Food Enzymes

Let's review what we've learned so far about enzymes:

1) Enzymes are proteins that function as 'catalysts' or 'accelerators' in the body.
2) All biochemical reactions within the human body, including energy production, metabolism, reproduction, the immune system, and the digestive system utilize enzymes.
3) There are thousands of different enzymes that regulate bodily functions and these body functions would not be possible were it not for enzymes. Simply put, without enzymes, life could not exist.
4) Enzymes can be grouped into three categories: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes and food enzymes.
5) Metabolic enzymes are the enzymes made within the cells of the body to perform specialized tasks required for life and health.
6) We must be sure that nothing interferes with the body making enough of these highly-specialized metabolic enzymes by minimizing exposure to toxins and providing the body with all the nutrient co-factors necessary for these enzymes to function optimally.
7) There are specific digestive enzymes made by the body to digest the various components of food (lipases for fats, amylases for carbohydrates, proteases and peptidases for protein) and these enzymes work in various stages of digestion.
8) Without digestive enzymes the nutrients in foods cannot be absorbed or utilized by the body.

We know that digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes are of vital importance to health and nutrition, otherwise the body wouldn't put so much energy into making them. But what about food enzymes, what role do they play in health?

Food enzymes are the enzymes found naturally in unprocessed, uncooked foods. These enzymes are specifically matched to the composition of the food in which they are contained. For example, bananas are rich in carbohydrates and contain enzymes that can break down the carbohydrates in the banana. But the banana does not have much protein, and therefore, has very few protease enzymes for breaking down protein. The enzyme composition of foods is designed by nature to assist in the digestion and breakdown of foods.

These food enzymes contribute to the digestion of the food we eat and help to spare our body's digestive enzymes. As we learned last week, digestion actually begins in the mouth with chewing. Under the best circumstances (as with eating raw food), chewing food pulverizes the cellular material of the food and releases the enzymes contained in the food. The enzymes immediately begin the process of digestion of the nutrients contained within the food. In fact, food enzymes and salivary enzymes can digest 60 percent of starch (carbohydrate), 30 percent of protein and 10 percent of fat in stage 1 and the beginning of stage 2, even before the body's other secretions become active.

As the food travels to the stomach, these enzymes continue to work at breaking down or digesting the food during the entire time (up to one hour) that the food waits in the upper portion of the stomach for the gastric (stomach) juices to be secreted. However, if no food enzymes are present (as is the case with cooked and processed food), the food will simply sit and wait for the gastric juices to become active and start the next stage of digestion. This also means that the entire burden of food digestion is left up to the body.

Nature's plan calls for food enzymes to help with digestion instead of forcing the body's digestive enzymes to carry the whole load. The important role of food enzymes was first pointed out by Dr. Edward Howell in his book "Enzyme Nutrition". He was one of the first scientists to point to the 'law of adaptive secretion of digestive enzymes'. This law states that the body will adapt or change the amount of digestive enzymes it produces according to what is needed. During the time that the food is sitting in the upper portion of the stomach, the body is determining how many digestive enzymes it must make to digest the food. If food enzymes do some of the work, the body doesn't have to make as many digestive enzymes and can allot more energy to making metabolic enzymes instead.

Unfortunately, the majority of foods in our modern-day food supply are devoid of enzymes due to cooking and processing. That is because enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118 degrees Fahrenheit and by many of the processing methods used in the food industry. When enzymes are not present in food, not only is the body overtaxed, but food is often only partially digested. Partially digested food can cause problems such as allergies, fatigue and indigestion.

Unfortunately, in today's world it is impractical, almost impossible, to eat a diet of only raw foods, and we don't suggest that you eat raw chicken or beef due to the risk of infection and other problems that can occur from eating raw meats. But there is a solution - you can add back or 'supplement' with a food enzyme supplement to provide the missing food enzymes.

There are many digestive enzyme supplements available on the market, but they are not all created equal. When choosing an enzyme supplement, look for one that:
- Contains enzymes specifically created for oral consumption.
- Includes all necessary vitamins, minerals and co-enzymes needed for optimal digestion.
- Contains plant-based enzymes that are active in a wide pH range to work in all three stages of digestion.
- Includes the full spectrum of enzymes necessary to break foods down completely.

Using an enzyme supplement will aid in digestion, increase the utilization of nutrients in foods and supplements and ensure that these nutrients are available to the cells of the body. This means that the cells of your body have more nutrients available for energy production, improved immunity and rebuilding and repairing tissues. By using enzymes to help completely break down foods into their nutrient components and aid in digestion, the body has more energy for other functions and you may experience fewer symptoms of indigestion (less bloating, less constipation, less heartburn, etc.). Completely digesting food has also been shown to reduce food allergies, food intolerances and reduce the stress on the immune system.




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