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Enzymes in the Body. Enzymes in Digestion for Health & Vitality


Enzymes - Why You Must Preserve Them


Michael Sellar

According to Democritus, a Greek alchemist writing in 400B.C., all that exists are atoms and a void. So where does life come from? What turns lifeless atoms into living structures? The answer is enzymes. Within the vast chemical universe, enzymes build life. They take atoms and promote purposeful, deliberate, step by step reactions to create large sophisticated complex molecules.

Every chemical transformation that takes place within the living world is the responsibility of enzymes. They carry out each chemical reaction within cells, and as such, they represent the "life force" of the cell. This "life force" has not been synthesised in any laboratory. It is seen as a kind of radiation if viewed by Kirlian Photography. If the enzymes are weakened, in short supply or not able to properly function, the health of each cell would be in jeapody, and hence the life of the whole being.

Dr. Edward Howell - Enzyme Pioneer

According to Dr. Howell (1898-1988), that is precisely what happens to human beings. After a lifetime of research he concluded that we do become enzyme deficient, and this leads to degenerative disease.

Howell believed we are all born with an enzyme potential which has to last a lifetime. They need to be preserved and not carelessly wasted. The way to do this is to make sure the metabolic enzymes which run our bodies are not diverted to the task of digesting food.

Food enzymes are found in raw living foods, or foods that are only lightly heated below 119 degress fahrenheit.

But do these food enzymes really matter? Saliva is rich in the enzyme amylase. This starts the breakdown of carbohydrates. And the pancreas secretes enzymes to digest carbohydrates, protein and fat. Any foods to escape digestion are worked on by enzymes in the intestines.

If food enzymes are of any value they need to digest food even after they are eaten.

The Food Enzyme Stomach

According to Howell this is exactly what happens. The stomach is actually divided into 2 parts. Food goes firstly into the upper part of the stomach where no acid or enzymes are secreted. Here it sits for up to an hour while the enzymes in the food, which were activated by chewing, and enhanced by the heat and moisture in the stomach, go to work on digesting what was eaten. Only after this predigestion does it move into the lower portion of the stomach where the pancreatic enzymes continue the digestive process.

If cooked food is eaten, nothing much will happen in the upper part of the stomach apart from the continuous action of salivary enzymes.

This is confirmed by Gray's Anatomy, the Bible of medical students: "...the stomach consists of 2 parts physiologically distinct. The cardiac portion of the stomach is a food reservoir in which salivary digestion continues; the pyloric portion is the seat of active gastric digestion." Howell called this cardiac portion the food enzyme stomach.

Some animals, who have never got round to cooking their food, have special sections for predigestion. The cheek pouches of monkeys and rodents. The crop of many birds. The first stomach of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Some animals bury or cover their food, allowing the enzymes to go to work.

Many native cultures around the world let meat and fish hang around for several days before eating, or expose foods to fungal enzymes before eating them.

Most wild animals have no salivary enzymes, and their digestive juices are weaker than man's. But in an experiment with wild dogs fed a high carbohydrate heat-treated diet, they developed salivary enzymes within a week.

So perhaps food enzymes were designed to play an important role in digestion.

But even if this is true, why worry? Surely the body can supply all the enzymes it needs without relying on the enzymes in food.

Enzymes Do Wear Out

This is the orthodox view. Enzymes aren't used up, and even if they were, the body can make all it needs. Howell thought this was an "outrageous" view to take. Enzymes can be found in the sweat and urine after some illnesses, and after strenuous activity, which suggests they do get used up.

Just because the body is capable of doing something, doesn't mean it can always do so efficiently. This is particularly true with ageing.

The Human Pancreas Is Enlarged

As a percentage of body weight the human pancreas is much larger than other animals. It seems that on a heat-treated enzyme-deficient diet the pancreas is overworked and enlarged. An organ which is overworked eventually becomes exhausted. Can an organ which only weighs 3 ounces supply the vast needs of the digestive system on its own? If it can't, it will have to raid the body to supply its needs. Since the body's organs work as a team, an overworked pancreas could have an adverse effect on other glands and their hormones.

Less Calories - Longer Life

Undernutrition without malnutrition is a very well researched method of extending lifespan in animals and insects. It has been promoted by noted gerontologist Roy Walford. It is believed but not confirmed that this applies to humans. So long as the animals receive all the nourishment they need, calorie restriction allows them to live much longer than animals allowed to eat as much as they want. Restricted animals are also highly resistant to degenerative diseases.

But how does dietary restriction work to achieve these results? The answer to this is not known for sure but this is what Dr. Walford has to say: "Restricted animals are chemically younger that their chronological age would indicate...The amount of different enzymes in tissues...are in many instances characteristic of the age of the animal (my italics). Enzymes are of critical importance in metabolism because they regulate the rates at which most cellular events are happening...The level of [the enzyme] adenosine triphosphatase in the liver of a normally fed rat reaches peak value at 200 days then gradually declines with further age. In restricted rats, the peak and beginning of decline do not occur until 600-700 days."

The Fatal Process

This is the term Howell used for cooking. Whether boiling, frying or baking, the enzymes in foods are killed off. We could be shortening our lives by what we do in the kitchen!

Of course enzymes aren't just killed off in the kitchen but in the processing of foods. Howell's main focus of attack was on sugar which he called "the greatest scourge that has ever been visited on man in the name of food."

Raw Foods & Fasting

If Howell is correct in his view of an enzyme potential, then the use of raw foods, which preserves this potential, should be expected to overcome many health problems. This appears to be the case. In Europe in particular, where raw food therapies have a long tradition, highly nutritious raw food or mainly raw food diets have been used with success in many disease states. Therapeutic fasting preserves even more of the enzyme potential. This allows metabolic enzymes to go to work on rebuiling the body. This has also been applied with great success.

Howell did not advocate an all raw diet. He didn't think this would be palatable for many people. He suggested the use of digestive enzyme supplements with cooked foods.

Case Proven?

We can hardly say that! Howell's theory of an enzyme potential we're born with which has to last a lifetime remains a fascinating theory. I cannot say whether he's right.

However, I believe giving the digestive system vast amounts of work to do each day is a great drain on the body's resources and cannot be good for our long-term health and life expectancy.

I would suggest the following to ease the burden on the digestive system and indeed on the rest of the body which has to assimilate and detoxify what has been eaten:

Don't overeat. This is about the worst dietary offense you can commit. Aim to eat just enough to satisfy you and no more.

Increase raw fruit and vegetable consumption. Decrease cooked, refined and adulterated foods, especially high calorie sugary/fatty foods.

Avoid foods which you like but you know don't agree with your digestive system.

Look at the principles behind food combining, where concentrated starches and protein are separated. This eases the digestive burden.

Drink plenty of water. Ideally drink half a pint of water about half and hour before meals. Water is important in the digestive process and helps metabolic enzymes function more efficiently.

All the above measures will help to preserve enzymes, take the load off the digestive system and ease the burden on every cell in the body.

This article was first published in Enzyme Digest No. 48, Spring 2000

Any health and medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional.