what enzymes do to make food digestible . . . part 4

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?

Good one.   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 Howell writes about show 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 when used in in vitro experiments (outside the body).   A Journal of Nutrition-published study at Northwestern 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 (more on that later).

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, that 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 as possible.

Tomorrow, raw meat and dairy.   After that, I’ll address whether you should take a digestive enzyme.

what enzymes do to make food digestible . . . part 3

We don’t think of our stomach as being two-chambered, but Howell goes to lengths to document all the experts and studies (including Gray’s Anatomy) saying that it does, in fact, have two distinct parts.   And in the upper stomach, or “food enzyme stomach,” gastric juices are not released, and peristalsis is not yet churning the food.   Most nutritionists don’t know this.   But that’s where the digestive enzymes inherent in raw foods do their work for about 30-60 minutes before the lower stomach opens and stomach acid must begin to work.   If the food is cooked, it sits there doing nothing, with any bacteria you swallowed with it getting a foothold.   Or, the predigestion that can take place there only with raw food makes the draw on the body’s supply much less when that food continues on through the digestive tract.

 

Think of a snake, for instance, who eats a rat.   That rat is so large that it can’t enter the snake’s stomach for some time to be broken down by stomach acids, until the natural enzymes that came inside the rat break it down.   The healthy ancient meat eaters of various cultures ate not just meat and dairy products, but fermented products–foods that are broken down into component parts by live food enzymes.   Some bizarre examples are Eskimos who eat the contents of a caribou’s stomach (and a number of other putrefied foods) as a “salad,” and Indians of the Amazon River basin, who chew boiled yucca, spit it into jars, and let it ferment with the amylase enzyme in saliva.   This food is their main nourishment, with the average person drinking a gallon a day!

 

Because of the terrible draw on our enzyme processes when we don’t supply exogenous food enzymes, all metabolic activity is affected.   Consequently we have dental cavities, baldness, thinning hair, and breaking nails, allergies, acne, headaches, constipation, cancer, energy problems, and so many more diseases.   Animals in the wild simply don’t have the hundreds (thousands?) of diseases that modern man does as a result of destroying the enzymes in our food.   Even the “healthy” among us tend to have many of the smaller ailments that no animal eating raw food in the wild has.   Dr. Howell says that the idea that “nature cures” we’re all familiar with can refer only to metabolic enzyme activity, because “there is no other mechanism in the body to cure anything.”

 

In 1943, Northwestern University established the Law of Adaptive Secretion of Digestive Enzymes through experiments on rats.   Dozens of other research teams later strengthened this law’s premise with similar findings.   Researchers studied the amount of digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas.   What researchers found was that an organism values its enzymes highly: it will make no more than are needed for the job.   So, if raw food containing exogenous enzymes are provided, the body has to manufacture very little, leaving its resources and energy well allocated to metabolic processes.

Many studies from the first half of the 1900’s prove that when an animal eats lots of starch, amylase is primarily produced.   A meat-eating animal is found to produce mostly protease.   A whale’s stomach has no amylase in it, because a whale eats no carbohydrate.   And people? When we bring in lots of exogenous enzymes in our food, our body produces very little, leaving those capacities free for other metabolic work.   Scientists missed knowing this, and Medicine and even Nutrition, as disciplines, have misunderstood or ignored these discoveries.   By and large, those charged with guiding us to good health have ignored the critical factor of helping us avoid enzyme burnout.

 

Just like people have enlarged livers or enlarged hearts when those organs are heavily taxed, the pancreas becomes enlarged when a body is fed lots of enzyme-free (cooked or processed) food.   Lab mice eating a cooked, enzyme-free food have a pancreas two to three times heavier than wild mice eating a raw-food natural enzyme diet.

what enzymes do to make food digestible . . . part 2

Howell outlines three types of enzymes we need: digestive enzymes, which digest food, metabolic enzymes, which run every function of our bodies, and food enzymes from raw foods, which start the digestive process.   So what enzymes are involved in digestion?

 

Amylase is the enzyme used to digest carbohydrate, and it is concentrated in saliva.   Protease is the enzyme that digests protein, found in concentration in the stomach.   Lipase digests fats and is manufactured by the pancreas (along with additional amounts of amylase and protease).

 

Exogenous food enzymes (from the outside–raw food or enzyme supplements) are critical because you need your endogenous enzyme activity (manufactured by the pancreas) to be allocated to metabolic processes.   When your body has to produce concentrated digestive enzymes because your food didn’t arrive with its own live enzymes, you’re guilty of forcing your precious enzyme activity to do the labor of digestion while also expecting it to metabolize well.   Results include all the disease effects of using up limited resources in the wrong places.

 

What most of us learned in biology classes when we were young isn’t totally accurate.   That is, we were taught that the 3,000 enzymes discovered (and likely many more undiscovered) are catalysts, the sparks that are needed for every action and reaction in the body.  They are, in fact, catalysts–used in chemical activities (in this case, in living beings).   That doesn’t tell the whole story, because that’s not ALL enzymes are.   They have more, biological, functions beyond the neutral, chemical catalyst role.   They contain proteins, and some contain vitamins.   Plus, they do wear out, and are routinely flushed out by the organs of elimination.   And we make a truly fatal mistake believing that we can waste them indiscriminately.

