- Proteins that hold an electrical charge
- Catalysts that speed up chemical processes without being used up in the process
- Specific in that they only cleave or cut certain bonds
- Efficient in that one enzyme can break-down millions of bonds
There are three factors that affect enzymes; temperature, pH and inhibitors. Enzymes work optimally at slightly higher temperatures. This is why the body creates a fever when it’s fighting off an infection. When temperatures go above 118 degrees most enzymes are destroyed. This is what happens when we cook and process our foods. Each enzyme has its own optimum pH range in which it is active. When it goes outside of this pH range the enzyme is inactivated. Similarly, when specific substances (i.e. snake or insect venom, aspirin, etc.) are introduced into the body they may inhibit certain enzymes.
Where do enzymes come from? Enzymes come from one of three sources; plants, animals or microbes (see Enzyme Comparison Chart). Plant enzymes (bromelain and papain) work in a wide pH range but only digest some proteins. Animal enzymes (pepsin, pancreatin) work in a very limited pH range and only digest some of the food groups. The microbial enzymes are the only ones that work in a wide pH range and will digest all of the food groups. Acid and alkaline are the two words most commonly associated with pH. pH means hydrogen potential or the number of hydrogen ions in a solution (see pH Range Chart).
More hydrogen = acidic Less hydrogen = alkaline
The pH in the human digestive tract varies greatly (see Human Digestive Tract pH Range Chart). The pH of saliva is usually between 6.5 – 7.5. After we chew and swallow food it then enters the fundic or upper portion of the stomach which has a pH between 4.0-6.5. This is where “predigestion” occurs while the lower portion of the stomach is secreting hydrochloric acid (HCl) and pepsin until it reaches a pH between 1.5 – 4.0. After the food mixes with these juices it then enters the duodenum (small intestine) where the pH changes to 7.0 – 8.5. This is where 90% of the absorption of nutrients is taken in by the body while the waste products are passed out through the colon (pH 4.0-7.0). With this basic understanding of enzymes and digestion let’s look at what happens in the body over the period of one life-time.
The human body was specifically designed to function on raw, enzyme-rich foods which support the digestive and metabolic enzymes found naturally in the body (see Enzyme Pyramid Chart). When enzymes are present in the raw foods we eat they “predigest” themselves and are readily assimilated. Think of what happens when we eat a salad for lunch. How long does it take before we’re hungry again? Now, let’s look at what happens when we lower our body’s enzyme level through eating enzyme-deficient foods. Enzymes occurring naturally in foods are destroyed by heating, cooking, pasteurizing or processing. At the bottom of the Enzyme Pyramid are the food enzymes taken in from the foods we eat. They are the most abundant and are the foundation of our health and longevity. When these food enzymes are not replenished on a daily basis, our body is forced to supply all of the enzymes needed to digest that cooked food.
This is where the Law of Adaptive Secretion that was established in 1943 is important. This Law holds that an organism values its enzymes highly and will make no more than are needed for the job. These enzymes come from our digestive system or the second level of the Enzyme Pyramid. After years or decades of eating patterns that lack enzymes our bodies will eventually use up its own digestive enzymes or the building blocks needed to manufacture them. What may show up at this point are a host of side effects that include acid reflux, belching, bloating, gas, heartburn, indigestion, nausea and upset stomach. These symptoms are not a result of to much HCl and enzymes but way too few.
Our bodies have now used up the two lower levels of the Enzyme Pyramid. Do we stop eating now? No, we continue to eat enzyme-deficient foods that will now begin to rob the enzymes that perform all of your internal bodily functions. They are referred as metabolic enzymes or the third level of the Enzyme Pyramid. Once this process starts whatever genetic weaknesses or tendencies that run in your family tree may begin to appear (i.e. cancer, diabetes, heart disease). Because of the limited number of metabolic enzymes and the importance of their functions, the body will deteriorate at a very rapid pace. Death occurs when our final enzyme has been used up.
When digestive enzymes are taken with meals there are a number of benefits:
- Reduction of gas, bloating, indigestion and heartburn
- Better elimination
- Increased energy levels
- Balance of blood sugar levels
- Relief from hiatal hernias and ulcers
- Lactose tolerance