Eating With Enzymes
• Why Is Good Digestion Important?
• What Part Do Digestive Enzymes Play?
• Can You Cure Digestive Ailments With Enzymes?
• How Do Raw Foods Fit Into The Enzyme Equation?
Enzymes Can Help Resolve Milk And Wheat Sensitivities.
Look Inside And Find Out How….
TOPIC: DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
Few people are aware that 80 percent of our immune system is located in and around our gastrointestinal tract, the “gut”.
A combination of valves (sphincters), stomach acid, good bacteria in the large intestine, and gut-associated lymph tissue (GALT) keep the bad bugs at bay. Adapted from Carrie Demers, MD, Yoga International, Spring 2011
Eating With Enzymes
The old saying “You are what you eat” doesn’t tell the whole story. Our bodies are only fed when the food we eat is digested efficiently. This means food has been broken down into its cellular components. Once that is achieved, the body can use the nutrients to build and maintain health at the cellular level. Thorough digestion can only take place in the presence of sufficient amounts of enzymes.
We have hundreds of thousands of enzymes in our bodies. They cause reactions that are vital to every function in the body from micro to macro. To perform these functions, our bodies produce both metabolic and digestive enzymes.
Enzymes are essential to life. They exist in all living organisms and cannot be reproduced synthetically…. Only the real thing will do.
Although we are concerned with digestive enzymes in this issue, it is useful to have a cursory understanding of metabolic enzymes.
Basically, these enzymes speed up chemical reactions within the cells. Among these are energy production, healing, growth, immune function, neurotransmitter production, and the building up and breaking down of bone. In short, we would die without them.
However, all of these functions need energy, and energy comes from food. Food that must be digested first. Now let’s talk about digestive enzymes and how we can use them to affect our health.
What About Indigestion?
According the statistics from the NIH, over 70 million Americans suffer from digestive complaints. Simply changing what and how we eat would probably fix many of these complaints. Many more could be resolved by adding raw foods and supplemental digestive enzymes to the diet. In fact throughout this issue, you will find some of the rationale for eating a raw foods diet.1
Dr. Edward Howell, the father of modern food enzyme research, has written that digestive enzyme deficiency is a significant cause of premature aging and the development of degenerative disease.
Although we produce digestive enzymes, our bodies have evolved to depend in part on enzymes from the foods we eat. Unfortunately, refining and processing, including cooking, destroy the natural enzymes in foods.
Digesting enzyme-deficient food is hard on the body, and forces the digestive organs to work overtime. The tired feeling many of us experience after eating a big meal is the result of the energy depletion that occurs when our bodies are forced to digest food without sufficient digestive enzyme support.
Symptoms include bad breath, heart-burn, belching, burping, flatulence, slow stomach emptying time, abdominal bloat, constipation and/or diarrhea, skin problems, recurring headaches, and acid reflux (with antacid dependency).
Further symptoms are muscle wasting, delayed wound healing, diminished resistance, anemia, depression, insomnia, nightmares, post-meal mental fatigue, diminished concentration, memory loss, nervousness, food allergies, and lack of energy and vitality.
More serious consequences include ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and diverticulitis. Long term indigestion can result in puffy lips, a crease in the center of the tongue, cloudy irises, and bags under the eyes (signs of kidney and adrenal stress).
Eating With Enzymes
1 At Nutrition News, we eat a lot of raw foods mostly in the forms of fruits, nuts, and salads, but we are not Raw Foodies ourselves, just plain Foodies.
We are attached to hot foods like soups, steamedveggies, and omelettes.
Enzymes & Digestion
There are two ways to preserve and replenish our digestive enzyme levels: by eating raw foods and by taking enzyme supplements. Though our diet has changed dramatically in the last 50,000 years, our digestive system has changed very little.
Our meals are much more complex and we are far more likely to eat cooked food. Eating raw or predigested foods, like fresh fruits and salads (especially sprouts), yogurt or sauerkraut, is easiest on our digestive system. When we eat a meal that contains any cooked foods, we need to take enzyme supplements.
In his book, The Secret of Life – Enzymes, James B. Sumner, a Nobel Prize recipient, remarks that people feel old after 40 because of reduced enzyme levels in the body.
There are over one hundred times more enzymes present in the bloodstream of a newborn human than in that of an elderly person. However, there is no difference in the enzyme levels of young and old animals who live entirely on raw foods.
Throughout his professional life, Dr. Howell insisted that living on cooked food without enzyme supplementation would result in enzyme exhaustion, forming a basis for weak immunity and ultimately for disease. (He lived to be nearly 100.)
