Enzymes Make Life Possible

Enzymes are proteins that do work and behave like little “time machines” speeding the normal process of deterioration or generation. They speed the rate at which equilibrium is achieved without expenditure of energy or being consumed in the process. Enzymes facilitate chemical reactions, yet they do not cause anything to occur that doesn’t spontaneously. Like “the hands of God” they hold the molecules so they are more likely to fall apart or attach together.

A typical mammalian cell synthesizes more than 10,000 different proteins, a major portion of which are enzymes (BTW this all occurs in cell less than 0.1mm in diameter)

Enzymes are polypeptide chains comprised of twenty different amino acids much like a freight train’s different railcars. Think about a train where each car has a single letter on it’s left side (looking forward you’d see the front of the rail car with it’s nitrogen group coupling to the next car’s carbon group and you start to see the design). Now, if a sentence, paragraph or chapter is to be written there isn’t much room for spelling errors, is there? Perhaps one or two, fairly precise stuff. Also, Consider that if these railcars (amino acids) occurred randomly that the side with the letter on it would have a fifty per cent chance of winding up on the right side and fifty per cent on the left. In nature, only left handed amino acids exist in proteins (natural trains of amino acids), what do you think the chances of that are? On a larger scale compare your left and right hand.

Imagine if you submerged a train into water; you’d expect some railcars to float better than others while some may easily inter-digitate and still others may repel each other creating a unique three dimensional structure. This is the way enzymes work in our body’s aqueous space. Simply amazing. What follows seems hard to believe – an intact molecule (a protein, fat or carbohydrate) will insert into a space custom-made to accommodate it in a given enzyme which then holds it in such a way as to let a chemical bond break without the any input of energy (heat, pressure, acid, base or light). This contrasts to a “catalyst” which itself contributes something to the reaction.

For frame of reference, chemical engineers use extreme temperatures and pressures to “crack” these same chemical bonds in industrial applications. Now I don’t know about you but that seems like one heck of an engineering feat to do these same reactions at body temperature and sea level pressures (which makes me look for a “designer” and not think about some random event and the math agrees). One enzymes may have hundreds of amino acids in its makeup and a single error means almost certain failure.

Another side note, I read where scientists have calculated that it would take 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years (a billion, billion, billion or 27 zeros after the 1) for a twenty amino acid stretch of protein to occur by random, which is quite a few years longer than the 4.5 billion years that modern science estimates the planet has been in existence; this of course doesn’t entertain the “handedness” problem we’ve already spoke of. 

Enzymes tend to work as teams; they can break down or build up, they can repair, double check and survey for damage. For example, there are three distinct enzymes that constantly monitor our DNA for mutations and then repair them as necessary. For power production glucose is quickly broken down to release the energy stored in its molecular structure using enzymes; glucose would break down spontaneously in a thousand years into carbon dioxide and water, however with a series of 10-15 enzymes it occurs in milliseconds releasing the energy stored which is used to fuel our molecular machinery (This is done at 98.6 degrees!). There are something like 2,700 enzyme systems at work in our bodies making life possible.

Digestive enzymes are different in that the “target” (food) is a moving one, and highly varied where the “window of opportunity” may be narrow and unforgiving. If the food eaten doesn’t match the enzyme balance present, mal-absorption and intestinal displeasure result. The amount of fat (oils) present in any meal is the single biggest determinate of the stomach’s emptying time because the pyloric sphincter (or the exit valve of the stomach) only lets through a certain amount of fat into the small intestine at a time. If there isn’t sufficient fat sequestering bile present to bring the fat out of the way (not an enzyme but more like Dawn dishwashing detergent it makes fat water dissolvable, it’s made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder) and lipases (an enzyme made by the pancreas; it breaks down triglycerides into their component fatty acids like saturated fats or EFA’s and glycerol, an alcohol sugar) there will be a significant delay in stomach emptying.

