21 April, 2005
ENZYMES are you getting enough?
Better Nutrition, March 2000, by Anthony
By now, most of us are aware of the important roles that vitamins
minerals play in helping our bodies to run properly and stay healthy.
But enzymes are a different story. Even though they've been around
forever, most people are not aware of what enzymes do or why they
critical to our existence. However, enzymes are essential for
live, function, fight disease, and heal any injury. Are you getting
enough of these "spark plugs" of life?
Enzymes are small protein molecules produced by the body. In fact,
plants and animals produce enzymes. They are catalysts that either
chemical reactions or speed up chemical reactions already in progress.
Most enzymes work by breaking down matter. For instance, your
enzymes are the "forces" that help break down last night's
its smallest components (that is, amino acids, mono- and di-saccharides,
esters, etc.). The enzymes in your digestive tract actually break
the bonds that hold together the various components of your food.
about three to five percent of enzymes join molecules together,
synthesize, rather than break them apart.
Are you enzyme deficient?
Enzymes are essential for everything that goes on in the body,
digestion, breathing, and circulation. Your body also uses enzymes
fight disease, inflammation, and to slow down the aging process.
fact, our body's ability to function, to repair when injured,
ward off disease is directly related to how strong and populous
enzymes. That's why an enzyme deficiency can be so devastating.
Enzyme-deficient diets, disease, chemotherapy, stress, physical
injuries, aging, or digestive problems can all affect our enzyme
The first sign that you're not getting enough enzymes will probably
disturbed digestion, including stomach upset, gas, and other forms
indigestion. Many people notice a "bloated" feeling
after eating beans
or cauliflower, or after consuming dairy products. This could
be a sign
that they don't have the enzymes necessary to adequately digest
food. Many foods, including beans, contain complex sugars. If
sugars cannot be broken down, they will sit in the large intestine
putrefy, leading to a bloated feeling and gas. This is easily
by taking enzyme supplements designed to break down these sugars.
people suffer from diarrhea and abdominal pain after drinking
is because they may not produce enough (or any) of the enzyme,
which breaks down lactose, the milk sugar in dairy products. Lactase
supplements or lactase-treated milk can help improve the ability
digest foods containing lactose.
But digestion is only one symptom of an enzyme deficiency. Illness
any kind is an obvious sign that you're not getting enough enzymes,
that your body's enzyme levels are depleted. As mentioned previously,
enzymes make your body work. Any illness or disease process, such
cardiovascular disease, degenerative diseases, cancer, or even
recovery rate after an injury, are all indications that your body's
enzymes are not working optimally.
Enzymes in Food
Some of the best sources for enzymes are fresh fruits, vegetables,
sprouted grains. Just as your body needs enzymes to function,
plants need enzymes for growth, reproduction, and health. Foods
rich sources of enzymes that some enzyme supplements are actually
derived from food sources; these include pineapple (the source
enzyme bromelain), and papaya (the source of papain), as well
and figs. Any live, fresh fruit, vegetable, or grain is a potential
enzyme source, but only if the enzymes have not been destroyed
radiation, or any of the other processes to which we subject our
modern-day foods. Unfortunately, a typical American fast-food
includes hamburgers (grilled or fried), French fries (boiled in
and sugar-loaded soft drinks, all adding up to an enzyme-dead
Frying, baking, canning, drying, irradiating - these all kill
Another problem is the genetic alteration of food with its unknown
potentially serious long-term side effects on our bodies. No wonder
we're fatigued and sick!
Even supposedly "fresh" food is often stored for long
periods, or is
treated with pesticides, preservatives, and other toxins which
reduce enzymatic levels. If you have digestive problems that interfere
with the absorption of nutrients, or if you have a depleted immune
system, or other health problem, even fresh foods may not be enough.
illness or injury can impact your health status and therefore,
enzyme systems. In addition, as we age, not only do our bodies
fewer enzymes, those produced have lost their power-laden punch!
supplements, available at your local health food store, can help
these problems and may be essential for good health.