Every type of raw food contains exactly the enzymes needed to start the digestive process. However, food cooked over 118 degrees for more than half an hour kills all the naturally occurring enzymes.
According to Humbert Santillo in Food Enzymes: The Missing Link to Radiant Health, these enzymes digest 5-75 percent of raw food without the help of our own digestive enzymes. As an example of this, older studies show that people of the coastal tribes of North America who ate up to a pound daily of raw blubber had no signs of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, Native Americans who cook fats (as we do) suffer from the same degenerative diseases as non-natives.
Dr. Howell recommended a diet of 75 percent raw food. This does not mean you have to risk your health if you don’t have the inclination to do this. What it does mean is that you would be playing it smart to add enzyme supplements to your meals.
Unfortunately, eating raw foods along with cooked ones does not guarantee the presence of additional enzymes needed to properly digest the cooked food. That’s not how it works. Each food contains only enough enzymes to partially digest itself. However, foods which contain fiber and probiotics can augment your digestion.
There are three categories of food enzymes:
1) proteases to break down proteins into amino acids (you may hear them called proteolytic enzymes);
2) lipases which break down fats into fatty acids; and
3) amylases (including ptyalin, an amylase found in saliva) which sort carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Except for water, minerals, and some simple sugars, all foods have to be converted from their complex forms into their basic molecular structure, beginning with digestive enzymes, so that they can interact with the metabolic enzymes. When not digested properly, starches go sour, proteins putrefy, and fats become rancid.
A Closer Look At Enzymes
The human stomach has two physiologically distinct sections, upper and lower. No acid secretion or peristalsis takes place in the upper part for up to one hour after food is eaten. This first hour is the time when naturally occurring enzymes and/or supplemental enzymes help to digest food.
During this time, hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach are increasing. When the acid pH goes below 3.0 (very acid), a special enzyme called pepsin is activated and begins to digest protein. The acidic environment inactivates the other enzymes.
At that stage, the food is a mushy acidic mixture called chyme (kime). Chyme leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine where the major task of digestion and absorption takes place. The chyme is alkalinized and treated with enzymes secreted by the pancreas and the intestinal walls.
Comparative studies of the pancreases of humans and other mammals show that animals subsisting on raw plant food have a proportionately much smaller pancreas than ours, relative to weight. When organs are stressed they enlarge, supporting Howell’s point that we overuse our pancreases producing enzymes.
Surprisingly, even when the pancreas is removed, the body still maintains a certain enzyme level. Some of these enzymes are produced by the intestine. Meanwhile the white blood cells have an even greater variety of digestive enzymes to contribute than the pancreas.
As a part of the immune system, these cells (called leukocytes) travel through the body destroying foreign substances by digesting them. It was once believed that increased leukocyte production and the migration of leukocytes to the intestines were normal to the digestive process.
However, Dr. Howell reported that this increase only occurs in the presence of cooked foods. It doesn’t happen when raw food is eaten. This demonstrates his theory that we need to take digestive enzymes when we eat cooked foods to spare metabolic enzymes for the jobs they are supposed to be doing.
This information is particularly important for people with food allergies and/or leaky bowel syndrome. Bacteria, yeast cells, large protein molecules, and fats can slip through the walls of the intestines into the bloodstream.
When the white blood cells are being used by the digestion, the immune system becomes overburdened and unable to deal with what it perceives as foreign substances. Food allergies can actually develop when enzyme levels are too low. When supplemental enzymes are administered, the enzyme level increases, and allergies disappear.
The sparing of pancreatic and metabolic enzymes forms the basis of fasting theory. The raw fruit and vegetable juices eaten during this time are largely digested by ptyalin and by their inherent enzyme content. This allows enzymes and energy normally needed by digestion to clean up toxins and to repair and rejuvenate tissues and organs.
When supplemental proteolytic enzymes (proteases) are present, they boost the activity of the immune system. They have long been used to resolve inflammation and for hastening the healing of sports injuries.2 Proteolytic enzymes are protein-digesting. Bromelain from pineapple and papain from papaya are two such enzymes.
In his classic Enzymes & Enzyme Therapy, enzyme expert Anthony J. Cichoke, DC,
devotes ten chapters to the uses of proteolytic enzymes. Because of their effect on inflammation, these enzymes can be used to hasten healing of acute wounds and injuries as well as to alleviate chronic conditions such as arthritis and low back pain. Dr. Cichoke notes,
“Systemically, enzyme therapy is used in the treatment of arthritis, AIDS, cancer, cardiovascular disorders, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic conditions.”
