what enzymes do to make food digestible . . . part 6

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: Which enzyme supplement should I take?

 

If you’re going to eat at least some of your meals that are partially or fully cooked or processed, please always take 1 or 2 capsules of digestive enzymes first.   If you read my site, blog, or book, you know I am generally skeptical of eating pills, period.   I believe synthetic supplementation is massively inferior to the complex way that nature designed food to give us just the right ratios in the most natural, easily assimilated way possible.

 

Digestive enzymes, however, are a necessity if you’re not planning to buck modern culture altogether and eat a mostly-raw diet every meal, every day.   I know of no controversy about taking enzyme supplements, because so many studies have shown their effectiveness.   I recommend having them in your purse or wallet at all times, as well as in your kitchen.

 

Enzyme supplements come from animals, plants, or microorganisms.   Supplements made from animal pancreas extracts become inactive when hydrochloric acid enters the lower stomach.   They aren’t particularly adapted, since they operate in the controlled internal environment.   Microbial enzymes, on the other hand, are active at pH as low as 2.0 and as high as 10.0. Microorganisms use their enzymes to break down the plant material they grow on, and since fungus can grow in a variety of places, fungi have very adaptable enzymes.   Manufacturers coat pancreatic enzymes for acid resistance, with chemical coatings I don’t trust.   So I much prefer plant-based or microbial enzymes.

 

I don’t advocate for lots of supplements, fractionated and processed far from the holistic packages we get in whole plant foods.   I believe nature provided well for us.   The two supplements I do believe in taking on a regular basis are DIGESTIVE ENZYMES and a good PROBIOTIC (to heal and nourish the gut and guard against takeovers by bad bacteria).

 

Look for microbial or plant-based enzyme supplements. (And no, I don’t have a brand I know to be superior to others to recommend to you.   I am still researching.)

 

Take one capsule at the beginning of a meal that is 50-70% raw.   Take two capsules if your meal is less than 50% raw.   If you forget at the beginning of the meal, take your enzymes in the middle or even at the end of the meal.   They work on contact!

foods that help digestion . . . part 5

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:   What are foods that help digestion? Some raw foodists eat raw meat.   Raw meat and milk have enzymes, so aren’t they good foods?

Answer:   We’ll leave the Oxford/Cornell China Project out of this discussion, which shows that animal protein causes many diseases.   (The primary author of that pivotal study, Dr. Campbell, told me he did not study predigested or fermented milk products, such as kefir or yogurt.)   Raw milk has over 35 enzymes.   If you’re going to use dairy products or milk, raw certainly has those many advantages over pasteurized.   One very old study showed the highest morbidity (death) rate in newborns drinking pasteurized cow milk, a much improved rate for those drinking raw milk, and higher still for those who were fortunate to be breastfed by their mothers.

However, you run many bacterial risks with the way milk and meat will be raised, handled, and transported to you.   Meat in particular is troublesome, and I would not recommend eating it raw, even if you go to all the trouble of finding truly range-fed, organic chickens or beef.   The shockingly lax U.S. standards for poultry allow virtually anything to be legally given labels like “natural” and “range fed.”   We can obtain live enzymes through plant food, much more safely.

That said, I believe much evidence shows kefir or yogurt to be an excellent food with its natural probiotics.   If you can find a source you trust of raw milk, and can obtain kefir grains, you can use the raw milk and predigest the casein proteins with the action of the live kefir grains.   Raw goat milk is preferable to cow milk, with its smaller fat molecule that is not mucous forming like cow milk is.   (Vegans can make kefir with coconut liquid.)

I’m visiting my grampa in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, for the rest of the week and may be offline.   (He is in a home, and I am flying out with my aunt.)   After that I’ll talk about what enzymes supplements to take.   Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

defending that my diet’s not all raw

I read the raw foodists all the time (Patenaude, Wolfe, Boutenko, and lots more).   I think their diet is fantastic.   Sometimes I go all raw, for a few days, weeks, or even months.   I wouldn’t criticize anybody for a minute who wants to do it permanently, as some of my friends do–they all enjoy excellent health.

 

So why don’t I eat 100% raw and promote it on my site?   I thought I’d lay out my defense of NOT being all raw.

 

  1. Yes, when man discovered fire and begin to cook his food, he altered it for the worse, killing the life force in the food.  But I think we’ve adapted biologically to thousands of years of eating whole, cooked plant foods, eaten as part of a diet containing lots of raw plant food.   I think 60-80 percent is usually enough to provide outstanding disease prevention and an ideal weight.   EVERY meal and snack should contain raw plant food.   What we’re NOT adapted to is cooked, REFINED foods or a diet heavy in cooked food.    
  2. I think that grains and legumes are good food.   They’ve been used for thousands of years by most of the populations of the world.   They provide good energy in the form of both carbs and protein, and the perfect amount of fat (which is to say, not very much).   Hundreds of studies say they prevent disease.
  3. Most people can’t afford to eat 100% raw.   Boutenko said several years ago that her family of 4 spends $1350 monthly ($45/day).   Because I feed my family highly inexpensive whole foods in the form of legumes and grains, I spend $800/mo. to feed 50% more people than Boutenko does.   In summary, my program is very do-able financially.
  4. It’s very hard to feed kids, especially teenagers, an all-raw diet.   Without grains and legumes to give them higher calories and faster food to prepare, moms can really burn out and teenagers get surly and . . . downright hungry.   I have tried it.   It’s really hard (nigh unto impossible) to feed a house full of competitive athletes and teenagers all raw.  
  5. On the other hand, it’s not very hard to eat 60-80% raw, at least after completing a learning curve (my 12 Steps to Whole Foods program is the learning curve, as I experienced it, flattened out for my readers to skip all the rabbit holes I chased down that were a waste of time).   It is, however, nearly a quantum leap, I’ve found, to go from 80% to 100%.   It’s like the effort differential between getting a B+/A- in college, and getting an A.   That difference is MUCH bigger than the difference in your effort, for instance, between getting a C and a C+.   A 60-80% diet is achievable for anyone, allowing for social events not to become a stress and excellent health to be achieved.

So don’t get me wrong: I love the raw movement.   But Boutenko writes about people going 100% raw and then swinging to almost no raw, back and forth.   I never eat no raw–always, always 60-80 percent, even while traveling.   (You can get salads almost anywhere.)

And I think that’s the most important thing: to be consistent about eating well, and keep your “raw” above 60 percent every day and always as high as you can, so you are providing lots of enzymes and not taxing and aging your organs.   I also recommend having periods of eating as simply and as close to 100% raw as you can–like a “detox week.”

The Essential GreenSmoothieGirl Library . . . part 6

If you want to do a colon cleanse, here is one of my favorite books on that topic, with a link to Amazon to buy it.

Bernard Jensen’s “Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care: A Complete Program for Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management” is a must-read for anyone willing to face his claim that the average person is carrying 10 lbs. of impacted fecal material.

The last 25 pages are color photos of what those who undergo a colon cleanse actually eliminate, and I am warning you that it may turn your stomach. However, it may also be just the motivation you need to get rid of it. Great information is in this book from an early pioneer in health, healing, nutrition, and cleansing. Dr. Jensen is a man who lived, well into his 90’s, what he preached.