Enzyme supplements are obtained from a number of sources including
plants, animals (such as hog or calf pancreas), and microbial
(including bacteria and fungi). When enzymes were first discovered,
isolated, and named, scientists often gave enzymes names ending
suffix "-in" (for example, trypsin and pepsin). Now,
enzymes are named
for the substance (or substrate) they work on and breakdown. The
"-ase" is then affixed to the end of the word. For example,
(prote-ases) break down proteins, lipases (lip-ases) work on lipids
(fats), and sucrases (sucr-ases) break down sucrose, and so on.
Enzymes can be taken individually or in combinations, or they
formulated with vitamins, minerals, herbs, phytochemicals (plant
chemicals), and other nutrients. I call such combinations Enzyme
Absorption System Enhancers (EASE). These combinations are beneficial
because they improve the absorption and bioavailability of other
nutrients, maximize enzyme activity when combined with these nutrients,
and reduce the drain on the body's own enzyme reserves, thus giving
more energy. For this reason, it's actually a good idea to take
along with a multiple vitamin/mineral or herbs. This is also because
some enzymes need "buddies" to help them do their jobs.
are "co-factors" and "co-enzymes" and include
minerals (such as zinc and
copper) and vitamins (especially the B vitamins) -- all the more
to eat a balanced, enzyme-rich, fresh food diet!
Although some substances (such as vitamins and minerals) help
enzymes work better, there are others that actually inhibit the
of an enzyme. We encounter many of these substances every day
inhibit our body's enzymes, including most medicines (even aspirin).
What can enzyme supplements do for me?
Enzymes are particularly good at helping a number of conditions
including digestive problems and back pain.
Many people use enzymes to improve their digestion. As mentioned
earlier, some enzymes can help you to digest beans, others improve
digestion, while others still work on the proteins in meat, or
carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables. The type of digestive
should take will vary depending on what type of digestive problem
have and the types of foods you eat. For instance, people who
drink milk because of lactase deficiency can benefit from a supplement
containing lactase. If you don't digest beans, try a supplement
containing alpha galactosidase, or another carbohydrate-splitting
enzyme. Some people find that protease (also called proteolytic)
help relieve the gas and discomfort they suffer after eating beef.
When taking enzymes to treat digestive problems, take the enzymes
before or with meals and follow the dosage directions on the label.
Enzymes are very effective at reducing inflammation and speeding
healing of pain of any kind, but particularly back pain. In my
Back Pain Bible, I relate the story of a soccer coach who injured
back and experienced severe pain starting in his back, radiating
his right leg. Soon after the injury he started taking proteolytic
enzymes and was able to make a rapid and complete recovery. The
consulting orthopedic surgeon (who didn't believe in enzymes)
dismayed at the patient's rapid progress.
Enzymes work to fight back pain by decreasing swelling and inflammation
without suppressing immune system activity. They restore overall
local blood circulation, resulting in an increased rate of healing.
Also, enzymatic actions help the healing agents normally found
blood to reach the injured area more quickly, and improve the
waste products, leading to a quicker recovery.
Proteolytic enzymes including papain, bromelain, serratiopeptidase,
pancreatin (which contains many enzymes, such as chymotrypsin
trypsin), as well as combinations of these enzymes are often used
For pain and chronic illnesses, to be most effective, enzymes
taken between meals, on an empty stomach, preferably with water.
Regarding dosage, follow directions on the label, however keep
that, initially, you may require higher doses (20-30 tablets per
Acute injuries usually show some improvement within a few days
to a few
weeks, but chronic conditions may take longer. With conditions
rheumatoid arthritis, you may not see a change for up to four
be patient. It takes time to flush toxins from your cells and
When you become pain-free you may return to a maintenance dose
general health as per the label's directions. Research has shown
are no side effects from long-term use of enzymes.
Enzymes are vital for life. However, the importance of enzymes,
known by many people in the scientific community, still is a relative
secret for the average consumer. The more you understand about
and how they work, the more likely you will use enzymes to improve
Klaschka, Franz. Oral Enzymes - New Approach to Cancer Treatment.
Grafelfing, Germany: Forum Medizin, 1996.
Wrba, Heinrich and Pecher, Otto. Wirkstoffe der Zukunft mit der
Enzymtherapie das Immunsystem Starken. Vienna: Verlag Orac, 1993.
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