Raluca Schachter, Guest Writer
“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.” –The Enzyme Nutrition Axiom formulated by Dr. Edward Howell
Vitamins, minerals and all kinds of super-nutrients are in the spotlight on the nutritional arena. Enzymes are not that much talked about though. But they are essential and most of the people these days, including small children are very deficient! Actually, we are the only species on Earth that tries to live without food enzymes! And we’re doing a poor job at it…What happened and why are enzymes so necessary for health?
Why Are Enzymes Essential And Where Did They Go?
Enzymes are substances which make life possible and which are found in natural, “live” foods and also in your body. Enzymes are the “work force” of the body. Without them, chemical reactions cannot take place, and hormones, minerals, and vitamins cannot carry out their functions. There are believed to be hundreds of thousands of enzymes in the body; different enzymes perform different functions. Without them, life cannot exist.
Some activities of enzymes are:
- Digest food to a size capable of being absorbed into the blood
- Rebuild food into tissue of muscle, bone, organs, glands, etc.
- Work to store food in the liver and muscles for fuel later on
- Coagulate blood
- Attach iron to red blood cells
- Eliminate carbon dioxide from the lungs
- Promote oxidation
- Attack waste material in the blood and prepare it for elimination
- Change protein into sugar or fat
- Change carbohydrate into fat
- Change fat into carbohydrate
You can have all the raw materials necessary for good health – vitamins, minerals, intrinsic factors, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, amino acids, etc. – but enzymes are necessary in order for your body to utilize all the raw materials in its life-supporting activities of metabolism.
The critical role of enzymes in the maintenance of health and well-being was dramatically demonstrated in an experiment now known as “The Pottenger Cat Studies,” which was performed by Francis Pottenger, M.D., in 1946. Pottenger wanted to know if raw meat and raw milk, when modified by high heat, had an impact on growth and development. During the ten years of the study, nine hundred cats were studied. The results of this study were stunning: consuming heated and cooked meat and milk versus raw meat and raw milk – can negatively affect cats’ health over four generations!! After just one generation of cats, cats that were fed cooked food developed degenerative diseases.
At birth, we acquire a limited supply of enzymes. Throughout our lifetime, as enzymes perform their function, they are destroyed and eliminated from the body.The habit of cooking the food (especially at high temperatures and even above 118 F), eating it processed with chemicals, the use of drugs, alcohol, and junk food, all draw out tremendous quantities of enzymes from our limited supply. Frequent colds and fevers and exposure to extremes of temperature also deplete the supply.
There are three classes of enzymes:
- metabolic enzymes, which run our bodies
- digestive enzymes, which digest the food; most are manufactured by the pancreas
- food enzymes obtained from raw foods, which start food digestion
Our bodies are run by metabolic enzymes; every organ and tissue has its own particular metabolic enzymes to do specialized work. Since good health depends on all of these metabolic enzymes doing an excellent job, we must be sure that nothing interferes with the body making enough of them. A shortage could mean trouble, many time serious. Nature’s plan calls for food enzymes to carry the whole load. If food enzymes do some of the work, the enzyme potential can have much more to give to the hundreds of metabolic enzymes that run the body.
Think about it as you think of your banking account: if it’s not continuously replenished, it could become dangerously “deficient”…
So, when ingested, the enzymes in raw food, or supplementary enzymes, result in a significant degree of digestion, lowering the drain on the organism. The heat in cooking destroys enzymes and forces the organism to produce more enzymes, thus enlarging the pancreas. This way, the body is unable to produce an adequate quantity of metabolic enzymes to repair the body and fight disease.
Health Conditions Associated With Enzyme Deficiency
According to Dr. Edward Howell, a noted pioneer in the field of enzyme research, enzyme deficiency leads to a shortened lifespan, illness, and lowered resistance to illness. On short, the lower your supply of enzymes, the shorter your life! That’s a pretty good argument and a very truthful one, as well! The reality is just this: a body in a weakened, enzyme-deficient state is a prime target for cancer, obesity, arthritis, allergies, heart disease, and other degenerative problems. The glands and the major organs, including the brain, suffer most from the unnatural digestive drain on the metabolic enzyme potential. The pancreas swells to meet the great demand for its juices while other glands also abnormally adapt, and the brain actually shrinks on the all-cooked and over-refined diet.
How To Ensure A Proper Amount Of Enzymes In Your Diet?
