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Digestive Enzymes: Why You've Got All You Need



That heating destroys digestive Enzymes is often one of the major justifications given for a raw food diet, but the argument just doesn't hold water.

There are certainly enzymes in uncooked food, and those enzymes are certainly destroyed by the cooking process. Overall, cooking destroys a lot of the nutrients in food, denatures protein, and generally wreaks havoc, so it certainly makes sense to avoid cooked food.

But the enzymes in raw food that are destroyed by heat are not the same enzymes that digest a food. That raw foodists continue to harp about enzymes just succeeds in making the raw food diet look ridiculous in the eyes of anyone who studies how the body works.

Digestive Enzymes:

Not All Enzymes Are Created Equal


Enzymes are proteins that function as catalysts, starting chemical reactions without being altered in those processes themselves. In food, plants, the soil in your garden, and every living creature there are countless thousands of chemical reactions that get their start with an enzyme.

In our body, there are 20 identified digestive enzymes responsible for catalyzing the digestion of proteins, fats, and various types of carbohydrates. These are manufactured in the body, and do not come from the foods we're digesting. Despite what raw foodists may say, no one has ever shown there to be a limited supply of them.

Digestive Enzymes Demo

How well we digest any given type of food is at least partially dependent on the quantities and types of enzymes the body is capable of producing.

Humanity descended from fruit-eating anthropoids, but our species lefts its original fruit-abundant tropical home behind for a wider variety of terrains. Consequently, through many years of evolution, we began to adapt to our new diets by gaining the ability to produce greater quantities of certain types of digestive enzymes.

Starch, for instance, relies on a type of digestive enzyme called amylase.

Although our digestion is still primed for eating fruit, we now have roughly three times the salivary amylase levels of our close genetic relatives, the chimps, which never stopped eating fruit as their primary calorie source (1). 

Yet when we compare ourselves to the true starch eaters, such as pigs, who dig in the ground for starchy tubers and roots, we only have a small fraction of their amylase production capability.

So understanding digestive enzymes can shed some light on the type of food we're equipped to eat. 

But Aren't There Enzymes In The Food I'm Eating?


Yes, there are plenty of enzymes in your sunflower seeds, lettuce, and mangoes, but they do not digest the food they're in.

If a food contained digestive enzymes, they would start digesting themselves while they sat on your counter. Now your mango may go from unripe to ripe to moldy through chemical processes that do involve enzymes, but none of these can be called digestion.


Every cell of every living thing makes enzymes for its own activities, including humans. Our glands produce enzymes for the digestive tract  After we've eaten them, the enzymes in plants do not go into a reserve supply of enzymes or enhance our bodies in any way. The enzymes in plants are present to serve the plant, not us, the creature that is eating it. Plant enzymes get digested with the food and go on to serve us as nutrients.
 

Digestive Enzymes:

But What About Soaked Nuts and Seeds?


Digestive Enzymes FruitYou might hear that soaking a nut or seed makes it more digestible. Sometimes people talk about removing enzyme inhibitors through soaking as if this process helps digestion. So does it?

Once your sunflower seed is soaked, what happens? Does it begin to digest itself, a catabolic process of breaking something down into simpler parts? No, it begins to engage in an anabolic process of forming a new, more complex structure - a plant. Once soaked, the seed begins the process of sprouting.

Sure, a soaked seed is more digestible than a dry one because seeds and nuts are almost always dehydrated from their natural state when you find them in the store. If you harvest fresh nuts from a tree, you'll likely be surprised by how wet most of them are. When you eat a soaked nut, the body has to expend energy and water to digest it, which is why dried nuts might make you thirsty.

What Digestive Enzymes Can Tells Us About Our Eating Habits


So if the enzymes in raw food don't really matter in digestion, can we supplement the ones we produce in some other way to help our stomachs out?

A number of enzyme supplements on the market promise improved digestion. Beano is one example, providing us with the enzyme alpha galactosidase, which breaks down the oligosaccharides and polysaccharides found in beans and various cruciferous vegetables.

Digestive Enzymes BeanoWe lack the enzymes needed to properly break down these complex sugars, and they will usually pass through the small intestines undigested. When they reach the large intestine they will begin to rot, fermenting to produce the gas and uncomfortable bloating that inappropriate food choices bring about.

There are plenty of other enzyme supplements on the market promising to improve our ability to digest fats, milk, and just about anything else. Many of them will indeed help you escape the unpleasant side effects of eating inappropriate food. But should we?

Just as supplementing cannot make up for a lack of nutrients in your diet and often brings on disease, using enzyme supplements cannot undue the damage brought on by eating foods that do not match out biological needs.

Taking lactase enzyme pills will indeed reduce the discomfort of eating dairy, but it cannot replace the fact that man was not meant to consume milk after weaning, and that dairy causes cancer and osteoporosis.

You might be able to digest fats better with certain enzyme supplements, but that won't stop you from developing type two diabetes and the many other diseases brought on by a high-fat diet.

Like medicinal drugs, enzyme supplements do not remove the cause of the disease, but rather allow us to escape the symptoms brought on by those causes. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can get away with anything.

You do not need any supplement pills to digest man's natural food - fruits and leafy green vegetables. We digest them with ease and don't need any help.

So stick to the foods that bring us health and vitality and stop worrying about enzymes.

Digestive Enzymes: Following Up


Learn how our natural digestive enzymes work with proper food combining to make for easy digestion.

Get on a healthy raw food diet that won't bother your stomach.



References

1) Perry GH, Dominy NJ, Claw KG, Lee AS, et al. Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation. Nat Genet. 2007 Oct;39(10):1256-60. Epub 2007 Sep 9.


 



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