Enzymes are simply amazing. In short, we can’t survive without them.
There are three types of enzymes: digestive, metabolic, and food enzymes. Digestive enzymes help the body break down food in the small intestine so it can be absorbed properly by the body. Metabolic enzymes are made by the body and are instrumental in heart, brain, lung, and kidney function; they keep the body humming along.
Food enzymes are found naturally in raw, uncooked foods and help to digest those foods so that the nutrients can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Most raw foods contain the very enzymes your body needs to assist in the digestion of that food. Food enzymes can be destroyed, however, when heated to about 118 degrees Fahrenheit or above. That means that overcooked food can shortchange the enzyme supply in our diets.
A steady diet of overly cooked foods can also affect the immune response. Dr. Paul Kouchakoff, at the Institute of Clinical Chemistry in Lausanne, Switzerland, studied immune system effects of cooked and processed food vs. raw and natural foods. In short, he found that after a person eats cooked food, the blood responds with increased white blood cells, mimicking a reaction usually prompted by infection, trauma or to toxic chemicals. The worst offenders were processed, refined foods like white flour, sugar or rice; pasteurized and homogenized foods; and preserved foods (with chemicals).
This white blood cell increase, called “digestive leukocytosis,” was thought to be a normal reaction to eating—until the researchers noted that it didn’t occur when people ate raw, unaltered food. That’s right. Foods that were not refined or overheated caused no reaction. The body saw raw foods as “friendly foods.”
So what foods contain a good amount of enzymes? Raw food, particularly raw fermented food, has high enzyme content. Fresh vegetables and fruits such as papaya, pineapple and avocados (preferably organic) are loaded with enzymes—as are raw sprouted grains, raw seeds and nuts, as well as unpasteurized dairy products.
Dr. DicQie Fuller, Ph.D., in her book The Healing Power of Enzymes, emphasizes the role of enzymes, saying, “Eighty percent of our body’s energy is expended by the digestive process. If you are run down, aging, under stress, living in a very hot or very cold climate, pregnant, or are a frequent air traveler, then enormous quantities of extra enzymes are required by your body."
Likewise, Dr. Edward Howell, a pioneer in the study of enzymes, said, “Enzymes are substances that make life possible. They are needed for every chemical reaction that takes place in the human body. Without enzymes, no activity at all would take place. Neither vitamins, minerals, nor hormones can do any work without enzymes.”
Dr. Lita Lee, an enzyme therapist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Colorado in Boulder, says that eating raw foods and supplementing with enzymes can spare the pancreas from having to do 100% of digestion. Interestingly, Lee also points out that if you take enzymes on an empty stomach, they enter into the bloodstream and go to work there.
“Like little PAC men,” says Lee, “these enzymes support a healthy immune system by digesting and disposing of toxins and eating the coating of certain viruses, enabling immune system workers to then destroy them. Each type of enzyme has a positive effect on inflammation and can help support healthy inflammation.”
Additionally, enzymes break down and remove old, unhealthy cells and tissue from the body to support natural detoxification. But when our enzyme stores are low, unhealthy cells and tissue can remain in the body and wreak havoc.
The bottom line? Make sure your enzyme supply doesn’t dwindle.