“The importance of proper digestion is mind boggling. Every function must be perfectly synchronized with every other function. When we lack a particular enzyme, vitamin, or mineral, serious imbalances can result.”
– Dr. DicQue Fuller
Enzymes, what are they?
Enzymes are the sparks that start the essential chemical reactions our bodies need to live. They are necessary for digesting food, for stimulating the brain, for providing cellular energy, and for repairing all tissues, organs, and cells. Humbart Santillo, B.S., M.H., in his book Food Enzymes, quotes a Scottish medical journal that says it well: “Each of us, as with all living organisms, could be regarded as an orderly, integrated succession of enzyme reactions.”
There are three types of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes, and food enzymes.
Metabolic enzymes catalyze, or spark, the reactions within the cells. The body’s organs, tissues, and cells are run by metabolic enzymes. Without them, our bodies would not work. Among their chores are helping to turn phosphorus into bone, attaching iron to our red blood cells, healing wounds, and seeing that our hearts beat.
Digestive enzymes are secreted by the pancreas and break down foods, allowing their nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used in body functions. They ensure that we get the greatest possible nutritional value from foods. Digestive enzymes include protease, which digests protein; amylase, which digests carbohydrates; lipase, which digests fats and oils; and maltase, which digests malt sugars and grains.
Food enzymes are enzymes supplied to us through the foods we eat. They include digestive enzymes, but also enzymes unique to the particular foods. Food enzymes help us “predigest” foods; that is, start breaking down foods before our bodies’ enzymes begin to do so. According to Santillo, the enzymes found in raw foods digest 5 to 75 percent of the foods themselves without the help of other enzymes. This way, our bodies’ digestive enzymes have help in the digestive process, and we do not use as many of the body’s “in-house” enzymes.
The importance of enzymes
Dr. Edward Howell, who has written two books on enzymes, theorizes that humans are given a limited supply of enzyme energy at birth, and that it is up to us to replenish our supply of enzymes to ensure that their vital jobs get done. If we don’t replenish our supply, we run the risk of ill health.
In the enzyme nutrition axiom, Howell postulates that “The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism. The increased use of food enzymes promotes a decreased rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential.”
In other words, the more enzymes you get, the longer and healthier you live.
The key is to remember that food enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118 °F. This means that cooked and processed foods contain few, if any, enzymes, and that the typical diet found in industrialized countries is enzyme-deficient. When we eat cooked and processed foods, we could well be eating for a shorter and less-than-healthy life.
This points back to the importance of eating raw fruits and vegetables because they are “live foods”; that is, foods in which the enzymes are active. The more enzymes you get, the healthier you are. And the more raw foods you eat, the more enzymes you get.
The benefits of enzymes
The benefits of providing your body with more enzymes are many. As noted, getting more enzymes aids the body’s own enzyme supply, which may lead to a longer and healthier life.
Digestive enzymes help us digest foods more completely. This means more nutrients (and maybe eating less!) and the good health that goes with them.
There is another advantage to being sure that foods are well-digested. When foods are not well-digested, they remain in the stomach and can rot and putrefy. This results in a buildup of waste in the colon. This fecal matter begins to decay, producing bacteria and toxins.
The toxins eventually seep through the bowel wall, where blood capillaries pick them up and distribute them throughout the body. This can result in health problems. These problems include constipation, stomach bloat, poor digestion, gas, fatigue, weight gain and weight loss, headaches, and more. Using digestive enzymes ensures that your foods are more completely digested, helping to eliminate potential problems due to toxins!
Suggested Reading for more info about Enzymes
Fuller, DicQie, Dr. The Healing Power of Enzymes. New York: Forbes Custom Pub., 1999. Print.
Santillo, Humbart, B.S., M.H. Food Enzymes: The Missing Link to Radiant Health. Prescott Valley, AZ: Hohm Press, 1987.
Howell, Edward. Enzyme Nutrition, The Food Enzyme Concept. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1981.
Howell, Edward. Food Enzymes for Health and Longevity. Silver Lake, WI: Lotus Light Publications, 1981.
Bland, Jeffery, Ph.D. Digestive Enzymes. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1993.