The Fountains of Life
Enzymes have been called the “Fountains of Life”. They are the catalysts (or construction workers) that are found everywhere in nature and are responsible for the myriad of reactions and processes going on inside all living things. Everything, from the smallest bacteria and simple single-celled life forms to more intricate life like animals and people, requires enzymes to carry on their life functions. Not only do they break down the complex nutrients of food into tiny molecules for use by our cells, they also regulate and control each and every process that keeps our bodies functioning in harmony. Everything from the beating of our hearts to the very thoughts we think rely on enzymes to happen.
Contrary to popular belief, enzymes are not cells and are not alive, therefore, they don’t die. However, they can become inactive or “denatured”. When this happens the enzyme ceases its function. Our bodies need enzymes in order to make more enzymes, so as they become denatured, our life functions begin to slow and decrease. This is what causes us to age. Scientists have theorized that if we ever find a way to keep every enzyme at optimal levels in our bodies, we’ll live forever.
So far, science has identified over 5000 different enzymes that the human body utilizes everyday and they suspect that we have many thousands more that have yet to be discovered. Typically, each of these enzymes fall into one of three categories;
proteases, lipases, and amylases. Proteases break down proteins. Lipases break down fats. Amylases break down carbohydrates. Cellulases break down fiber and are part of the Amylases, though they are sometimes given their own category by some scientists since they are the only enzymes that the body cannot manufacture and must get from our diet.
Each enzyme has a specific function to perform. For example, a protein is made of many different amino acids all bonded together. It is just like a train with many cars all linked in a row. There are thousands of proteases for breaking down proteins, much like an enormous wrench set for loosening or tightening various nuts and bolts. A protein chain (or train) is joined by many different nuts and bolts. The caboose is linked by one size coupler, the box cars have their own specific sizes, and so forth. If a bolt is a 3/4 inch, no matter how hard you try, only a 3/4 inch wrench will fit it for releasing or rejoining the cars from and to each other. When this process involves the digestive tract, the enzymes are called digestive enzymes. When it involves a process inside the rest of the body, they are called metabolic enzymes.
Our bodies are born with the ability to make enzymes to aid in the digestive process. It’s much like a vault full of travelers checks. Use them all up and that’s the end of the money. Raw organic foods typically contain all the enzymes needed to be digested and place few demands upon the body’s resources. Cooking and processing food destroys all of the enzymes and many of the other nutrients like vitamins. Pesticides, chemical farming, and genetic modifications, have also been proven to decrease the enzyme activity in our foods, which places demands on our enzyme resources when we eat these foods.
Researchers have noted that the more the body is forced to manufacture digestive enzymes, it becomes less able to produce metabolic enzymes leading to many diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, gout, chronic fatigue, allergies, asthma, lupus, acid reflux and even cancer. By the early 1980’s, researches had identified more than 200 diseases due to a defective gene that was the result of a single metabolic enzyme deficiency.
Given the huge role that enzymes play in our health, it’s no wonder that enzyme therapy has been in use for thousands of years, even though our ancestors may not have known that an enzyme was the key component. One example is the Bible which recommends using figs for treating boils (2 Kings 20:7). Fresh figs contain ficin, a protease enzyme that breaks down these cyst-like build-ups for removal. Another example is Asian practitioners’ long history of using a fungus called Koji for a number of ailments like high blood pressure, blood clots and heart problems. Recent analysis of this fungus has shown that it contains an enzyme that dissolves the fibrin responsible for creating dangerous blood clots, hardening of the arteries, and high blood pressure. It also increases fat metabolism while decreasing cholesterol.
Yet another fairly new discovery of an old remedy is Serratiopeptidase, an enzyme produced by silk worms to digest their cocoons. Since the enzyme can be acquired from silk worms or from a digestive bacteria from the silkworm, it has several name variations. This member of the protease family breaks down the fibrin involved in pain, inflammation, scar tissue formation and infection. In Europe, it has become the standard treatment for arthritis, fibrocystic breast problems, carpal tunnel, high cholesterol and antibiotic resistant infection. Even more recently it was discovered that this enzyme can significantly reduced plaque in the arteries, reducing the need for blood pressure medication, surgery and angioplasty.
Many of these helpful enzymes are now available in supplement form and like all supplements, not all enzyme products are created equal. Avoid the discount store brands and anything that lists all the enzymes as milligrams instead of active units, as they are often mostly fillers with enzymes that have become denatured in their processing. Here in the US, one of the best companies is Theramedics. Their products can only be acquired through a health professional. (We carry it at our office.) They also have a subsidiary company called Enzymedica which provides lower dose products that can be found in most health food stores. Keep in mind that anyone on prescription medications should consult a professional before using these metabolic enhancing enzymes.
It’s estimated that 17 out of every 20 Americans are lacking in one or more of the necessary digestive enzymes. That’s more than 80 percent! This is leading to a reduction in metabolic enzymes and an increase in illnesses. There is a direct effect on health related to decreased digestive enzymes. To determine whether you may benefit from a food enzyme supplement, take the test at the bottom of this page.
If you’d like to know more about enzymes, we suggest reading the following books:
Enzymes: What the Experts Know
by Tom Bohager
by Dr. Edward Howell
Both of these books are available at our office.
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