not supplement with a digestive enzyme with pepsin or protease. You need to heal the ulcer first by rebuilding the mucosal barrier of the stomach.
Note: In a meal made up primarily of carbohydrates, supplemental support of digestive enzymes may be even more important than HCL.
*Loomis, Howard F. Enzymes – The Key to Health, 2005, American Printing Company