The Importance of an Athlete's Digestive System

The Power of Enzymes

Let's take a closer look at why enzymes are so crucial to digestion and absorption of nutrients from food.

Enzymes such as those in the mouth are basically essential to our existence. They are the key to good digestion. Enzymes are active chemicals in the digestive juices which cause the chemical breakdown of whole foods. They are capable of inducing chemical changes in other substances. Virtually nothing happens in the body without the help of enzymes.

When the body is not able to accumulate or produce enough enzymes to do these tasks, imbalances can occur and may result in various illnesses. Enzymes work in a 'lock and key' mechanism. For example, specific enzymes work only to break down carbohydrates, while others work solely on proteins and others on fats. There are also enzymes such as lactase that are specific to breaking down lactose, the sugar found in milk. Many children and moreso adults are deficient in this enzyme and are intolerant to milk as a result. Enzymes also help to detoxify the blood and the liver as well as fight inflammation and many other functions not mentioned here.

More: The Importance of Raw Foods for Athletes

When it comes to diet, whole (live) natural foods contain enzymes, unlike their "dead" processed counterparts. Many enzymes are destroyed when whole foods have been overly heated. Raw, whole foods provide the surest way to consume live enzymes. Examples are foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, legumes nuts and seeds and animal proteins. There are also some concentrated powdered versions of digestive enzymes available today which can be supplemented to aid with digestion. I believe that most athletes can benefit from taking a full spectrum plant digestive enzyme purchased from a company that does not process any pro-hormones/hormones or illegal supplements at all in their supplement line and factory.

It isn't only our physical body that is affected by enzymes. Our mental well-being is also affected. Very important chemicals in human body that rely partially on proper digestion are the brain's neurotransmitters. Brain chemicals called neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin) are responsible for regulating brain function and for sending messages from nerve to nerve internal and external to the brain. They are responsible for sending messages from the nerves to every muscle and organ within the body. Thus, neurotransmission affects the overall functioning of the body, including mood, pain, hormone regulation, metabolism, and digestion. "Food affects your mood!" As athletes, mental health is important to our success and resilience.

More: The Gluten-Free Athlete

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