John Zapfel, MA
Every living being requires vitamins, minerals and enzymes to survive
Every living being requires vitamins, minerals and enzymes to survive. What's the sense of eating well and taking supplements if your body isn't absorbing the nutrients?
As we age, our body's ability to produce digestive enzymes decreases. By the time we reach puberty, we start to lose 13 percent of our enzyme production every 10 years. Almost every process that takes place in the body requires enzymes, which are also produced in each plant, animal and vegetable cell.
Enzymes are produced within the human body from the foods we eat to help with the digestion process, but most enzymes are destroyed when food is cooked. In human beings, the four basic groups of enzymes are broken into hundreds and thousands of specific enzymes, each designed to take care of one specific step in the metabolic process. For the most part, they help break down food so the cells can be properly nourished. They are the missing link to nutrition. Among their other functions, enzymes break down large food molecules into basic building blocks so the body can use them.
Despite the body's capability of producing and replenishing some enzymes on its own, research has shown that, with years, these enzymes become fewer and weaker. As a result, while there may be enough enzymes to digest food, they may be depleted in other parts of the body. It's similar to a bank account that has withdrawals made until nothing is left. This cellular strain can lead to premature aging. In addition to helping in digestion, enzymes help keep the immune system healthy and functioning at a normal level.
The bottom line is, the more we consume enzyme supplements, the less strain we put on our bodies to produce enzymes to break down the food and supplements we consume. This means more energy for us and our bodies can produce enzymes for the essential metabolic processes necessary for good health.
You might ask, "If I start taking enzyme supplements, will I become dependent upon them?" We are dependent upon exogenous (outside sources of) enzymes our whole life. That's because refining, over-processing and heating foods does not provide them in sufficient quantities.
Knowing the importance of taking enzyme supplements unfortunately is not enough. Animal-derived enzymes only work under a narrow pH range that is relatively alkaline. Animal-derived enzymes will not work in the acidic stomach they will move on to the small intestine, which tends toward being more alkaline and only work there. Unfortunately, when an individual is sick, his pH tends to be more on the acidic side. Therefore animal-derived enzymes won't work at all for this individual.
Plant enzymes work in a much wider pH range and therefore are more effective. Even plant enzymes, however, have a problem surviving the stomach acid produced in the lower part of the stomach and therefore in most cases only work in the upper part.
A good manufacturer of plant-based enzymes will grow their enzymes under specific conditions requiring approximately 100 steps to make the enzymes acid resistant. They will then work in the upper part of the stomach and move on to the lower sections, continuing to break down food even in the presence of stomach acid. Everyone can benefit by adding acid stable plant enzymes to the daily diet. It may be the least expensive, most effective long-term investment you could make in your health.