Digestive aids – such as enzymes and betaine hydrochloric acid (HCI) – guarantee the complete breakdown of the foods we eat, so the body can fully absorb the nutrients it needs to maintain optimal health and wellness. Others, like probiotics, help maintain the healthy environment of the digestive tract. Digestion starts the moment food enters the mouth and mixes with salivary enzymes. The more you chew, the more food particles are coated with digestive enzymes. As the food particles make their way through the digestive tract, digestive enzymes continue to break them down into the important nutrients the body needs.
Unfortunately, as humans get older, particularly after age 50, they tend to have decreased enzyme secretion and lower levels of HCl. In addition, inadequate diet and past infections can impair the stomach’s ability to produce the acids required for optimal digestion. Digestive aids can help these individuals better digest foods to acquire the nutrients they need.
Enzymes are catalytic proteins that catalyze (accelerate) and regulate nearly all biochemical reactions that occur within the body. They are distributed throughout all cellular components and are usually found on the inner surface of cell membranes. In the digestion process, enzymes divide substances into smaller compounds through hydrolysis (breaking apart by water). Hydrolysis turns food into smaller molecules that can be more easily absorbed and used to create energy. But the body does not make the enzymes it needs to digest food. These enzymes can only be obtained by consuming raw foods (or through supplementation). Still, the raw foods usually provide only enough enzymes to digest that particular food, and the digestive enzymes are not stored for future use.
Carbohydrate Digestive Enzymes or starch-digesting enzymes are called amylases, which work to digest carbohydrates, starchy foods, and fiber. They are found in many plant foods – such as grains, beans and herbs – that may prevent intestinal absorption of important minerals and nutrients. Amylases hydrolyze these foods, increasing the body’s availability to absorb important plant nutrients. Betaglucanase is an amylase that helps digest beta-glucans commonly found in cereal grains and mushrooms. Hemicellulase breaks down hemicellulose, a complex carbohydrate present in most plant cell walls. Phytase breaks down the indigestible phytic acid in grains and oil seeds, enabling the body to absorb phosphorus, calcium and other important nutrients. Many Bluebonnet digestive aids utilize CereCalase®, a patented and potent amylase mixture of beta-glucanase, hemicellulase, and phytase parts developed from plant sources, designed to improve absorption of important plant nutrients.
Fat Digestive Enzymes or lipases break down the triglycerides found in oils from food, monoglycerides and free fatty acids – all important sources of energy for the body. They are expressed in LU units (Lipase Unit) or FIP (Federation Internationale Pharmceutique).
Protein Digestive Enzymes – called proteolytic enzymes or proteases – work to digest protein-rich foods in the small intestines. Two of the most potent and effective protein-digesting enzymes are bromelain and papain. Bromelain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes found in pineapple (Ananas comosus). Papain is a cysteine protease present in green papaya (pawpaw) fruit.
Many Bluebonnet digestive enzymes incorporate n•zimesPA®, a proprietary blend of amylase, lipase and protease derived from plant sources. This single, patented enzyme mixture helps the body efficiently digest most dietary carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) is produced by the stomach and utilized to convert some inactive proteolytic enzymes into their active forms. This helps break down proteins so the body can utilize the resulting amino acids for a wide range of critical roles from rebuilding and repairing muscle to serving as an intermediate in metabolism. HCl also lowers the pH (level of acidity) in the gut. An excellent natural vegetarian source of HCl, derived from beets, is Betaine HCl.