He also discusses the use of enzymes against viral infections.
In general, enzyme therapy works because it
1) speeds up the inflammatory process and brings it to a conclusion;
2) helps clean up the waste products in the area;
3) decreases pain and swelling;
4) dissolves any small blood clots in the vicinity of the problem;
5) improves the supply of nutrients to the tissue, improving circulation; and
6) aids in easing blood flow.
In one fascinating chapter, Dr. Cichoke reports the findings of European cancer specialists using enzyme treatment as an adjunct to surgery and chemotherapy.
Enzyme therapy is effective in these cases because:
1) cancer cells are more sensitive to proteolytic enzymes than normal body cells;
2) enzymes dissolve the fibrin coating on the cancer cells, allowing the body’s defenses to function more effectively; and
3) enzymes can diminish the stickiness of the cancer cell walls, preventing the formation of metastases.
If you find this provocative, you can learn more by reading Enzymes & Enzyme Therapy. Or, read The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy. In it, Dr. Cichoke explains enzyme treatments for over 200 diseases and common ailments.
2 Athletes can benefit by taking enzyme supplements. During athletic activity, the body temperature rises, calories are being burned, enzymes are being used up rapidly, and adequate supplies need to be available and replenished.
Fiber, also necessary to health, is a form of carbohydrate. How the body handles it depends on the type of fiber. There are two types: insoluble and soluble. Most fiber rich foods contain both.
We are not able to digest insoluble fiber. Called the “broom of the large intestine”, this kind of fiber passes whole through the system and is most effective in keeping the bowels regular.
The best known of these insoluble fiber foods is wheat bran, hence the use of bran cereals for regularity. Other examples include root veggies and broccoli.
Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. It is degraded in the large intestine, slowing the digestive process. This fiber helps lower cholesterol as well as helping to keep blood sugar levels under control. It is also filling and can work to curb the appetite by giving the eater a feeling of satiety (for zero calories).
Oat bran is the best known source of soluble fiber, hence oats and heart health. It is also found in barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.
Enzymes for Everybody!
Surprisingly, the most state-of-the-art digestive enzymes on the market today have been used for thousands of years.
Long ago, Asian peoples discovered that certain species of fungus could predigest soybeans. (Think tempeh for one.) These enzymes are broad spectrum in their activity, suitable for digesting all three of the basic foods. Plus they are totally vegetable-based.
In the 1930s, Howell began cultivating one of these fungi, a microscopic plant called Aspergillus oryzae. For the first time in history, the powdered form of the fungus was given directly to patients in an effort to help them digest food. It worked! In fact, the doctor found the tiny fungus to be effective for treating a host of seemingly unrelated ailments.
Both Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus niger are found in broad spectrum digestive enzyme formulas. (Aspergillus is at left.) These enzymes can function in a tremendously wide range of pH levels. For maximum benefits, they should be taken just before eating or within the first few minutes of eating. If you are on medication, sprinkle the enzyme powder directly onto your food to make sure your enzyme supplement is not inactivated by your medication. Be cautioned that food temperatures need to be less than 118 degrees or the heat will destroy the enzymes.
Broad spectrum enzyme formulas have been on the market for over a decade. Today, they are available for every body, including kids and pets (both are “sprinkles”). Food sensitivities and intolerances are not rare. People are most commonly reactive to foods containing gluten, casein, dairy lactose, and phenols. Although eliminating the culprits is the most effective defense, there are formulas compounded to target all of these, and formulas that are targeted for each one.
If you do not as yet take a broad spectrum food enzyme, you may find yourself resistant to do so. In this day and age, when interesting and innovative supplements are flying at you from all directions, this may feel like “one more pill to take”. The point is that ezyme supplements are the place to start, not the place to stop.
FYI: Beano contains wheat! In our issue “Cleanse & Renew”, Beano was recommended as a defense against poor bean digestion. Shortly thereafter, a reader informed us that Beano contains wheat.
FAQs on the Beano website state: “The smallest amount of gluten that can be chemicaslly detected in a product is 0.00016 percent.
Results of our testing have shown that Beano contains less than 0.00016 percent gluten.” Yet, our reader knew that when she used Beano she felt sick.
The important lesson here is to read the label of any supplements that you take. Beano declares on its ingredient label that it contains wheat. (It also contains cod, flounder, and red fish!!!)