Anyone who is interested in maintaining optimal health must be taking enzyme supplements with every single meal. Most people think this is necessary only if they have some kind of digestive problem. While people suffering from digestive problems have benefited greatly from using enzyme supplements, there’s much more to the story.
We are not what we eat, but what we digest and absorb. Optimal well-being is dependent upon eating high quality foods, proper digestion, absorption, distribution of nutrients, and elimination of waste.
The process of digestion begins in the mouth and continues down through the stomach, pancreas, small intestine, liver, and gall bladder. Specialized processes occur at each step along this digestive pathway.
With an optimal diet in place the process of breaking down these food materials into smaller particles and absorbing them becomes the responsibility of a class of proteins secreted in the digestive tract called enzymes.
Without enzymes, nothing happens. No energy can be produced, no food can be digested, and no nutrients can be absorbed. Vitamins, minerals, and hormones can do nothing in the absence of enzymes.
Each enzyme has a specific function and is specific to a particular food category. For instance, proteins are broken down by enzymes called proteases, carbohydrates by amylases, and fats by lipases.
Deficiencies in each of these specialized enzymes produce specific imbalances leading to predictable disease processes. By example, a protease deficiency will compromise the immune system leaving the individual susceptible to frequent and recurrent infections. Fluid retention and toxic bowel syndrome are two other results of an inability to digest protein.
Any enzyme deficiency is capable of producing a wide assortment of common symptoms from muscle soreness and asthma to altered insulin metabolism, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure.
When an enzyme deficiency exists, the food category dependent upon that enzyme does not get digested or absorbed properly. The result is intolerance to that food group.
Intolerance to a particular food simply means that a particular food is not being digested properly and an enzyme compromise is usually associated with it. Eventually, this enzyme imbalance will produce symptoms leading to inevitable health problems.
In light of these simple facts, it is easy to understand why 8 out of the top 10 causes of death are directly related to diet, and why over 70 million Americans suffer from some digestive problems leading to nearly 200,000 deaths each year.
Enzymes also have many related benefits and functions commonly unknown. Enzymes can act to prevent too much fibrin from being deposited in wounds, fractures and joints. These enzymes also remove debris and excess fibrin from the blood stream. Immune system regulation can also be accomplished with enzymes as they break up circulating immune complexes in the blood.
From the time we begin to think about what food to eat the process of digestion has begun. Digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid are already being secreted in the stomach in anticipation of the job at hand.
This pre-digestive phase of the process may set the tone for what is to follow. A calm and optimistic attitude will provide abundant enzymes and acid to promote the digestion and absorption of the nutrients. Anger, anxiety, or stress may inhibit this process sufficiently to establish an environment for indigestion and intestinal imbalances.
It is also important to remember the role of the co-factors involved in this process. As food travels from the mouth to the stomach and on through the digestive environment a number of related phenomenon occur which are as much dependent upon the components of the diet as they are the body’s ability to degrade and extract the nutrients from the food source.
It is equally important that we recognize the role of the environment in which digestion occurs. In the presence of appropriate enzyme pools there are numerous other biochemical reactions which take place and are dependent upon adequate levels of associated nutrients.
Consider the initial phase of stomach digestion. From the mouth to the stomach hormones begin to come into play. The most important is called gastrin, whose release from stomach cells is initiated by dietary protein. Inadequate protein may inhibit its release.
Gastrin stimulates parietal cells to release HCL causing partially digested stomach food to become acidic. The protease enzyme PEPSIN is also secreted to initiate protein breakdown. Its release is prompted by amino acids contained in protein such as phenylalanine and tryptophan.
Initial forms of digestive enzymes are released in inactive forms to prevent the body from digesting itself. Ending in OGEN this form of enzyme is called a zymogen or proenzyme. They may appear as pepsinogen, trypsinogen, or chymotrypsin and their conversion to active form requires other enzymes called coenzymes. These coenzymes are dependent upon available zinc and manganese. Deficiencies can result in digestive disturbances.
Following a brief period of time in the stomach, the partially digested food is pushed by muscle contraction into the initial portion of the small intestine called the duodenum, when the intestinal phase of digestion continues.
The Purpose of Enzymes
The enzymes transform the nutrients we ingest into vital functions allowing for the regeneration of blood, nerves, organs, and tissues. Of the three major groups of enzymes, two are digestive and one is considered metabolic. Metabolic enzymes structure the basic elements of nutrition to be used by the body for its most vital functions.
While metabolic enzymes are responsible for hormone production and development, they are also the single greatest entity in assisting the body to maintain a state of health and well-being. They also provide the basis for a functional cure of disease and govern the process of aging while determining the vitality expressed at any age.
The other two groups of enzymes are digestive in nature. Food enzymes initiate the process of digestion while pure digestive enzymes continue the process of breaking nutrients down into particles small enough to be used by all of the tissues and organs of the body. At this point the metabolic enzymes become active in the process of structuring these nutrients into nerves, organs, tissues, and blood.
Ideally our enzyme stores will be replenished from our food sources but in our modern society; this is, unfortunately, no longer true.
Food For Thought
Any food heat above 118 degrees destroys all enzyme activity. The common practice of cooking, processing, pasteurizing, blanching, irradiating and preservation leaves us little more live enzyme activity than exists on our raw salads. More unfortunately, the general rule is that anything low in protein is usually low in enzymes and salads are low in protein.
The bottom line is that actual usable enzymes exist in only about ten per cent of the foods we now eat. But we need enzymes in every bite of food we ingest. Add to this dilemma the common practice of drinking carbonated beverages and taking antacids (which also destroy enzyme activity) and it’s a wonder we live as long as we do.
Eating cooked foods triggers mechanisms in the body which attempt to produce enzymes from within the body’s own resources. The pancreas is a major source of this activity. The raw materials for this process must now come from another source, as they are unavailable in the food itself.
Therefore, the body must rob from the building blocks designated for the production of metabolic enzymes. The supply of enzyme materials is limited and the body must now decide how to distribute what is available to accomplish the tasks of highest priority. At this moment, it is the digestion of the last meal we ingested.
So, you can easily see what happens next. As this process continues throughout your life, the body continues to rob from these finite stores of materials to assist in a process, which has become increasingly compromised.
We need enzymes. The body reallocates resources assigned to life-sustaining functions to permit the immediate process of digestion to continue. So, with the enzymes vacant from our food sources the body begins to compensate and adapt.
The pancreas swells, the brains shrinks and the life-sustaining processes are compromised until the body can no longer compensate in an attempt to maintain balance. We begin to exhibit the early warning signs of disease in the process of developing.
As in all things, enzymes are not a panacea, but rather, an essential element which must be present in order for the miracle of proper digestion to take place. Enzymes are not “magic pills”. Rather, they supplement the work of your body’s organs and glands to completely digest the food you eat.
Some people will notice a dramatic improvement in their energy levels and feeling of vitality. Others might notice significant improvement in the functioning of their digestive tract and relief of long-term chronic conditions. Some people’s recognition of improvement will be more subtle and gradual. It all depends on the underlying condition of deficiency and how quickly the imbalance can be corrected.
The process of adaptation may not be evident in our earlier years but the faster we deplete the resources earmarked for the production of metabolic enzymes, the faster we age, and the more compensated other vital functions become.
The bottom line is that enzymes are a critical necessity in the diet of anyone seeking quality of life and longevity!