The Handle On Health Newsletter
by Janice Handleman September 2003 v. 2, n. 1
Enzymes. What you need to know.
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are energized protein molecules that are necessary for virtually all biochemical activities. Primarily they are catalysts-substances that precipitate and speed biochemical reactions. Due to its chemical shape each enzyme plays a specific role by only fitting into a particular substance. About 80 enzymes were first discovered in the 1930’s; today about 5,000 have been identified.
The substances enzymes interact with are vitamins, minerals, water and other nutrients. Without them most reactions in the body would take far too long to sustain life.
There are three major classifications of enzymes. The largest category is the metabolic enzymes which are involved in all bodily functions such as breathing, thinking, talking, moving and maintaining the immune system as well as neutralizing pollutants into less toxic forms. The second is the digestive enzymes that are mostly manufactured in the pancreas. They are secreted by glands in the upper part of the small intestine to work on the breakdown of partially digested food leaving the stomach.
The third category is the food enzymes and the ones you need to consider when thinking about your diet. These are the enzymes that act in the mouth and the stomach before entering the small intestine.
How enzymes function.
The digestive enzymes break down food particles for storage in the liver and the muscles. When energy is needed other enzymes convert the stored energy and make it available to by the body. A myriad of enzymes continue to create the reactions necessary for the functioning of the body. Enzymes also use nutrients to build new tissue in the body; bone skin, muscle, cells, nerves and glandular tissue.
Amylases in saliva are responsible for digesting carbohydrates and start in the mouth activated by chewing. Saliva should be thoroughly combined with foods through chewing until they turn liquid in the mouth. Once the food mass enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid is secreted. In this acid environment amylase does not function well and digestion of starches slowly diminish. That is the major reason why you must chew, especially starchy foods, really well. They will remain partially undigested if not.
In the stomach, proteins are digested by the enzyme protease. Less is known about the digestion of fats but the enzyme associated with fat digestion is lipase. Complete digestion takes place in the small intestine where enzymes manufactured in the pancreas are secreted by glands in the upper part of the small intestine.
Enzymes necessary for digestion can also come from the foods you eat. Including enzyme rich foods in your diet will put less strain on your pancreas and increase your enzyme potential. As you get older your ability to produce enzymes decreases.
The late Dr. Edward Howell pioneered the study of enzymes in the 1930’s. I have included a few quotes from his writings:
“We know that decreased enzyme levels are found in a number of chronic ailments, such as allergies, skin disease and even serious diseases like diabetes and cancer.”
“Indeed, from my work in a sanitarium many years ago, I've found that it was impossible to get people fat on raw foods, regardless of the calorie intake.”
“So far, there's not much hard evidence on whether taking additional enzymes will extend lifespan. However, we do know that laboratory rats that eat raw foods will live about three years. Rats that eat enzymeless chow diets will live only two years. Thus, we see diets deficient in enzymes caused a 30% reduction in Lifespan. If this held true for human beings, it may mean that people could extend their lifespan by twenty or more years — just by maintaining proper enzyme levels.”
For more information on the work of Dr. Howell please refer to his book - Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Concept.
How to get food enzymes.
Food enzymes come from raw and fermented food sources. Heat or cooking food destroys enzymes. It just so happens that temperature up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit can be touched without pain and wet-heat temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit deactivates enzymes and will burn (150 degrees Fahrenheit for dry-heat).
The human body evolved eating some raw foods. The diets of many traditional peoples around the world seemed to have included some enzyme rich foods, either raw or fermented, into their diets. The sources are not only raw plant foods but also raw animal foods like raw milk products (only raw milk cheese is available in stores unless you go directly to a farmer), raw meat and raw fish. Eskimos, for instance, eat raw fish that has been fermented. Societies that eat mainly cooked foods have included some enzyme rich condiments in the form of raw sauerkraut, pickles, and fermented soy products like miso and tempeh in Asia. Culturing dairy products enhances the enzyme content and aging and marinating meats to be cooked helps predigest them.
Some plant foods rich in enzymes are; papaya, avocado, grapes, kiwi, banana, pineapple, mangos, dates, raw honey, bee pollen, extra virgin olive oil, other unrefined oils and sprouts. Eating these foods not only helps digestion but can also slow the body’s aging process, so be sure to include some.
2003 Janice Handleman, AADP Certified Holistic Health Counselor (718) 389-4280 firstname.lastname@example.org
As far back as I can remember I have been facinated by food and realized its profound effects on the body. I became interested in natural health and the healing properties of foods and attended and graduated from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. I am now a Holistic Health Couselor and I am certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP). I have a practice in the Brooklyn/NYC area. I am the publisher and author of The Handle on Health Newsletter, a monthly e-newsletter since October 2002. I am also a Fine Artist, a painter, with an MFA from the School of Visual Arts.