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Health begins with healthy digestion, and healthy digestion depends on enzymes. You need a reliable supply of enzymes to ensure adequate digestion, absorption and use of food nutrients. Enzymes can also protect you against aging, chronic illness, infections, stress and fatigue.
Enzymes are the most exciting of the micronutrients. These specialized proteins enhance vital chemical reactions throughout your body. The actions of enzymes were just starting to be discovered in the 1800s when researchers learned that stomach secretions can digest meat almost magically, but they didn’t know why. Then, they observed the work of other digestive enzymes. They also saw how fermentation enzymes turned sugars to alcohol — more evidence of enzymes at work.
The unique molecular configuration and electric charge of enzymes are such that for each specific chemical reaction they cause to occur, they are the only compound that can accomplish the feat — like an individualized piece to a complicated puzzle.
Thousands Of Reactions
More than 4,000 biochemical reactions occur in the human body thanks to enzymes. You may be familiar with a few of them, such as the enzymatic action that breaks down food in the mouth, stomach and intestinal tract. For an apple to become part of your body tissues and fluids, there must be enzymes to digest and break it down small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Once nutrients enter the circulation, they require enzymes to cross into the cells to be used. Enzymes also enable the intracellular organelles to function like microscopic factory machinery.
Enzymes are continually at work in all cells of your body to build tissue, break down tissue, facilitate transport across cell membranes, make ATP energy from sugar, oxygen and water, and perform many more functions. They are truly magical.
The enzymes that synthesize (put together) molecules include DNA polymerase, which constructs the master, genetic blueprint code of each and every cell of the body. Other enzymes that put together structures in the body include the fibroblast collagenases which build the skin tissue protein, called collagen. All these enzymes are continuously driving vital molecular reactions in all the organ systems.
Many enzymes require a coenzyme or a cofactor to activate them. These can be inorganic metal ions (like zinc) or other organic compounds such as flavin, heme, biotin or adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). Other coenzymes transport chemical groups from one enzyme to another, such as the B vitamins riboflavin, thiamine and folic acid. These coenzymes cannot be synthesized by the body, but must be acquired from food.
An important coenzyme used in approximately 700 different known enzymatic reactions is the molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydride (NADH).1
Unfortunately, there are molecules in your environment that adversely affect enzyme function. Many prescription drugs are designed to kill a pathogen or correct a metabolic dysfunction, acting on enzymes to do so. From antibiotics to chemotherapy, prescription drugs designed to treat just about every disease state inhibit enzymatic action. Other enzyme inhibitors include herbicides, pesticides and the natural poisons that animals and plants produce for protection.
I find it cool that we continually regenerate enormous amounts of certain key coenzymes. It is estimated that your body generates its own weight in ATP each day. 2
Most crucial are the digestive enzymes. Those that break down proteins are called proteases. The ones that break down fats are the lipases. Enzymes called amylase and ptyalin break down carbohydrates. The sucrases, maltases and lactases break down simple sugars to the basic sugar molecule called glucose.
Even though your body has enzymes already, you may need enzyme supplements. Health depends on an efficient digestive tract. You’ve heard it said that “you are what you eat.” I say you are not what you eat only, but “you are what you eat, digest, absorb and utilize.”
The standard American diet (SAD) contains so few micronutrients (i.e. live enzymes, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega 3 oils) and so much processed, refined, dead food that it inhibits healthy physiological reactions. This condition ends up restricting the production of enzymes and stomach acid. This down-regulation results in less digestion, absorption and use of food nutrients, along with faster aging and more chronic illnesses. Also, we become more susceptible to infections, stress and fatigue.
Therefore, digestive enzyme supplements are important supplements for anyone whose diet is not as healthy as it should be. These micronutrients are especially important for anyone who is shifting to a higher raw-food intake. Since raw food requires more enzymes to be digested, supplementing with digestive enzymes for several months makes sense. Your digestive tract can then heal; and your mouth, stomach and pancreas will produce enough digestive enzymes in time. Give it four to six months. You’ll also feel more energy, and you’ll begin to reverse all chronic disease in your body.
And don’t forget: If you suffer with the stomach acid disorder we call “dyspepsia,” then taking digestive enzymes along with natural stomach acid supplementation is the key to relief. Not only will you need to give up highly sugary, spicy or greasy foods to chase away your discomfort, but you also need to closely monitor your stress levels. Digestive enzymes and stomach acid supplements will do their part. You must do yours.
There are also other enzyme supplements, the proteolytic enzymes, which are used in very high doses as part of the Kelley-Gonzales cancer therapy protocol.
To your continuous health and happiness,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Author, Easy Health Digest