Taking her daily vitaminsMany years ago, a student in one of cooking classes in New York City said, “What do you think of digestive enzymes. My Naturopath told me I needed to take digestive enzymes to digest my food.”

She was an older gal, in her late seventies, and was very conscious about the food she put into her body. But, she was having a LOT of trouble digesting most of it.

I said, “I think digestives enzymes are imperative to digestion, but we’re actually born with the enzymes needed to digest our food. We release enzymes in our mouth when we chew. Then as that chewed food travels deeper into our system we release enzymes from the stomach, pancreas and intestines, too.”

She said, “But, I’ve been told by numerous people and professionals in the health industry that my body just isn’t producing enough of the enzymes I need, so I have to take extra enzymes for digestion.”

I said, “I totally get that. But, I also understand that as we age, our ability to digest food naturally decreases. There is a reason for that; we are no longer in the process of building the physical body. As we age, we are getting ready for life without the body. So, now may be a good time to focus on cleaning up any broken relationships with the people in your life. It’s also time to process and release any old emotional wounds you may have, rather than focus on digesting more food than your body can physically handle at this time.”

The entire cooking class fell silent. I heard something drop behind me in the kitchen. I turned around to look at my sous-chef. She dropped a wooden spoon on the floor and she was standing frozen, staring at me, with her jaw wide open. She blinked a couple of times and shook her head, as if coming out of shock and whispered, “You just told that lady she is going to die.”

I whispered back, “No…  I was just telling her to get ready for life without the body.”

We all took a moment to digest what was said, and then got back to the business of cooking.

The woman came to me at the end of the class and hugged me. She told me it was refreshing to hear the truth.  She said she felt a sense of relief knowing there was nothing wrong with her and that what she was going through was just her body’s natural aging process.  She also told me that she knew there were some other areas in her life she needed to work on and was grateful for the gentle nudge in that direction.

The next time you sit to eat, no matter what age you are, be conscious of whether or not you are chewing your food and activating your salivary glands and your body’s own digestive enzymes.

If you are eating oatmeal, noodles or other soft foods, keep in mind that even though those foods can slide right down your throat (as they often do!), they still need to be mixed with saliva to be digested properly. And, if you are drinking water or any other liquid with your meals you may be swallowing whole pieces of food as well. It’s very easy to take a bite of something and then a sip of wine, water or other beverage and then gulp! The food goes right down the hatch, un-chewed.

The only liquid you want in your mouth when you are chewing food is your own saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that help you start the process of digestion where it is supposed to begin: in the mouth. After swallowing the partially pre-digested food, the rest of your beautiful body goes to work releasing more enzymes in the stomach, the pancreas and the intestines.[1] So, if you got em’ use em’ for goshsakes!

If you feel you are lacking the digestive enzymes you need, it’s time check in and find out why:

  • Are you chewing food thoroughly and mixing with saliva before swallowing?
  • Have you overwhelmed your pancreas and internal organs by overeating or eating too fast?
  • Are you eating under stressful conditions? (high stress inhibits the digestive process)
  • Are you taking prescription medications that negatively affects digestion?
  • Is the reduction in enzymes part of your body’s natural aging process?

There are many reasons why your body’s enzymes may or may not be functioning properly. Start by chewing, relaxing, and reflecting on life. Then take it from there.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digestive_enzyme