The enzymatic system might be one of the most neglected yet vitally essential systems in the human body. Enzymes are substances that function as catalysts or accelerators in the body, and they are involved in all bodily biochemical reactions. In fact, the human body wouldn’t exist without enzymes because they help control both mental and physical functions, including energy production, metabolism, reproduction, and the immune and digestive systems.
“Enzymes are substances that make life possible, the key to unlocking good health and vitality. Without enzymes our bodies would not be able to harvest the nutrients from the foods we eat. They are manual workers that build the body from proteins, carbohydrates and fats.” – Dr. Edward Howell, author of Enzyme Nutrition
Here are a few cool facts about enzymes:
- In 1930, there were only 80 known enzymes. By 1993, more than 2,700 enzymes had been identified!
- Enzymes are catalysts for more than 5,000 different chemical reactions in the human body.
- Each body cell has more than 100,000 enzyme particles necessary for metabolic processes.
- The body needs a constant enzyme supply: Enzymes are destroyed once they have completed their specific tasks.
- Enzymes are found in all living cells, including raw, plant-based foods as well as cooked foods to a temperature of lower than 107 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are enzymes?
The thousands of known enzymes can be classified into three categories: plant enzymes from raw foods, which begin food digestion; digestive enzymes, which help digest the food we consume; and metabolic enzymes, which help perform all bodily functions.
Once the specific metabolic task is complete, the enzyme is depleted, meaning the human body requires a continual replacement of enzymes for its vitality.
Enzymes are among the most important nutrients because they start or accelerate processes in the body that are necessary for optimal health — and sustaining life itself! Enzymes are highly specialized in their individual functions and the conditions required to complete the appointed tasks. They also need the presence of other substances known as cofactors (minerals, vitamins and other proteins) to function properly. In fact, the three-dimensional structure of an enzyme must fit perfectly with its cofactor in order to work.
Examples of enzymes and their functions:
- Cellulase: converts cellulose into beta-glucose to provide stable fuel for the body, maintaining blood sugar; sustains healthy cholesterol levels; reinforces cell membranes to protect from toxins and damage
- Protease, lipase, amylase: hydrolase enzymes that trigger the breakdown of proteins into amino acids (protease) as well as fats (lipase) and carbohydrates (amylase) from foods in your diet
- DNA ligase: facilitates the joining of DNA strands together by catalyzing the formation of a phosphodiester bond
- Tyrosinase: catalyzes one of the steps by which hair and eye color pigments are formed
- Lactase: catalyzes the hydrolysis of lactose into glucose and galactose (a lack of lactase is known as lactose intolerance)
- Ribosomes: links amino acids together in the order specified by messenger RNA molecules
How do enzymes work in your body?
Everything we consume consists of three categories of nutritional substances: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Prior to the body utilizing these complex macronutrients, they must be broken down into simpler building blocks, which are then used by the body to rebuild and heal itself, supply energy and distinguish toxins. Without the process of digestion, the nutrients in foods would be locked away from their various tasks, including but not limited to creating new cells, tissues and hormones, and forming and activating metabolic enzymes.
Even from the initial bite of food, a host of actions are set into motion to begin the body’s digestive process of breaking it down into usable proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and other substances. These nutrients must travel through the digestive tract — a long and flexible muscular tube that extends from the mouth, through the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum to the anus.
As Olin Idol, ND, CNC, Hallelujah Diet’s Vice President of Health, explains, even the idea of food can initiate digestive enzymes to enter the mouth:
“At the simple thought of eating or the smell of food, the salivary glands begin to secrete saliva into the mouth. The principle enzyme found in saliva is a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme that immediately mixes with the food as it is masticated thoroughly in the mouth, where the process of digestion begins, and continues throughout the stomach and small intestine.”
The digestive tract’s pH range greatly varies from very acidic in the stomach to more alkaline in the small intestine.
