Enzymes are proteins that are catalysts for chemical activity. In fact, they are involved with nearly all of the biochemical reactions in your body. The molecules on which enzymes provide their reactions are called substrates; once the reaction has occurred, these molecules become products. The enzyme itself remains unchanged during this process.
There are over 3,000 different enzymes, and each is responsible for a different vital function. Therefore, the malfunction or depletion of any single enzyme can have serious health consequences.
Although some enzymes are produced in your body, there are other essential enzymes that must be ingested. For example, the specific enzyme needed to break down a particular food is often only available in that food. For that reason, it can be unhealthy to eat certain foods when they have been stripped of their enzymes.
Functions of Enzymes
Enzymes are involved with many, many bodily functions. The list below is not intended to be complete. It will, however, illustrate the importance of enzymes.
• Allow metabolism to occur at its proper speed
• Are antioxidants
• Break down food particles and large molecules into smaller, usable pieces
• Convert stored food into energy
• Help from necessary blood clots
• Help remove waste from the body
Since enzymes have so many varied responsibilities, deficiencies can be very dangerous. Your body makes certain enzymes, but others must be eaten in enzyme-rich food such as raw vegetables and fruit. Enzymes in food can be damaged or depleted when exposed to prolonged heat. Once eaten, enzymes can be destroyed by a very acidic or alkaline environment.
Enzyme supplements can be destroyed by heat. You can keep enzymes that are in tablet or liquid form in the refrigerator. Powder and capsule forms of enzymes need to be kept in a cool but dry place, so the refrigerator is not ideal. The applicable dosage of an enzyme depends on the specific enzyme and the reason you are taking it. Read the information that comes with the bottle and consult your doctor.
The groups of digestive enzymes (listed below) are very important because they allow your body to properly digest foods including starches, fats, and proteins. Take a supplement that contains amylase, lipase, and protease. If you are eating processed or cooked foods, take the supplement while you are eating. Otherwise, take the supplement after the meal.
• Amylase: breaks down starches into simple sugars. Amylase is produced in your pancreas and salivary glands, and can also be ingested in breads. It reduces arteriosclerotic plaques, which can decrease your risk of coronary heart disease.
• Lipase: breaks down fats, particularly triglycerides. Lipase is secreted by the pancreas and helps protect you against coronary heart disease.
• Protease: breaks down proteins into smaller proteins or amino acids so they can be absorbed by the intestine. Protease is produced in your pancreas and stomach, and can be ingested in milk. It is thought to reduce both the pain and risk of certain cancers. Bromelain is one type of protease that contains several other substances as well. It is found in pineapples and is helpful in treating a variety of health disorders.
Food sources of Enzymes
Because even moderate heat can destroy enzymes, it is recommended to eat these foods raw – avocados, bananas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mangos, papaya, pineapple and wheatgrass.