Enzymes - Natures Catalysts for Health
Look up the definition of the word enzyme in a dictionary
and you are likely to find, A protein functioning as a biochemical
catalyst in a living organism. Sounds simple enough if youre
a chemist, but doesnt begin to describe the incredible complexity
of biochemical reactions that take place in the human body.
Enzymes are large molecules tailored to facilitate a given type
of reaction. Usually enzymes are proteins, an important class of
biomolecules constructed from amino acids. Enzymes catalyze reactions
by speeding up life-sustaining processes that under normal body
conditions would be much too slow to be useful. Enzymes are also
incredibly selective--they ignore thousands of molecules in the
body for which they were not designed. The mechanisms of catalyzed
reactions are often not completely understood, but a lock-and-key
model is useful in representing enzyme activity. This model proposes
that the shapes of the reacting molecule (the substrate) and the
enzyme fit together like a lock and key.
Metabolic enzymes are present in every cell, tissue, and organ
in the body, and catalyze the reactions associated with the everyday
functioning of living cells. They are responsible for keeping the
bodys systems in proper balance by controlling virtually every
chemical reaction associated with metabolism. Because of this, metabolic
enzymes are the very basis of the life process.
enzymes are those that the body manufactures and secretes to break
down food. The salivary glands in the mouth, the gastric glands
in the stomach, and specific cells in the pancreas secrete the enzymes
that work to digest the proteins, fats, and sugars present in any
food that is eaten. Examples of digestive enzymes are protease,
which breaks down protein; amylase, which breaks down starch; and
lipase, which breaks down fat.
Food enzymes are enzymes found naturally in fresh, raw foods. For
example, avocados and nuts contain naturally occurring lipase, while
oats have a high amount of amylase, or starch-digesting enzyme.
The contribution of food enzymes to the digestive process is extremely
important to overall digestive function and is too often overlooked.
Cooking, storing, and processing destroy most enzymes that are
naturally present in foods, and the body is therefore required to
supply all of the enzymes necessary for the digestion of that food.
If food that has not been properly digested is passed into the intestine,
it can become fuel for unfriendly intestinal bacteria, which can
lead to intestinal fermentation, bloating, and discomfort (intestinal
toxemia). But more important, undigested particles of food may cross
the intestinal wall and reach the blood stream, where they are identified
as foreign substances by the immune system. Such a phenomenon was
identified nearly half a century ago and is referred to as food
leucocytosis (a food-driven increase in white blood cells).
Many people take supplemental digestive enzymes to aid the digestive
process. Digestive enzymes prepare food so that it is in the best
possible form for proper processing in the intestine. Enzyme supplements
do not replace the bodys naturally secreted enzymes. They
are needed simply to replace the enzymes that are destroyed by the
cooking, storing, and processing of food.
When selecting supplemental enzymes, be aware that enzyme effectiveness
is best described in terms of activity. When comparing two supplements,
the one with the higher weight of enzymes may not necessarily have
the greater activity, or potency. Enzymatic activity is measured
in Units according to standardized assays, but there is no regulation
stating how activity must be reported on labels. So, for example,
if a company decides that one activity Unit equals 10 of their own
units, an enzyme product that actually has 1,000 activity Units
can be labeled as having 10,000.
Also, many enzyme supplements on the market today are either created
by chemical synthesis or made from animal organs. Plant-based enzymes
however, are either derived from actual plants, or cultivated on
a plant medium. Animal-based enzymes are usually only capable of
digesting proteins and they tend to work in a narrow pH range. Plant-based
enzymes are capable of digesting the full range of food groups,
and they have a wider pH range of activity, allowing them to function
throughout the digestive tract.
Enzymes are at the heart of the biochemical processes that release
the energy that sustains life. Energy and vitality are a result
of creating an overall healthy lifestyle, including:
- Regular exercise
- Adequate rest
- Mental peace and harmony
- Plenty of pure water and
- Proper diet featuring generous
amounts of whole, uncooked foods
Consider adding high-quality, potent, plant-based enzymes to your
diet to maximize the nutrition you get from your food.