While the 20th century saw remarkable gains in wiping out the nutritional scourges of the past – such as scurvy, pellagra and rickets – certain advancements in the past century also brought about an explosion of chronic, degenerative disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. Research has proven that many of these conditions can be directly attributed to our modern diets.
Nature endowed us with remarkable digestive mechanisms, many of which are now failing us at an earlier and earlier age. Nature doesn’t typically make mistakes, so why is this happening? What nature didn’t anticipate was man’s increasing reliance upon a diet of cooked and processed food as his primary source of nutrition.
Enzymes for digestion essentially come from two sources: internally from our own digestive organs (digestive enzymes) and externally from the food we eat (food enzymes). However, food enzymes are present in raw food only. Cooking or processing food at temperatures greater than 118 degrees destroys all of its enzymes, placing the entire burden for digestion on the body. The effect of this destruction of food enzymes has been largely overlooked in allopathic medicine.M
The pioneering work of Dr. Edward Howell in the 1920s and 1930s led to the current practice of enzyme supplementation. His research indicated people were suffering from various chronic diseases because their bodies were expending so much energy digesting their food, it left them little energy for important metabolic functions. His premise was if enzymes that are lost during the cooking and processing of food could be replaced, the body would be spared some of the energy-intensive process of digestion and could devote more of its resources toward maintaining health.
Today, health care practitioners in many different disciplines are beginning to recommend enzyme supplements and are immediately noticing improvements in the health of their patients and, subsequently, the profitability of their practices. In fact, almost every patient could benefit from an enzyme supplement with each meal.
“I have found enzyme supplements provide a major benefit in my practice and have empowered me with a greater scope of treatment,”
says Dr. Bernard Epstein of Merritt Island, Fla.
“Enzymes are very useful in my practice, there are no two ways about it,” says Dr. Robert Novak, practicing in Kansas City, Kan. “Like anything else, when you get into your 40s you lose some of your digestive enzymes, and taking a supplement helps to replace them.”
Dr. Edward Howell
In his book, “Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Enzyme Concept,” Dr. Howell mentions that “The length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism. The increased use of food enzymes promotes a decreased rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential.” Dr. Howell believed the number of enzymes the body is capable of producing is finite, and their depletion leads to chronic conditions and eventually the loss of life.
Based on our current knowledge of genetic predisposition and the effect of stress on organ function in the body, Dr. Howell’s premise has merit. The lack of naturally occurring enzymes in food puts undue stress on the pancreas, and other enzyme-producing digestive organs, to produce all of the enzymes needed for complete digestion of food. It is well documented that continuous stress on an organ or system of the body will eventually result in diminished functioning of that organ or system.
Since a top priority of the body is obtaining nutrition through the digestion of food, the body’s resources are readily made available to complete this function. If an excessive amount of these resources are constantly used for digestion, the other metabolic functions in the body will suffer, leading to chronic health problems. Therefore, the goal of enzyme supplementation is to relieve the digestive organs of unnecessary stress and allow the body to allocate its valuable resources to maintaining healthier metabolic function.
Vegetarian enzyme advantage
In order to accomplish this goal, the right enzyme supplements must be used. Enzymes from animal sources, such as pancreatin, are most active in the alkaline environment of the small intestine (pH 7.2-9.0) after the body has already produced enzymes to complete digestion. This means animal enzyme supplements do nothing to spare the pancreas and other digestive organs from producing excess enzymes.
Vegetarian enzymes, on the other hand, are active over a broad pH range (pH 2.0 to 11.0) so they are able to begin digesting food immediately after entering the stomach. The presence of digested food in the stomach signals the body to produce fewer enzymes for the digestive process. Vegetarian enzymes, therefore, are a better choice because they relieve the body of some of the burden of digestion.
“I’ve been recommending enzyme and probiotic supplements to my patients for 10 to 12 years now,” says Dr. Chuck Olds of Cookeville, Tennessee. “I’ve had nothing but success when patients are compliant.” Again, vegetarian enzymes are superior to animal enzymes in that the activity of vegetarian enzymes can be concentrated more than animal enzymes, so fewer capsules or tablets are needed, resulting in better patient compliance.
While effective full-spectrum enzyme supplements are available to the consumer at health food stores, on the Internet and even in the neighborhood pharmacy, the highest strength enzyme supplements are those available through health care practitioners. Enzyme supplements intended for use by health professionals should contain higher potency enzymes and are not appropriate for a self-diagnosing consumer. Enzymes, Inc., provides all appropriate enzyme supplements for the health-conscious consumer and the health care professional.
The four enzymes commonly found in food, and therefore, used in enzyme supplements are amylase (digests starches), cellulase (breaks down fibrous foods), lipase (splits large fats into fatty acids) and protease (acts on protein). There are also many other enzymes, such as glucoamylase, sucrase, lactase, alpha-galactosidase, phytase and peptidase, to name a few, that ensure further digestion of all food groups. When selecting an enzyme supplement to recommend to a patient, be certain at least the four primary types are present to assure digestion of the main food components. The presence of other enzymes only improves the digestive effectiveness of the supplement.
Animal enzymes (pancreatin) and plant enzymes (bromelain and papain) concentrate their digestive activity on breaking down protein. However, vegetarian enzymes from safe, mycological sources provide a full spectrum of enzymes for more complete digestion.
Digestive and systemic enzymes
In addition to adding an enzyme supplement to assist with digestion, taking enzyme supplements between meals has proven helpful in the following areas:
- reducing inflammation
- boosting immune function
- maintaining cardiovascular health
- maximizing endocrine effectiveness
- promoting normal respiratory function
This type of enzyme supplementation is referred to as “systemic” and typically uses proteolytic enzymes (proteases). A published study by the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center determined Advanced Formula™ InflammEnz™ protease-based nutritional supplement accelerated healing time by 17% in 77% of healthy subjects tested.
“In the process of doing nutritional and dietary counseling for close to 20 years, I’ve experienced that proper digestive and systemic enzymes have played a major role in addressing digestion, inflammation and immune-related conditions,”
says Dr. Lawrence Bronstein of Great Barrington, Mass.
Ed. Note: An amended version of this article was published in Chiropractic Economics issue no. 4, March, 2005, with the title Healthy Help Through Enzymes. It has been reprinted in many national journals and newsletters.
The original version, printed here, contains additional information as well as statements from doctors relating to the effectiveness of enzyme supplementation (digestive enzymes and systemic enzymes) in improving the health of patients. This article was written by Dr. Donna Werner, former director of technical services for Enzymes, Inc.