If you’re half savvy with nutrition, then you’ll probably be aware of the importance of digestive enzymes and their role in breaking down the food you consume. When food is digested effectively, important nutrients can be released and used for energy production, cellular growth and repair. Unfortunately, many of us don’t eat “real” food, opting for quick fix options and cheaper alternatives rather than quality. This poor judgement means you are often consuming foods we deem as being “dead” - they simply have no “life force”, and therefore no enzymatic activity. Add to this the general stresses of life and the inevitable ageing process - the result is a slowing of natural enzyme production and potential for degenerative disease - it is now held in many scientific circles that most diseases originate in the digestive system. There will no doubt be those who argue their general enzyme production to be healthy, based on the idea they perceive themselves to be “healthy”, mainly because they exhibit a lean physique and can deadlift two and a half times their own body weight - in the evening, after a hard stressful day at work! Hmmmm….without going into detail on the negative internal effects of training late into the evening and compounding the stress of an already hectic work life, let’s just say, this isn’t ideal on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many choose this route and it is this demographic which requires help with enzyme production more than most.
Enzymes are not just about digesting food, and yes you may well fit the above profile and think you’re not suffering because it seems you’re digesting food easy enough (I'm looking lean - what are these Monkey characters on about?), but what about immunity and recovery rates? When we take on the general stresses of life and continue to push ourselves to new limits, we place a great responsibility on our enzyme-making machinery to keep up with the demand. Initially, you may well cope and enough enzymes for digestion will be manufactured, but they will mainly be used up in this process, meaning other biological processes will suffer. - Dr. Anthony J. Cichoke explains in his book The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy that enzymes cause biological reactions in the body and are able to be used over and over again, unlike vitamins and minerals. They’re required for every single chemical action that takes place in our bodies; the digestive system, immune system, bloodstream, liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas — as well as the ability to see, think, feel and breathe — all depend on enzymes. Therefore if stress is high and enzyme production not enough to help the normal turnover which catalyses important biological reactions and metabolic processes, you will struggle to recover (from exercise or trauma), lower immunity and leave yourself open to a whole host of potential problems.
FOOD & INFLAMMATION
Every time you consume food there is a short-term inflammatory response. This occurs as a result of the necessary distribution of glucose from digested foods at the same time as the need to fight off ingested bacteria. The response then activates the immune system (in healthy individuals) exerting protective effects. However, in overweight individuals, the inflammatory response fails and may lead to diabetes. Professor Marc Donath, Head of the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University Hospital Basel and his research team have demonstrated the short-term inflammatory response to play an important role in sugar uptake and the activation of the immune system, in healthy subjects. However, this important relationship between metabolism and the immune system is reliant on the ingestion of nutrients and bacteria from foods and their effective break down. Insufficient nutrient intake for your daily needs (down to either calorie restriction or poor digestion) may lead to an immune response and subsequent infection/illness.
On the other side of the coin, if you continue to consume foods (in large amounts) known to exacerbate inflammation in the long term such as dairy, then you run the risk of creating health issues over time.
Exercise & Inflammation
The relationship between exercise and inflammation is just as complicated and confusing as the relationship with food and depends on the individual as well as other health and exercise related factors. There are numerous studies which show extended exercise programs to reduce markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) in the long-term. Individuals committing to a frequent exercise protocol have been shown to have lower CRP levels than those with a more sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, some studies show exercise to acutely spike inflammatory markers. When it comes to training, it’s important to remember your recovery - take time between bouts, otherwise you’re just piling inflammation spike on top of inflammation spike and the long term result will be chronic inflammation - inflammation becomes chronic when the stress is not removed (and rest removes the stress!). Pretty much any kind of exercise has the potential to induce chronic inflammation over time, but perhaps the most notorious for alluring to this problem is endurance training. Prolonged training times for endurance events often lead to over-training and systemic inflammation, this isn’t the case for everyone.
