But what are enzymes you might ask?
By definition an enzyme is a protein which accelerates a chemical reaction and almost all metabolic processes in the body require enzyme catalysis.
I like to think of enzymes as nature’s miracle workers as it is the enzymes that bring the vitality and contain the life force within live, living and fresh food and while not all nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are destroyed in the cooking/heating process, these delicate amazing enzymes are which is why it is so important to include raw and fermented foods in the diet that are high in enzymes ! In fact all enzymes are denatured when heated above approximate temperatures of 118 degrees Fahrenheit wet heat and a dry temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
To give an example of the life force that enzymes contain take an organic black bean that has not been heat treated, radiated, genetically modified or tampered with in any way and if you give that bean the right conditions such as soaking in water it will begin to sprout. You can plant this black bean and it will grow! Take that same black bean cook it until it is soft in boiling water and all the enzymes are lost. That bean will never be able to grow into a plant as the enzymes and life force (magic of nature) have now been destroyed.
All nuts, seeds and grains also contain what is called enzyme inhibitors. The purpose of these inhibitors is to allow for these foods to stay intact until the conditions are right for them to sprout and grow. By soaking your grains, nuts and seeds in water these enzyme inhibitors are reduced. Enzyme inhibitors such as phytic acid can be very irritating to that intestinal lining and block the absorption of nutrients which is why you want to soak, sprout and ferment all your nuts seeds and grains prior to consuming.
What do enzymes have to do with our health?
Our body is run on enzymes and almost every chemical reaction within the body is dependent on enzymes. But more specifically the process of digestion is a very energy and enzyme demanding process so isn’t nature smart to provide enzymes within living food to help with the breakdown of that food!? Some commonly known enzymes are protease to help break down protein, lipase to break down fat and amylase to break down starch which are all enzymes used in digestion but there are many, many, more including metabolic enzymes.
A common intolerance for many people is lactose intolerance which is often due to the inability to breakdown the milk sugar lactose into glucose. Lactase is the enzyme which is needed to break down lactose. This enzyme is found both in mothers breast milk and raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk but the minute that we heat treat the milk this enzyme that is normally present to help breakdown the milk sugar is lost.
So maybe part of the problem is that we were not designed to drink pasteurized milk but instead have it in the raw form? Unfortunately due to commercial farming methods it may not be safe to drink commercial milk in its raw form but I think it is important to take into consideration the impact that enzyme deficient foods are having on your body and health.
According to the work of Dr Edward Howell, in his book enzyme nutrition he correlates the life span to the availability of enzymes in which the body has a finite amount of enzymes available and that the process of digestion and eating actually takes away from our bodies metabolic enzymes (very interesting food for thought). When processed, packaged and cooked foods are eaten this puts further strain upon the pancreas to use up its enzymes in order to break down that food.
For this reason I love supporting the body with enzymes for digestion to help take the stress off of the pancreas and process of digestion. Utilizing enzymes in the diet by eating foods high in enzymes or through supplementation to support digestion can help to free up energy and enzyme activity to run all of the bodies other metabolic processes.
What foods are high in enzymes
Some general dietary tips is to try to have 50% of your diet be raw foods, including, vegetables, some fruit (especially papaya, pineapple and kiwi which are foods high in enzymes for digestion), activated nuts and seeds, cultured foods such as yogurt, miso and enzyme enhanced fermented foods such as sauerkraut which particularly complement enzyme deficient cooked foods.
I also like to support the body with additional enzymes through supplementation to help with the breakdown of food. Seeking Health’s Pro-Digestion Comprehensive Enzyme Supplement is a product I recommend to help support the breakdown of food and thus helping to prevent symptoms such as bloating, indigestion and SIBO