Enzymes and Fasting: I’ve been intermittent fasting on and off for the past few years. Eating with a predetermined eating window on most days of the week results in some amazing health benefits, such as weight loss, which is also associated with better health outcomes including triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and inflammation.
Fasting is not starvation—it’s simply giving your body a longer period of time where it isn’t digesting. You still eat what your body needs for fuel, you just do so in a shorter window. This allows for autophagy (cellular clean up) to take place. What if we including high proteolytic enzymes in our fasting routine, to speed up autophagy and cellular healing? In this piece I explore the role of enzymes in the body, and why they may complement fasting as a therapeutic modality.
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes are essential for many critical processes in the body. They help to digest food and are produced in the pancreas and the stomach. The focus of this piece is on the benefits of consuming high proteolytic enzymes and fasting. According to researchers who studied proteolytic enzymes (aka proteases);
Thus, proteases regulate the fate, localization, and activity of many proteins, modulate protein-protein interactions, create new bioactive molecules, contribute to the processing of cellular information, and generate, transduce, and amplify molecular signals. As a direct result of these multiple actions, proteases influence DNA replication and transcription, cell proliferation and differentiation, tissue morphogenesis and remodeling, heat shock and unfolded protein responses, angiogenesis, neurogenesis, ovulation, fertilization, wound repair, stem cell mobilization, hemostasis, blood coagulation, inflammation, immunity, autophagy, senescence, necrosis, and apoptosis. Consistent with these essential roles of proteases in cell behavior and survival and death of all organisms, alterations in proteolytic systems underlie multiple pathological conditions such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases. -source
With age, under stress, or after illness, the amount of enzymes in our body decreases. So if enzymes help the body with all these biological processes, could fasting with enzymes produce an even better outcome? Let’s start with sources. Where can we get enzymes from?
Sources of Enzymes:
There are three main types of digestive enzymes:
- Protease: Breaks down proteins
- Lipase: Breaks down fats
- Amylase: Breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars
Our body produces digestive enzymes to help digest the foods we eat and facilitate many other biological processes within the body. For example, lactase, maltase, and sucrase are made in the small intestines. We can also get food sources of enzymes.
Food sources of enzymes include:
- Sauerkraut and other fermented foods
- sprouted seeds
- Raw food
- Many different fruits and vegetables (pineapple, mangos, avocados, kiwi, to name a few)
The focus of this particular piece is proteases, from proteolytic enzymes.
Those with healthy digestion produce adequate proteolytic enzymes pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin. Your body produces them to help digest, assimilate, and absorb proteins.
Proteolytic enzymes can be found naturally in papaya and pineapple. However, when fasting, supplement form is your best bet. Proteolytic supplements can contain both plant and animal enzymes.
How Can Consuming Proteolytic Enzymes Help with Fasting?
—and now the meat and potatoes. Why take proteolytic enzymes while fasting?
When you eat food and take enzyme supplements, the enzymes work to help break down proteins so you get less bloating, less gas, less digestive issues. Enzymes also help with getting more nutrients from the foods you are eating, because it breaks the food down into smaller amino acids. As a Nutritional Therapist, I recommend my clients who struggle with digestion take enzymes with their food to help ease the digestive process. This is all great and can really take the burden off digestion.
If proteolytic enzymes can help digest food proteins when taken with food, taking them on an empty stomach can possibly help digest undigested proteins that have passed through the gut. Digestive enzymes taken on an empty stomach can help with inflammation, digesting old dead cells and debris (cellular clean up), and speeding up the process of autophagy (cellular clean-up) that happens naturally during a fast.
Autophagy during a fast cannot occur if you’re still digesting food you have recently eaten, or there is undigested food you’re body is still processing. Taking proteolytic enzymes while fasting can help to fully digest any leftover food particles, therefore speeding up the process of autophagy (cellular cleanup) that occurs during a fast.
Taking enzymes during a fast can help reap the benefits of a fast plus provide extra help with inflammation, autoimmunity, and autophagy. Have tried taking enzymes during your fasting? What are your experiences with enzymes?
Ganesan, Kavitha et al. “Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle.” Cureus vol. 10,7 e2947. 9 Jul. 2018, doi:10.7759/cureus.2947
Mótyán, János András et al. “Research applications of proteolytic enzymes in molecular biology.” Biomolecules vol. 3,4 923-42. 8 Nov. 2013, doi:10.3390/biom3040923
López-Otín, Carlos, and Judith S Bond. “Proteases: multifunctional enzymes in life and disease.” The Journal of biological chemistry vol. 283,45 (2008): 30433-7. doi:10.1074/jbc.R800035200