The bigger picture here, is as always, balance. If you take your life as a whole and consider the day-to-day impact of work, relationships, nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep on your body, then you’ll probably admit there is more than one issue which could potentially be causing some element of inflammation beyond what is considered “normal”. It may be you are extremely active, in good shape generally, but the stress of work is pushing you toward sympathetic dominance and subsequent poor digestion. In turn, this will inevitably lead to inflammation and reduced recovery times from the big lifts keeping you on the leader board at your gym. The first signs will be delayed recovery, but soon after you will start to notice little niggles, aches and even injury as a result of poor muscle, connective tissue and bone integrity. Recovery from injury will be further prolonged, which will impact your ability to train and have knock-on psychological effects - couple this with the stress of life (many use the gym to escape and alleviate stress) and it’s easy to see how this can begin to perpetuate a negative loop.
Enter Proteolytic Enzymes...
At this stage, we should reiterate the need for balance and what follows is not a “fix” for those who still wish to live their lives at 1000MPH. Sometimes you just need to stop and take a break. That said, there may just be an antidote to slow recovery times, increased incidence of injury and long term inflammation. Proteolytic enzymes modulate the inflammatory process by helping to break down the protein in foods, as well as serving to activate a variety of mechanisms which increase circulation, oxygen and nutrient supply (to traumatised tissues), break down plasma proteins and aid the relief of joint and bone pain. It is here we can insert a shameless plug for our first product, Primal26 PRO...
Most of us who train hard tend to sip on a whey protein drink as a part of our post-workout protocol. But consider this: after a training session, inflammation is pretty rife and the last thing you want to do is add to that. Well, by using a whey protein shake, you kind of are and here’s why: A major component of whey protein is the sub-fraction betalactoglobulin (Blg) (makes up around 55% of most whey powders) and this cannot be broken down effectively by the enzymes naturally occurring in the body. We just don’t possess the necessary enzymes to break Blg down as it’s not present in human mother’s milk, meaning our body's don’t recognise it. This antigen causes an inflammatory and immune response, which is exacerbated over time and with heavy use. In the case of premium quality, expensive whey powders, the Blg will be much lower, but still poses a potential problem. However, the proteolytic enzyme system (ProHydrolase) within Primal26 PRO allows for effective break down of all the sub-fractions and minor peptides, greatly reducing CRP levels (as shown in clinical trials). If you’d like more information on this particular arrangement of enzymes and trials, please visit deerlandenzymes.com. (end of plug).
This scenario is not just exclusive to whey, but may be similarly played out by consuming other high protein foods - if you lack the correct balance of proteolytic enzymes in your system, you will not effectively digest high protein foods and partially digested protein particles will start to make their way into your bloodstream, causing an immune response. Initially, the problem may manifest in intolerance, as the digestive system struggles to cope; this may be characterised by symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, headaches, and dark circles under the eyes. Over time, the tight junctions in your gut begin to separate as a result of this constant bombardment, and larger, undigested protein particles are able to pass through the lining of the small intestine, making their way into the bloodstream, where they wreak havoc on the body’s various systems, manifesting in allergic reaction (immune response). This can be characterised by a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, hives, acne, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea.
We're not bitching about whey protein here, as we do sell the stuff, but you need to be aware of the difference in quality because it can be vast. Whey and high protein foods aside, let’s look at what you can do to reduce inflammation, increase recovery times and improve the integrity of tissues and joints…
Proteolytic enzymes not only break down protein into the building blocks of life (amino acids), but they also help our bodies respond to inflammation by working to provide protection.This is achieved by reducing the swelling of mucous membranes, decreasing capillary permeability, and dissolving blood clot-forming fibrin deposits and micro thrombi. For those with Crohn’s, coeliac disease or ulcers, it’s worth noting proteolytic enzymes help to reduce inflammation in your colon. They also help to degrade pathogenic complexes which may inhibit normal immune function, an excess of which can lead to nerve inflammations, rheumatoid arthritis and even kidney problems. If proteolytic enzymes can do all of this as well as improve circulation and oxygen supply, then it stands to reason you should be using them as a part of your post-workout protocol. which brings us to our next shameless plug - Bionic. By utilising a combination of proteolytic enzymes and other important recovery components, Bionic may mitigate the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness and tissue/joint pain. (end of plug).
And there you have it, the case for proteolytic enzymes being the antidote to slow recovery times, increased incidence of injury and long term inflammation.