Boosting Your Immunity With Enzymes

By Steven Lamm, MD, practicing internist, faculty member at New York University School of Medicine, and the Director of Men’s Health for NYU Medical Center.

Posted on | By Steven Lamm, MD

Though it is well known that enzymes are an essential part of a healthy digestive system it is less well known the essential role they play in supporting a healthy immune system. Before we talk about the connection they have with our immunity, let’s consider how enzymes work digestively.

Enzymes are secreted with beautifully orchestrated precision by your digestive organs to accelerate the breakdown of food (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) so your gut can extract and distribute the nutrients that are locked inside. They also assist you in absorbing these nutrients and eliminating what can’t be used. Without enzymes, food would just sit in your gut and slowly rot.

There are several enzymes with specialized roles – too many to describe here – but they fall into general categories: lipases that break down fat, amylases that handle carbohydrates, and proteases that work on proteins.

Digestive Distress

Any of us who’ve had a meal and felt bloated and full afterwards knows what it’s like to suffer from poor digestion. Let’s face it though, we live in a complex society and complex foods are a part of this society. Sadly, so much of what’s in today’s complex food is nearly indigestible or outright bad for you. In fact, even when your digestive enzymes are flowing freely and in the right amounts, they may only be able to break down and extract about 40 to 50 percent of your food’s true nutrient value. And the more refined and processed a food is, the lower your gut’s capacity to retrieve what’s there and distribute it to your body. Like that old saying so wisely points out, “You can’t spin straw into gold.” Your digestive organs and enzymes end up working overtime, especially if you regularly eat more than you should. This not only takes a toll on our digestive system but it also short-changes your immune system.

Article written by Steven Lamm, MD
Practicing internist, faculty member at New York University School of Medicine, and the Director of Men's Health for NYU Medical...