Enzymes: The Sparks of Life
By author Anthony J. Cichoke, DC, PhD
Let’s face it: times have changed. We’ve adopted a modern lifestyle with faster-paced, more hectic days and, probably more significantly, eating habits that include the consumption of industrialized, processed food.
People today are sick. They’re overweight and out of shape. Too many of us smoke cigarettes or drink coffee, tea and alcohol, and were all under too much stress. We don’t get enough exercise and we eat too many calories, too much bad fat, too many refined carbohydrates, and too many toxin-filled, over-heated or radiated foods enzyme-dead foods. And we’ve got the chronic diseases to prove it.
What’s the solution?
Its time to return to the basics, back to enzyme-rich foods, including fresh vegetables and fruits! What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Bacon and eggs? Toast and coffee? A bagel with processed cream cheese and reconstituted orange juice? A donut and a Coke?
How about dinner last night? When was the last time you ate something fresh and enzyme-rich something that hadn’t been processed, baked, fried, treated or heated in any way?
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins, composed of amino acids, produced by the human body and by all animals and plants. Enzymes are catalysts that either begin or cause a reaction to speed up. Enzymes are ferments; they help our bodies break down foods. They are at work in any fermentation process and during the metabolic process. Enzymes cause biological reactions in the body without themselves being changed and are able to be used over and over again. Unlike vitamins and minerals, enzymes are not destroyed as they work.
Enzymes are all around using every animal and every plant. In fact, every living thing needs enzymes in order to function. All living things are run and governed by chemical reactions. In the human body, enzymes are the components that catalyze (or kick start) the chemical reactions that are involved in breathing, digestion, growth, reproduction, blood coagulation, healing, combating disease and everything else that goes on.
Enzymes in the Diet
In fact, our bodies contain some 3,000 different types of enzymes that are constantly regenerating, repairing and protecting us. For most of us, our bodies (if they’re healthy) make many of the enzymes we need to function. In addition, many enzymes are also available in the foods we eat, if those foods aren’t enzyme-dead. What kills enzymes? Heat, primarily. So any food that has been baked, fried, boiled or canned is enzyme-dead.
In addition to canning, any processing, including irradiating, drying and freezing also either kills enzymes or diminishes their viability, as does the addition of preservatives (including salt!). Humans have been cooking their food for only a few thousand years. We evolved in an environment of raw vegetables, fruits and grains, with little meat. Over several million years, our bodies’ metabolisms have genetically adapted to this diet. Preserving, pasteurizing, processing and chemically tampering with our food has taken place only in relatively recent years, and destroys and eliminates their active enzymes as well as many of their vital nutrients. In addition, some of the chemicals used in food processing are toxic and may be carcinogenic.
Are You Enzyme Deficient?
For the human body, surviving in today’s world is a two-step process. First, the body must maintain proper function, with everything in the body working at an optimal level. Second, the body must be strong enough to fight off the adverse effects of toxins originating from outside the body, including pollution, radiation and other free-radical producers. If your body is enzyme-deficient, sooner or later the lack of enzymes will begin to show itself. One of the first and most obvious signs of an enzyme deficiency is poor or disturbed digestion, including excess gas, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation.
Other signs include premature skin wrinkles, joint stiffness, gray hair, and a decrease in or a general lack of energy. These are all signs usually associated with aging. After all, aging is nothing more than a gradual breakdown in body function. In fact, as we age, the enzymes produced by our bodies decrease in number and in activity level. In other words, we have fewer body enzymes and those enzymes that we do produce can’t work as hard. Hence, as we age, sustain injuries, incur illnesses and are exposed to more and more stress, we need to eat more enzyme-rich foods and take enzyme supplements.
Increasing Your Enzyme Intake
If you are free of all the symptoms associated with enzyme deficiency, and at least half of the food you eat is whole and uncooked, and you drink unpasteurized milk (which is most unlikely since it’s not available), you will probably get enough enzymes. If this isn’t the case, as it is for most of us, you need to take additional enzymes. There are basically two ways to increase your enzyme intake.
The first is to eat more fresh foods. Since most cooking methods have a tendency to kill off enzymes or render them inert, raw fruits and vegetables are the best sources of food enzymes. Eating fermented foods including sauerkraut, kefir and miso is also an effective and tasty way to improve your body’s enzyme status. The second way to increase your body’s enzyme status is to take enzyme supplements. Just these two initiatives will help you to stay healthy and prevent and treat disease.
How to Shop Smart
In these days of processed and prepackaged foods, it is important to follow a few simple rules when buying fresh enzyme-rich foods.
Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season.
Buy only organically grown foods (look for a label or ask the grocer).
Buy foods with a fresh smell (such as tomatoes).
Buy foods that are locally grown, if possible.
Buy the whole fruit or vegetable. Cutting the food initiates enzymatic changes and also may provide an opening for bacteria to enter.
Enzyme supplements fall into one of about four major categories: protease, amylase, lipase and antioxidant enzymes. Protease enzymes break down proteins (such as meat and fish). Amylase enzymes break down carbohydrates (such as bread, noodles and pasta). Lipase enzymes break down lipids and fats, while antioxidant enzymes fight tissue free-radicals, which actually cause the tissues to rust. Some enzymes, such as pancreatin and pancrelipase, contain protease, amylase and lipase enzymes so they can work on proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
How do they get the enzymes into a supplement? It is possible to isolate individual enzymes from plants and animals and use them as sources of supplemental enzymes for humans to augment those enzymes in our foods. These supplements are sold at every health food store and are available as tablets, capsules, pills and powders. Enzymes can also be administered by injection or by enemas, but this usually occurs in a hospital or clinic setting. There are even topical enzyme products used to treat burns, and enzymes are also used as ingredients in beauty creams.
Dr. Anthony Cichoke, better known as Dr. Enzyme, is an internationally recognized author, researcher, lecturer, radio personality and chiropractic physician. His many book titles include The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy, Enzymes: Natures Energizers and now Enzymes: The Sparks of Life, a new Natural Health Guide published by alive Books.
Enzymes: The Secret of Life?
By author Rob Vaughan
Of all the major elements of nutrition, enzymes are the least understood, the least written about and provide the most underestimated contribution to life and health. There are few sources in medical science or nutritional health that offer an in-depth understanding to even begin to thoroughly answer the seemingly simple question of, “what is an enzyme?” But once we review what is known about enzymes, you may want to ask: are enzymes the very secret to life itself?
Every breath you take, every move you make, every thought you think and every action you take requires enzymes. They are the workforce of the body. No vitamin, mineral, protein or hormone can do work without enzymes.
Enzymes are what make all the other pieces work. Enzymes are not tangible, physical substances. They are the life-force that activates vitamins, minerals, protein and other physical components in our body. Enzymes are the key to understanding the difference between life and death, and between sickness and health.
Enzymes have been studied since the early 1900s, but even today this is a field of research still in its infancy. In 1930, only about 80 enzymes were known to exist. Today, there are thousands known, and many reactions have been identified for which the enzymes responsible are not yet known. Every year, more new enzymes are discovered. But even with all its technology, modern science is no closer than it was 60 years ago to knowing what makes an enzyme work. We can only discover it and give it a name.
Enzymes are still thought of by many to be catalysts. But catalysts work by chemical action only. Enzymes function not only on a chemical level but on a biological level also. The chemical part of the enzyme can be synthesized by chemists, but the biological part cannot be.
The best explanation of enzymes I have found are the words of Humbart Santillo in his book Food Enzymes: The Missing Link to Radiant Health. “It has always been felt that enzymes are protein molecules. This is incorrect. Let me clarify this by giving you an example: a light bulb can only light up when you put an electric current through it. It is animated by electricity. The current is the life-force of the bulb. Without electricity we could have no light, just a light bulb, a physical object without light. So, we can say that the light bulb actually has a dual nature: a physical structure, and a non-physical electrical force that expresses and manifests through the bulb. The same situation exists when trying to describe what an enzyme is within our body structure. A protein molecule is a carrier of the enzyme activity, much like the light bulb is the carrier for an electrical current.”
The reason you don’t hear much about enzymes from those in the medical establishment is there is nothing solid for them to put their hands on. It is very hard to explain and impossible to duplicate enzyme processes. Scientists who fail to recognize the action of enzymes in our bodies also fail to realize the action of enzymes in food and how they fit into the nutritional picture.
There are three different kinds of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, to keep our bodies functioning properly; digestive enzymes, to digest food; and food enzymes found in raw (live) food. Food enzymes are only found in raw food, which is food that has not been cooked or heated. According to the research of Dr Edward Howell, who was a pioneer in the research of enzymes, when enzymes are heated to a temperature of 48o C (118o F) they are destroyed in a half-hour. You can imagine what cooking temperatures, which start at the boiling point of water100o C (212o F) do to an enzyme! At the temperature of 54o C (130o F) enzymes are destroyed within seconds.
Enzyme Potential Explained
Since our bodies make digestive enzymes to break down food, do we need to have enzymes in our food?
Absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, yes, yes, yes!
Our bodies have “enzyme potential.” This means that there are only a certain amount of enzymes that our bodies can produce. If we depend on these enzymes alone, they will be used up, just like an inherited bank account that is spent, but not added to.
Our bodies constantly build and replace living cells at an unbelievable rate; some estimate hundreds of millions of cells a minute. Within a one-year period, almost every cell will have been replaced. So, since we have new bodies every year, there is nothing to worry about, right? Wrong! We have new bodies, but whether they are better or not is up to us and how we use our enzyme potential. We can spend this potential making metabolic enzymes to rebuild healthy new cells or we can deplete it trying to digest enzyme-deficient food (in which case, the dead food we eat would ultimately rob us of energy rather than give energy).
Every part of the body has its own metabolic enzymes to do its work. There are 98 different enzymes in the blood alone. Since metabolic enzymes do the work of repairing body organs and fighting disease, we must make sure nothing interferes with the production of metabolic enzymes. This is why eating raw food is essential for building a healthy body. If the food we eat contains enzymes, then the body doesn’t have to waste its enzyme potential. Our bodies were designed to receive food with enzymes, which means food in its raw form.
Soy Bad, Soy Good: The Pluses of Fermented Soy
Soy is a hotly debated product among those who promote and sell its nutritional value as well as consumers who eat it. The debate stems largely from the health value of non-fermented soy found in a great many processed foods in relation to those that use the much healthier alternative fermented soy.
Why? Non-fermented soy products contain phytic acid, which contains anti-nutritive properties. Phytic acid binds with certain nutrients, including iron, to inhibit their absorption. This is a direct, physical effect that takes place in the digestive system. Their ability to bind is limited by the milligrams of phytic acid present.
Products using non-fermented soy include:
Fresh green soybeans
Whole dry soybeans
What makes unfermented soy particularly unsafe: It’s hard to avoid soy in processed foods such as baby formula, meat substitutes, drinks and snacks. One can find it in a great many domestically-produced food products at the grocery store. Additionally, soy is sanctioned by groups like the Soy Protein Council and USDA that cite the presence of isoflavones scientists say reduces one’s risk of cancer.
On the other hand, fermented soy stops the effect of phytic acid and increases the availability of isoflavones. The fermentation also creates the probiotics, the “good” bacteria the body is absolutely dependent on, such as lactobacilli, which increase the quantity, availability, digestibility and assimilation of nutrients in the body.
Products using fermented soy include:
Fermented tofu and soymilk
Many studies have shown traditionally fermented soy, which is the form that is very popular in many Asian cultures, aids in preventing and reducing a variety of diseases including certain forms of heart disease and cancers.
One such study of the culturing method involved in the production of the Japanese traditional food miso concluded the culturing process itself led to a lower number and growth rate of cancers. Researchers also found it was not the presence of any specific nutrient that was cultured along with the soya bean paste but the cultured soy medium itself that was responsible for the health benefits associated with eating miso.
Miso, a fermented or probiotic form of soya bean, is particularly rich in the isoflavone aglycones, genistein and daidzein, which are believed to be cancer chemo-preventatives.
The health benefits are found to be as good with natto, according to research conducted by a Japanese scientist who found natto had the highest fibrinolytic activity among 200 foods produced worldwide. About 15 years ago, that same scientist discovered an enzyme produced in the fermentation process, nattokinase, a powerful agent contained in the sticky part of natto that dissolves blood clots that lead to heart attacks, strokes and senility.
Natto also contains vitamin K2 and isophrabon, which help to prevent diseases such as osteoporosis and breast cancer and slow down the aging process.
How Do Fermented Foods Work?
Scientists have considered three different theories:
Primary active ingredients in complex fermented soy “foods” act synergistically with secondary compounds
Secondary compounds mitigate the undesirable side effects caused by the predominant active ingredients
Multiple ingredients act through multiple discrete pathways to therapeutically affect the host. That allows lower concentrations of each of the botanicals or soy phytochemicals to be more efficacious when used together than when used individually
Four years ago, the World Health Organization reported the Japanese, who consume large amounts of fermented soy foods like natto and miso along with green tea, ginger and ocean herbs, have the longest lifespan of any people in the world.
Unfortunately, Americans didn’t make the top 20 for lengthy lifespans, which has much to do with a Western diet that emphasizes foods that are processed and genetically altered. That could have a domino effect worldwide on the health of other cultures. Experts fear consumers in other cultures may abandon their traditional fermented foods for a more Western diet, losing healthy sources of probiotic whole food nutrition.