Enzymes are a category of complex protein molecules that carry out a variety of functions in the natural world.
In the human body, they are responsible for such actions as digestion, energy release and blood purification, amongst countless others.
Our bodies contain over thirteen hundred different kinds of enzymes performing thousands upon thousands of different roles, each essential and each unique.
Enzymes are of great importance for our body system
The food that we eat is converted into energy by enzymes, which convert the complex forms of protein, carbohydrate and fat in solid food into smaller, simpler forms that the body can utilize.
The first enzyme in this digestive chain, amylase, will begin to work even before the food is in your mouth, thanks to your sensory organs sending signals to your brain that food is nearby.
Your brain tells you that you are hungry, and glands in your mouth secrete amylase to begin the digestion of the food you are about to eat.
Helpful for maintaining health body
They have been recognized for thousands of years as being essential to maintain a healthy body, with ancient doctors advocating certain foodstuffs which we now know to have useful contents, thanks to modern scientific methods.
In some ways, our ancestors were healthier than many people today are in terms of their enzyme consumption, since raw, fresh food is much higher in enzymes than cooked, processed food that makes up a large proportion of modern diets.
Must be present in our diets
There is speculation that the lack of them in our diets these days may have contributed to the development of several degenerative diseases, and evidence supports the theory that even modern eating patterns – the notorious three square meals a day – are contrary to our traditional eating habits as grazers, for which our bodies are best adapted.
The studies indicate that eating smaller meals more regularly, and containing a higher proportion of fresh, raw food, can increase a person’s life expectancy substantially, partly because of the reduced load it puts on our capacity to produce enough enzymes to properly digest what we are eating.
This also leads logically on to the idea that much of the nutrient values of our food many be going to waste because we simply cannot digest all of the nutrients in large meals before they have passed through our digestive systems.
To combat this, many nutritionists recommend supplementing the diet with them to assist the digestive process, taking strain off the body’s natural resources and helping it to absorb more of the nutrients from the food that we eat.
Enzymes also play a crucial role in the functioning of the immune system, where white blood cells used to combat diseases contain a number of different enzymes to help them ‘digest’ and break down cells that are of no value to the body, including viruses and dead cells that have been replaced with new cells.
Many of the enzymes in white blood cells are the same as those used to digest food in the stomach, and tests have shown that when we eat a substantial amount of food, levels of enzymes in the blood diminish, because they are sent to the stomach to help digest the food.
Obviously this leaves the immune system short and open to attack by viruses and other pathogens.
Positive side of consuming enzymes
By eating more raw, fresh food and food containing enzymes, we take the strain off these enzymes and allow more of them to remain in the bloodstream where they can do more good protecting our bodies from illness.
This same effect can be had by adding enzyme supplements to our diets to reduce the load put on the enzymes of the immune system, and thus help us to remain healthier.
The pancreas contains a great many enzymes which are employed in the breaking down of sugars, protein and fat. These are collectively known as pancreatic enzymes, and include amylase, peptidase, lipase and protease.
Uses and implications
Specific enzymes are currently used to treat different diseases. For example, bromelain, an enzyme occurring naturally in pineapples, is used to treat the inflammation ad pain caused by arthritis.
It has been shown in trials to be more effective for many people than prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs, with the added bonus of being 100% natural with no known side-effects.
Cystic fibrosis is also treated using them.
Cystic fibrosis in fact is when the pancreas is unable to secrete sufficient enzymes, which causes the intoxication of the liver and other organs and can lead to further complications such as depression and lethargy.
Protease is used to treat cancer by reducing the rate at which tumors grow, and in some case even causing them to shrink, while also having a pain suppressant quality.
Treatments based on protease are called protease inhibitors.