ENZYME RICH RAW FOODS
It is vital for health and longevity that the enzymes be replenished in the body from foods with sufficient quantities of these essential substances. Most whole foods contain some enzymes, but the highest quantities are contained in the following: olives from the tree, raw honey, sprouts, grapes, fresh dates and figs, bananas, avocados, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, mangos, germinated and inhibitor-free raw grains, and nuts.
Raw dairy (especially cultured) and fermented foods are also a great way to add more enzymes to your diet. Raw apple cider vinegar contains enzymes as well, so choosing this with high quality olive oil and herbs for dressings can be one of your healthiest choice.
Eating raw fats with their full complement of lipase, a fat digesting food enzyme found abundantly in all raw foods containing large amounts of animal or vegetable fat, is also a great way to replenish supplies, as is eating raw meat and fish. Of course, due to the modern lifestyles, and the weakened human condition, including poor digestion, it may be difficult and potentially harmful to adopt a totally raw diet for long periods.
ENZYME RICH FOOD PREPARATION
All enzymes are deactivated at a wet-heat temperature of 118 F and a dry-heat temperature of 150 F. We actually have a mechanism for determining whether or not the food we are eating still contains the necessary enzyme content: above 117 F, foods and liquids will burn!
The healthiest and easiest way of cooking is actually using a slow cooker (crock pot), the modern version of cooking on hot charcoals in a hole in the ground, a method used by our ancestors! This way the food will not be burnt and totally depleted of nutrients; plus, it’s so much tastier and moist! Use only low temperatures for stove top cooking and always try to add some of the healthy, not-so-heat-stable raw fats at the end (like unrefined extra virgin olive oil) to preserve nutrients.
Culturing of dairy, used widely by pre-industrialized people, enhances the enzyme content of milk, cream, butter and cheese. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, pickled carrots, beets, cucumbers, etc. also contain a good source of enzymes. Cultured soy, like natto and miso, is another good sources of enzymes. Cooked meats that have been well aged or marinated present less strain on the digestive system because of this “pre-digestion”.
Sprouting and soaking in warm acidic water and genuine sourdough leavening “pre-digests” grains, nuts and legumes allowing the nutrients to be more easily assimilated and metabolized. This is an age-old approach practiced in most traditional cultures. Soaking and sprouting begins germination, which increases the enzymatic activity in foods and inactivates substances called enzyme inhibitors. Unless deactivated, they will put a great strain on the digestive system.
Soaking also neutralizes phytic acid, a component of plant fiber found in the bran and hulls of grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that reduces mineral absorption.
Sprouting is actually a very easy and fun thing to do! Try first with easy to sprout legumes like lentils and mung beans and grains like quinoa and amaranth. You can find out a lot of details online on websites like Sprout People.
How About Supplementation?
In order to be active, enzymes will only function within a certain pH range. For example, animal-based enzymes like pancreatin are only active in a pH range of about 7.5 – 9.0. But certain plant based formulas are active between 3.0 – 9.0. This means they are extremely effective digestive aids, even for those individuals who have very altered pH in their digestive tracts. Under laboratory conditions, certain of these supplemental enzymes are capable of digesting over a million times their weight in cooked food.
As a general rule, it makes sense, and it’s very beneficial for anyone’s health, to aim for a steady quantity of raw foods in the diet, which work for your metabolism, not against it, while supplementing with enzymes when only cooked foods are served on a meal or not enough enzyme quantity is provided through raw foods. Also, make a list of all enzyme-rich foods listed in this article and find ways to add some of them with each meal.
About the Author
Raluca Schachter is a passionate Nutritionist and Metabolic Typing Advisor®, with a background in both nutrition and communication/PR. She believes in traditional, unaltered food, ancestral wisdom, sustainable farming and living. Raluca was able to naturally reverse chronic health conditions she was struggling with most of her life, and now uses her knowledge to help as many people as possible do the same. Her health programs and diet plans offer a very unique and comprehensive approach to health, where individual nutritional and biochemical requirements are firstly met using specific nutrients and foods that each metabolism thrives on. This approach reveals why and how ‘one diet/herb doesn’t fit all’ and why ‘one man’s food is another one’s poison.’ Raluca currently resides in Garden Grove, CA and offers her services for local and distance clientele. For more information visit her website and blog guide2health.net or join Raluca on Facebook
Howell, Edward. Food Enzymes
Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions
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