Meanwhile, the stomach is producing acid (hydrochloric acid) and digestive enzymes (that work at this acidic pH) to breakdown protein and kill microbes while the valve between the esophagus and the stomach (the lower esophageal sphincter) is working hard to keep the digestive chyme from “backing up” into the esophagus. Again balance is imperative because the muscles of the stomach flex and wrench its contents, mixing, compressing, churning to mechanically break down the food while enzymes and acid work chemically toward the same goal. To see this in action is an amazing sight.

Understandably, often times when people have heart-burn, it’s actually too little acid (not too much) which results in a delay in protein breakdown chemically; then fatigue sets in these muscle fibers because transit time is increased due to a “lazy chemical work force” or insufficient acid supply. The end result is regurgitation of stomach acid into the unprotected esophagus – Heartburn or GERD. 

A low sodium diet will result in the inability to produce sufficient quantities of hydrochloric acid (here I’ll remind you that sodium alone has no bearing on high blood pressure , what is important is the balance of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, learn about it). If the balance of enzymes and other digestive components are off by just 10% significant problems in the assimilation/digestion process occur.

The pancreas produces enzymes that break down protein, carbohydrates or starches and fats (proteases, amylases and lipases, respectively). Once in the small intestine these enzymes go to work. It is important to note that the acidity of the stomach is neutralized by pancreatic secretions and subsequently the pH is higher (or relative acidity, where neutral is 7, stomach acid is 1 and the normal body fluids are 7.4, slightly alkaline). It is this higher pH that these enzymes work best.

Changing dietary habits or dietary supplementation can escalate or even precipitate mal-absorption symptoms (belching, bloating, upset stomach and/or diarrhea) which then signals the need for supplemental enzymes to optimize absorption and utilization of nutrients thereby maximizing the system’s function. Not all digestive enzyme products are equal in activity and effectiveness. Some of the commercially available “enteric coated” prescription products are actually inferior in performance to the old fashioned encapsulated variety. 

In mainstream medicine there is a persistent (and incorrect) line of thinking that “enzymes, being protein, cannot survive the acid of the stomach and are (obviously) broken down into their component amino acids and therefore useless” . Studies show better enzyme activity with the non-enteric coated variety. I’ll show you how this could be; think back to times when you’ve tried to mix a powder into a liquid and experienced the formation of little powder filled balls of the proposed solute (called “micelles”). These micelles dissolve easily once in the alkaline duodenum the first segment of the small intestine where the “coated” prescription pills must slowly dissolve (remember it is important for these enzymes to work in a given time frame as well as in a certain length of intestine).

Unfortunately, most medical research today focuses on the next miracle drug while effectively ignoring the sound evidence of what leads to the normal function of various organs, tissues and cells. Certainly there is tremendous need for better drugs, however we must keep our eyes on the big picture; if the “mainstream vision” is short-sighted then we as individuals must seek information both from the past as well as through “new research” even if its just in common sense terms (anecdotal or case studies as opposed to the rigid “double blind model”). Take home message: READ about the needed nutrients, THINK about why you need them and how you can successfully get them, and TAKE A PRO-ACTIVE STANCE in your pursuit of heath, vitality, and longevity.

There are many products to chose from; so let’s look at a sample label of a multi-enzyme product: 

*Betaine (as Betaine HCI) (from beets and molasses) 200mg
Pancreatin 4X 200mg
Supplying: Amylase 20,000 USP units
Protease 20,000 USP units
Lipase3,400 USP units
Papain (2M USP units/mg) 50mg
Cellulase (1M FCC units/g) 10mg
*Ox Bile Extract (45% Cholic Acid) 100mg
Pepsin Enzymes (NF 1:10M units) 50mg
Bromelain (2400 GDU)(from pineapple) 50mg
Papaya Powder 45mg