Most of the supplements derived from animal sources lack stability in the acidity of the gastric region. The good news is that plant and microbial enzymes sources are stable throughout a much broader range and are ideally suited for survival throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
Enzyme Potential Exhaustion and The Natural Solution
During the mid-1900s, Dr. Edward Howell, author of Enzyme Nutrition, theorized that the body contains a bank account of enzyme potential. Because all body functions, including digestion, require enzymes, he believed that chronic diseases (and eventually death) will become inevitable as the enzyme potential nears exhaustion.
Dr. Howell discovered that eating raw foods conserved the body’s enzyme potential as the food enzymes helped break down nutrients, requiring the body to produce fewer digestive enzymes. On the other hand, cooking (and overcooking) foods can kill the enzymes, which will begin to die at a temperature of 107 degrees while all enzymatic life is destroyed at temperatures of 122 degrees or higher. Since most vitamins are water-soluble and plant enzymes serve the body as phytochemical nutrients, heating foods will reduce or eliminate these nutrients from your diet. Chemicals can also “denature” enzymes, destroying their ability to allow the body to use nutrients.
In order for the “food giants,” as Olin refers to major food-producing companies, “to produce ‘foods’ with a long shelf life, they must destroy the life force, the enzymes, within the raw foods with heat, which also depletes many of the nutrients and takes a toll on the health and well-being of the consumer.” Packaged food goes through heavy processing and pasteurization, lacking active enzymes. Without plant enzymes, the body is required to work harder to produce all the digestive enzymes necessary for completing digestion.
Furthermore, when your body is deficient in certain enzymes, it must borrow them from another system in your body, which is most often the digestive system. This is because it’s important to consider enzyme deficiencies as possible precursors of bodily imbalances and diseases.
Enzyme deficiencies can lead to:
- Cardiovascular disease (glycogen-branching enzyme deficiency)
- Some cancers
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, acid reflux, abdominal pain, etc.
- Joint pain
- Skin acne, rashes and eczema
- Headaches, mood swings, brain fogs
Remember, the body does not reuse enzymes, which makes it extremely important for you to consume enzymes from external, plant-based sources. Studies also show that a raw, plant-based diet has significant results in reducing cancer risk when compared to a cooked-food diet.
Although all raw, plant-based foods contain important enzymes, some with higher potency (that is, more functions in the body) can be found in fruits such as avocados, bananas, figs and pineapple; vegetables such as cucumbers, garlic and onions; and grains and nuts such as barley and flaxseed.
As Olin points out, “If the food eaten is a raw food, it also contains its own enzymes, which will help break down the different macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) for assimilation and take some of the digestive load off of the body.”
So there you have it: It’s simple – raw foods give you the live enzymes your body absolutely needs to reap the benefits of the wonderful nutrients. On top of that, remember you absorb even more nutrients if you drink your nutrients, which is why juicing with fresh, organic vegetables with a fruit or two will literally bathe your body with nutrition.
Should you take supplements even if you’re on a clean,
raw, plant-based diet?
While it is true that all raw foods (85% of The Hallelujah Diet) contain their own enzymes to help them auto-digest, studies show that supplementing a mostly raw, plant-based diet with a digestive enzyme supplement helps to further alleviate digestive stress on the body. And if you eat cooked or processed foods (which is 15% of the Hallelujah Diet), it’s especially important for you to take a supplement of living enzymes, as all enzymes in these foods have been destroyed by heat and/or processing.
Hallelujah Diet® Digestive Enzymes helps your body break down and absorb nutrients to ensure you get maximum nutrition and disease protection from your food. Hallelujah Diet® Digestive Enzymes are specifically formulated to digest foods on The Hallelujah Diet. For example, our supplement contains cellulase to break down plant fiber in order to get maximum nutrition from the high percentage of whole, plant-based foods on The Hallelujah Diet — many other enzyme formulas do not contain cellulase.
Now you know: You can eat the healthiest diet in the world, but if your body has trouble breaking down and absorbing the nutrients into your bloodstream, you’re not going to reap the benefits. Explore a high-quality digestive enzyme particularly for times when you eat cooked foods, while staying committed to consuming 85% raw, plant-based foods and juicing. Then what? See and feel your health soar!