An excerpt from the FAQ of my new book coming out next month:
Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: How can enzymes and eating raw food be so important when stomach acid would kill any enzymes that came with the food anyway?
A: Good question. Some people think that the low pH of the stomach stops salivary and any other food or supplemental enzymes from working. A number of experiments Dr. Howell writes about show that this is not so. Some enzymes are shown to work actively at two different pH ranges. Another study shows that salivary and supplemental enzymes were re-activated in the alkaline duodenum and lower in the intestine after going through the stomach. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach is not as strong as once thought to be and neither when used in in vitro experiments (outside the body). A Journal of Nutrition-published study at Northwestern University showed 51 percent of amylase from malted barley was intact when passed into the intestine.
Enzymes manufactured by the pancreas of a person or animal are sensitive to pH because they aren’t adapted to anything outside the restrictive confines of the body. But microbial-derived dietary supplement enzymes are very adaptive, since fungus grows in a variety of places and conditions. These enzymes survive the acidity of the lower stomach. These plant-based sources are the digestive enzyme supplements I prefer.
As with so many other things in the human body, we’ve been provided with the ideal environment to digest food. Problems occur when we alter our food instead of giving our body the kind of nutrition we were designed to digest easily, that people used to eat for thousands of years.
Dr. Howell says that we’re born with a finite ability to produce endogenous enzymes, and by middle age, most of that ability is gone. (And he said this 25 years ago, before the modern diet worsened. Some experts make even more dire projections, such as Westerners are burning out enzyme capacity by age 35.) The answer, of course, is to eat as much raw food as possible, and as little cooked or processed food, too.