I’ve talked before about the benefits of raw foods such as salads, fresh juices, and sprouted nuts and seeds. Health food pioneers have recommended a diet consisting of as much as 70-percent raw food, mainly for the enzymes contained within. If you don’t eat much raw, uncooked food, enzymes could be the missing link in your diet.
Enzymes are the life force in growing plants, which predigest the food when thoroughly chewed. Scientists describe them as catalysts that initiate chemical reactions or speed processes. These processes can be seen throughout nature. For example, it is enzymes that are at work when fruit ripens or milk is turned into cheese and yogurt. In the body, millions of enzymes are involved in all of the anabolic (building) and catabolic (breaking down) processes that we call metabolism.
It makes good sense to eat enzyme-rich foods to avoid overworking the body’s enzyme-making capacity. The typical American diet of cooked, highly processed, enzyme-depleted foods is believed to contribute to poor health and disease.
The digestive tract has first priority on enzyme production. Food must be digested by enzymes to extract the nutrients that fuel the body. Poor digestion can ultimately weaken your ability to fight disease and result in an overtaxed system. Symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, excessive gas, and general discomfort after meals are signs that you might be lacking in enzymes. For example, people who are lactose intolerant have difficulty digesting dairy products because they do not produce sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase. Digestive enzyme supplements taken with meals can be helpful in preventing digestive disturbances and maximizing nutrient absorption.
There are other important applications for supplemental enzymes too. In Germany, they are commonly used for pain, inflammation, sports injuries, and immune support. For these purposes, systemic proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzymes are taken between meals to “digest” dead tissue and cellular waste products. In the U.S., digestive and systemic enzymes are slated to become part of every health-conscious person’s regimen. Without enzymes, life would not be possible.