In my experience these two(*) provide needed functions betaine HCL gives extra stomach acid without overdoing and causing upset stomach or dyspepsia. Many people have insufficient acid production which will actually manifest as heart-burn because the food spends too much time in the stomach waiting to be digested; this occurs because the stomach contracts fairly violently relying on the lower esophageal sphincter (muscular valve) to keep the food from refluxing into the esophagus, however fatigue can set in as well as factors like peppermint that will cause relaxation or loosening of the tone. The second component I referred to was oxbile which acts as an emulsifier, sort of like Dawn dishwashing soap, it takes the grease or oil into solution making it easier to absorb working just like our own bile. What limits the emptying of the stomach is how much fat is in the meal; the less, the faster it empties which is why Chinese food leaves you hungry faster than fried chicken. The enzymes do work and yet remain unchanged by the process, but these two work a little differently (they aren’t enzymes) helping to improve function. Betaine Hydrochloride is a source of acid which is consumed or “spent” as it helps break down protein and kill bacteria and yeast/fungus while Oxbile emulsifies fats/oils facilitating their absorption.

Long story short, supplemental digestive enzymes take the metabolic burden off the body which would otherwise have to make them. It’s this sort of relief or lessening of the work load that enables us to get everything done to stay healthy. 

What I’ve found is that almost everyone can benefit from supplemental enzymes and several authorities agree. My own thinking goes like this, by taking enzymes by mouth you’re reducing the work load for the body. The energy that would be spent on enzyme production can be spent elsewhere. Some experts hypothesize that we can add twenty years to our lives by supplementing with digestive enzymes.

Remember many “allergies” are actually an intolerance to incomplete food breakdown with resultant immune system false alarms. Mainstream doctors refer to allergies as an immune over-reaction or sensitivity on the cellular level where “holistic” doctors refer to the symptoms caring little about the “theoretical” immune dysfunction. However this is where both approaches tend to go astray. 

Doctors (MD’s) insist on blaming the normal environment (which may not affect an individual for thirty years). They use immunotherapy (or allergy shots) to subtly challenge the system with an offending agent to “de-sensitize” you and your body (this rarely works long term, in effect they are teasing the system) or pharmacology or medication to blunt a supposedly “aberrant” or un-natural activity. Nutrition is barely discussed, but logically it is changes in the body’s make up that result in these “allergies. Whether it is losing the ability to extract needed supplies or just the lack of necessary nutrients in our foods themselves . Evidence of this comes two-fold; some people suffering with “allergies” will have spontaneous recovery when placed on a proper dietary regimen, while others need the addition of supplemental enzymes as well, or as a solitary improvement. 

“Holistic” providers have tendency to villianize particular foods or environmental factors which has a similar effect, avoiding the real issue of proper nutrition and digestion. Wheat’s gluten and dairy’s casein are both examples of proteins that are difficult to breakdown without sufficient stomach acid. Many people can take digestive enzymes and these “allergies” disappear. By focusing on the “normal”, we are more likely to achieve the optimal.

Actual hyper-sensitivities do exist, but they are not as common as we are led to believe. Of note here, only four animal species experience anaphylaxis or life threatening allergic reactions; and believe it or not these are the four species that cannot manufacture their own vitamin C! These four species also have the dubious distinction of being the only ones who get heart disease. Linus Pauling discusses this very point in his book HOW TO FEEL BETTER AND LIVE LONGER.

One final note, the value of “juicing” or taking dehydrated vegetable or fruit juice capsules is largely due to the enzymes as well as the vitamins released from the “produce” in the process. The reliance on plants of today for minerals is a dangerous one. The term “organic” implies natural but only indicates the lack of insecticide usage, not the use of natural fertilizer such as humic shale. The mineral depletion due to modern farming techniques in particular the use of NPK fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Not only do most “modern” vegetables lack minerals they have also been shown to contain fewer vitamins which explains the need for stronger chemicals to protect them from insects and disease. (See my post from June 18th – a report on the state of our nations soil; it’s from 1936). Don’t leave your health to chance, do your home work.

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