Enzymes and Health

“You are what you eat”

Not anymore!

“You are what you digest and assimilate!”

Enzymes have a role in everything we do in life.  Enzymes are protein-based substances found in every cell of every living plant and animal, including the human body. Without enzymes, the grass or trees would not grow, seeds would not sprout nor would flowers bloom, and beer and wine could not ferment. 

Even autumn leaves would not change into wonderful colors without the help of enzymes.  God has blessed us in providing enzymes to ripen bananas from green to yellow and tomatoes from green to juicy red.  Enzymes are the powerhouses of each and every cell.

 There are three main classes of enzymes:

  • Digestive enzymes

  • Metabolic enzymes

  • Food enzymes

The primary digestive enzymes – proteases, amylases, and lipases- function as biological catalysts, helping to break down protein, carbohydrates, and fats in our food. Raw foods provide enzymes that naturally break down food for proper absorption.

Metabolic enzymes are responsible for the structuring, repair, and remodeling of every cell, and the body can be stressed to supply sufficient enzymes for optimal health. 

Digestion of food depends upon enzymes. When we eat, enzymatic activity begins in the mouth where salivary amylase, lingual lipase, and ptyalin initiate the digestion of starch and fat.

In the stomach, hydrochloric acid activates pepsinogen to pepsin, which breaks down protein, and gastric lipase begins the hydrolysis of fats. Without proper enzyme production, the body has a difficult time digesting food, often resulting in a variety of chronic disorders. 

Poor eating habits, including inadequate chewing and eating in a hurry, can result in inadequate enzyme production and hence poor absorption of food. This is exacerbated with aging since that is a time of decreased hydrochloric acid production as well as a general decline in digestive enzyme secretion.

Saliva is rich in amylase, while gastric juice contains protease. The pancreas secretes digestive juices containing high concentrations of amylase and protease. It also secretes a small concentration of maltase, which reduces maltose to dextrose. 

Enzymes may cause a chemical reaction without being destroyed or even changed in the process.  However, our body’s production of enzymes has limitations.  We have a harder time producing enzymes when our bodies must cope with stress, colds, fevers, mercury toxicity (from mercury-containing amalgam dental fillings) injuries, strenuous exercise, pregnancy, and extreme weather conditions. 

Each enzyme performs a certain amount of work before it becomes exhausted and must be replaced by another.  Therefore we must constantly replenish our enzyme supply. 

What happens when our bodies are starved of enzymes? 

Organs, including the heart, that are overworked enlarge in order to perform the increased workload. The pancreas enlarges in order to produce more digestive enzymes, resulting in a deficiency in the production of life-sustaining metabolic enzymes, as all available enzyme-producing capacity is used in digesting food, instead of supporting cellular enzymatic functions. 

Studies on human populations show that those who eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are loaded with natural enzymes have dramatically reduced levels of chronic diseases. Enzymes can help restore energy and balance to the body by turning a dysfunctional digestive system into a healthy one and strengthening the immune system.

Digestive organs such as the pancreas and liver produce most of the body’s digestive enzymes, while the remainder must come from uncooked foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, raw sprouted grains, seeds and nuts, unpasteurized dairy products, and enzyme supplements. 

Eating food in its natural, unprocessed state is vital to the maintenance of good health, and a lack of it in the modern diet is directly responsible for many degenerative diseases. Cooking of food, particularly if heat is prolonged and over 118 degrees Fahrenheit, destroys enzymes in that food. This is why by middle age we become metabolically depleted of enzymes.

The glands and major organs, including the brain, suffer most from this deficiency. The brain may actually shrink as a result of a cooked, over-refined diet devoid of enzymes the body so desperately needs. 

If foods are eaten uncooked, fewer of the body’s digestive enzymes are required to perform the digestive function. The body thereby adapts to the plentiful, external supply of natural enzymes by secreting fewer of its own enzymes, preserving these enzymes to assist in vital cellular metabolic functions.

Frying is one of the worst cooking methods since it occurs at a much higher temperature than boiling, damaging protein as well as destroying enzymes.

Many digestive disorders such as bloating may be related to an enzyme deficit that begins in middle age. Oral supplementation of digestive enzymes taken just before or at mealtimes can assist digestion as most supplemental enzymes are labile and will deactivate when exposed to stomach acid. But if they are taken just before or with a meal, some of the enzymes remain active, protected by the food.

A large segment of the population suffers from some type of digestive disorder, and a lack of optimal digestive function associated with enzyme inadequacy may lead to poor absorption and numerous related conditions, including leaky gut syndrome.

The problem is exacerbated in the elderly because their production of gastric HCl may be suboptimal. Enzymes in the saliva, pancreas, and blood also become weaker with advancing age.  

Considerable evidence exists to support the beneficial effects of enzymes, natural and supplemental. It is obvious that plant enzymes benefit specific conditions. Research dealing with intact absorption of food substrates proves undoubtedly that non-digested food substrates enter the blood and that plant enzymes break down different food substrates that would otherwise be passed into the blood without being fully digested. 

The time when our normal ability to produce enzymes is greatest is in our youth, a time of rapid growth, and in most cases a time of no serious illness. When we age and our food enzymes become depleted, we begin to suffer a broad range of health complaints.

The enzymes of the saliva in young adults are 30 times stronger than that in people aged over 69 years; therefore,  humans eating an enzymeless diet use up vast quantities of their enzyme potential through secretion of the pancreas and other digestive organs, resulting in a shortened life-span, illness, and lowered resistance to all types of stress.

The answer is eating raw foods with their enzymes intact and supplementing cooked foods with enzyme capsules.

Remember, you are what you digest and assimilate!  A healthy digestion system is a gateway to better health, and enzymes are the keys that open that door.