What enzymes do to make food digestible . . . part 1

I’m going to write about the work of Dr. Edward Howell, who spent 20 years writing Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Enzyme Concept.   I confess to reading the 170-page abridgement rather than the 700-page original work with 700 sources.   I’m abridging that book and other sources I’ve read on enzymes so in reading a handful of short, daily blog entries, you’ll understand his work conceptually.   Besides the basic premises behind the research on food enzymes, I’ll tackle

n           whether enzymes can survive the acidic pH of the stomach

n           whether raw meat/dairy with all their enzymes are good food, and

n           whether you should take digestive enzymes

 

Howell’s book is one of the authorities on the subject, an early pioneer.   Other good reads are Enzymes: The Fountain of Life by Lopez, Williams, and Miehlki, and Enzyme and Enzyme Therapy by Anthony Cichoke.   Another enzyme enthusiast has briefly reviewed the major books here: http://www.enzymestuff.com/resourcesbooks.htm.   After this blog series, I’m going to summarize a handful of studies on the benefits of raw foods, whose foremost benefits are live enzymes.

 

You can’t read GSG.com or 12 Steps to Whole Foods for long without understanding that I believe LACK OF LIVE ENZYMES to be the biggest deficit in the U.S. (or Western) diet.   That is, we are eating so much dead food, which we are not designed to do, and it’s leading to all the degenerative diseases of our day–autoimmune, cancer, heart problems, and more.   Howell says that disease started when man discovered fire and began killing food enzymes with it.

 

The critical law of biology that Howell explains is that when we require our body to manufacture enzymes to simply digest our food, by eating food without its own enzymes, we are robbing more important needs for enzyme activity in metabolic processes.   That’s every single transaction that takes place in every organ.   And the result of stealing enzymes from where they belong is cell damage, burnout, aging . . . and early death.   This phenomena of burning out our natural resources manifests itself as disease.   And all this is ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE.

The Essential GreenSmoothieGirl Library . . . part 5

These are the last three of my general nutrition Top Shelf. (Then we go on to the best books about CLEANSING, the best books for PARENTS, and the best books on VEGETABLE GARDENING.)   Again, if you want to buy the book, click on it for a link to Amazon.

 

Steven Arlin’s Raw Power, for anyone who wants to build muscle mass or compete athletically  not eating animal flesh or dairy products.   I’m just a girl, not a true bodybuilder, but I love weight training, and this book long ago helped me  hold my own, strength-wise, with much-younger, carnivorous weightlifting friends.   Arlin has eaten a 100% raw vegan diet for 20 years and would be the biggest guy in most gyms’ free-weight rooms.   His recipes are interesting and unique. (p.s. Those of you blogging here recently about men who need to gain weight, Arlin eats a lot of raw olives, as well as avocadoes, nuts, and coconut.)

   

William Dufty’s The Sugar Blues was written in the 1950’s in a very provocative and engaging style.   This seminal book is your chance to get up the motivation to kick the sugar habit.   As many nutrition authors have stated, sugar is killing us.   And it’s more addictive than cocaine.   (I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, am I?)   Even more fascinating is Dufty’s claim that the sugar industry sabotaged his efforts to publish his expose.  

 

Dr. Edward Howell’s Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Enzyme Concept is a 162-page abridgement of this medical doctor’s lifelong work that originally culminated in a 700-page book with 700 references.   It is an old book, published in 1985, reviewing all the scientific literature from the beginning of the 20th century pointing to enzymes being the most critical element that our diet is now deficient in, as we have strayed from raw foods.   It draws conclusions and postulates scientific theory long before the recent raw-food movement gained any traction. (I am going to do a blog series shortly on what we learn from the studies done on ENZYMES.)

What about OXALATES in spinach?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Some people think you should lightly cook your spinach and other greens before eating them. Is it safe to eat them raw?

Answer: This is an excerpt from Ch. 1 of my e-book, 12 Steps to Whole Foods.   It is both safe and good to eat spinach raw, which I have done every day for 15 years. Cooking, by any method, kills 100% of the greens’ enzymes.

A popular and growing theory and opinion among those interested in nutrition is that greens (especially spinach) are high in oxalates and should be avoided because oxalates cause kidney stones or gallbladder problems, since oxalates may interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.   Another popular opinion is that cooking spinach renders the oxalates harmless.

In fact, a review of the peer-reviewed research reveals that the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is small and does not outweigh the ability of those foods to contribute significant calcium to the diet, since spinach is rich in calcium.   A few rare health conditions require oxalate restriction: absorptive hypercalciuria type II, enteric hyperoxaluria, and primary hyperoxaluria.  These are not the more common condition wherein kidney stones are formed.   The research is not clear that restricting foods such as spinach helps prevent stones in those who have previously had them. Many researchers believe that dietary restriction cannot reduce risk of stone formation.   In fact, some foods that were assumed to increase stone formation because of oxalate content (like black tea) have appeared in more recent research to have a preventative effect.

Further, cooking has a small impact (about 10 percent) on the oxalate content of foods, with no statistically significant lowering of oxalates following blanching or boiling of greens.   It appears that the nutritional advantages of eating raw greens continue to far outweigh any benefit of cooking them.

Two other classes of nutritional compounds, purines and goitrogens, are found in some leafy greens such as spinach.   Eating “excessive” amounts of spinach or cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower, for instance) containing these compounds can be a problem for people who suffer with gout, kidney stones, or low thyroid hormone production.   These chemical compounds are also found in peanuts, strawberries, soy products, and other foods as well.   Lightly steaming these foods may help, as well.   However, the literature seems to support that a few weekly servings of these foods is a good idea for almost everyone.