Food as Medicine

Enzymes: The Key to Longevity


Enzymes are properties of all living cells that bring about changes. Enzymes are specific proteins that are active in every cell of your body every second. Enzymes change things into usable forms.

As Dr. Royal Lee said long ago, enzymes

“… are the most important unit in the human body, because every chemical change that takes place to repair tissue or to assimilate food involves the activity of enzymes. Without enzyme activity there is no life. No plant or animal can live without the activity of its enzymes.”

– Conversations, 1955

“When you take a vitamin out of this group and crystallize it and put it in a bottle, it becomes a … chemical. It is no longer part of the living substance. It is no longer a part of the living mechanism we call an enzyme.”
Vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are the three legs of a stool. In the wacky marketplace of today’s food supplements, we’re assaulted on all sides by people screaming Vitamins!, others yelling Minerals!, and others hollering Enzymes! as though each one alone were the Magic Bullet that can cure anything. The real ideas are cooperation, synergy, and co-factoring. Nothing exists in isolation in the body. An enzyme without co-factors has no enzyme activity.
Enzymes have very specific jobs to do. Their activity is compared to keys that must fit certain locks. Enzymes are long-chain proteins held together in very specific shapes by hydrogen bonds. If anything happens to the Velcro-like bonds, the enzyme protein unravels, losing its shape. Without the shape, the key can no longer fit the lock. Then it’s no longer an enzyme – just another foreign protein.
What do foreign proteins cause in our body? Right – inflammation. Immune response. And that’s exactly the meaning of auto-immune. The body now attacks itself because it senses there’s an alien on board. Self has become not-self.
If the bonds are broken, the enzyme collapses, and can no longer do its job. Such a collapsed enzyme is said to be denatured. Several things cause an enzyme to become denatured:
heating above 118 F (cooking)
free radicals
food processing
genetic engineering

We have two main types of enzymes in our bodies. Dr. Edward Howell, in his masterwork Enzyme Nutrition, tells us it’s as though we are given a bank account of enzyme energy at the beginning of our lives. The bank account contains two types of enzyme currency:
– metabolic enzymes
– digestive enzymes
The more of that bank account we have to use for digestion, the less is left over for the thousands of other tasks which the metabolic enzymes have to perform in our bodies. Details like thinking, breathing, walking, seeing, cell life, etc. – all depend on enzymes.
Think of people grossly overweight. Do they perform these various functions well, or do they seem impaired? Simply, they have to expend too much of their enzyme energy trying to digest all the heaps of indigestible food that keeps coming down the hatch.
Metabolic means having to do with operating the body’s specific systems. Cell life, nerve transmission, brain signals, hormone distribution, oxygen exchange, liver function, acid-base balance in the blood, stuff like that. All these jobs require specific enzymes in order to happen, on a second-by-second basis. Metabolic enzymes are the worker protein molecules that keep this whole biochemical circus going all day long.
Over 5000 metabolic enzymes have been identified in the human body.
The class of enzymes you’re probably most familiar with is the one that involves digestion. The mouth, the stomach, the pancreas, the liver, and the intestine produce various enzymes whose job is to break down any food we eat into usable components. No matter how greasy, no matter how much extra cheese, or how much white sugar, how many chemicals, no matter how indigestible a food is, your body will try to break it down by means of enzymes. Some foods are very easy on the body. Turns out, those are the ones which contain within them all the enzymes necessary for complete digestion. Examples: apples, corn, watermelon, green peppers, pears, celery, etc. Raw fruits and vegetables. These foods don’t require that the body waste energy producing a lot of powerful digestive juices in order to change them into a usable form.
We all know that human food comes in three varieties:
Each is a large molecule. Since the body prefers smaller units, these large fat, protein, and carbohydrate chains must be broken down. Fats are broken down to fatty acids; proteins are broken down to amino acids; carbohydrates are broken down to glucose molecules. The process of breakdown is called digestion.
Each food type has a special enzyme to make this breakdown happen:
is the enzyme that breaks down fat.
breaks down protein.
breaks down carbohydrates.
Now many doctors and others with no background in nutrition will say that we can eat anything we want because the body’s digestive enzymes are designed to break the food down. This would be true if we were eating an 80% natural diet. The natural diet leaves behind no residue from the digestive activity. That is normal digestion.
But we don’t have a natural diet. Most of us have the Standard American Diet. You know – burgers, fries, pizza, beer, chips, donuts, coke, etc. These are non-foods, new to the human species in the past century. Our digestive systems were never designed to break these
chemical freakazoids down. So the stuff doesn’t get digested – it just sits there, rotting. Abnormal diet = abnormal digestion.

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