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Enzymes and Digestion


Enzymes are needed for every chemical reaction that occurs in our body and are required to keep the body alive and well. Enzymes consist of protein carriers charged with energy factors. We inherit a certain enzyme potential at birth. Research studies have shown that the faster the metabolic rate, the shorter the life span. You live as long as your body has enzyme activity factors from which to make enzymes. The faster that you use up your supply of enzyme activity, the quicker you will run out. 

Enzymes are required for metabolic processes and for digesting food if the food eaten does not contain sufficient enzymes for digestion. During fasting, the body’s enzymes are free to work on repairing and removing diseased tissues. Enzymes are used up faster during certain illnesses and fevers, during extremely hot or cold weather, with increased food intake, and during strenuous exercise and muscular work. Low enzyme levels are associated with old age and chronic disease. 

Symptoms of enzyme deficiencies include:

·         Fever

·         Redness

·         Swelling

·         Pain

·         Abnormal range of motion

·         Digestive difficulties (including acid reflux, bloating, gas, indigestion)

Large doses of enzymes have been shown to be effective in relieving certain digestive symptoms (including indigestion and abdominal gas) and a variety of dermatosis thought to be due to irritation of the skin caused by the presence of incompletely digested food materials.

Pasteurization and cooking food destroys the enzymes contained in the food.  After being eaten, food goes into the upper portion of the stomach for 20 minutes and little acid or enzymes are secreted by the body. They enzymes in the food itself work on digesting the eaten food. The more of this self-digestion that occurs from the enzymes on food which has been thoroughly chewed, the less work the body has to do later.

While the enzymes contained in raw foods are lost in cooking, raw foods may contain enzyme inhibitors.  Raw seeds, nuts and some food contain enzyme inhibitors for protection so the seed doesn’t germinate prematurely and lose its life.  Eating foods with enzyme inhibitors causes a swelling of the pancreas, as does eating cooked foods.

There are two ways to destroy enzyme inhibitors:

·    Cooking which also destroys the enzymes

·    Sprouting which destroys enzyme inhibitors and increases enzyme content by a factor of 3 to 6

Various approaches to healing through food recognizes the importance of enzymes and includes different way of including them with the food. The raw foods approached used by Wigmore and others uses sprouts, greens, and fermented foods (rejuvelac and sauerkraut), and living foods. Macrobiotics uses fermented foods (miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, and pressed salads), soaking grains, and boiled salads which maintains some enzymes while breaking down some cellulose to increase the digestibility of vegetable fiber.

The human body uses the following enzymes to digest food.

·    Ptyalin, amylase, and disaccharidase for digesting carbohydrates

·    Bile and lipase for digesting fats

·    Pepsin, hydrochloric acid, and protease for digesting proteins

·    Cellulase to digest cellulose

Although there are many benefits to eating raw foods, it is difficult for the body to break down the cellulose in raw foods. Raw foods are cooling to the body, leading to feeling very cold in winter in colder climates. This can be difficult for individuals in a weakened condition, especially if they have a cold condition according to oriental medicine. Supplemental digestive enzymes can be very beneficial in supporting the healing process.

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