Enzymes: A secret of Health and Longevity

As set forth in Spiritual Nutrition, The Rainbow Diet and Conscious Eating, whenever we process foods in any way, we disorganize the Subtle Organizing Energy Fields (SOEFs) of the food, and hence, lower the life force. This manifests on the physical plane in a variety of ways. Enzyme destruction is one.

Dr. Howell, whom many consider the father of food enzyme research in the twentieth century, points out that enzymes are not simple chemical catalysts, but have this vital life force that initiates biochemical interactions. Ann Wigmore, the mother of the raw-foods movement in America, says that “enzyme preservation is the secret to health.” Howell taught two key concepts: (1) enzymes are living, biochemical factors that activate and carry out all the biological processes in the body, such as digestion, nerve impulses, the detoxification process, the functioning of RNA/DNA, repairing and healing the body, and even thinking; and (2) the capacity of an organism to make enzymes is exhaustible. Therefore, on the biological level, how we utilize and replenish our enzyme resources will be a measure of our overall health and longevity. By understanding how enzymes work, we will understand why it is best to eat a higher percentage of Mother Nature’s offering “au naturel.” 

There are three broad categories of enzymes: metabolic, which activate all our metabolic processes; digestive, for the digestion of food; and a relatively newly conceived category called food enzymes. Food enzymes are present in all live foods and serve the function of specifically activating the digestion of those foods in which they occur. There are an estimated 50,000 enzymes active in the human organism. Approximately 2700‒3000 enzymes and their functions have been identified. Each organ has its own set of enzymes. Of the 50,000-plus enzymes, about 24 of them are digestive enzymes. The three main types of digestive enzymes are proteases, which digest proteins; amylases, which digest carbohydrates; and lipases, which digest fats. Mother Nature works in conjunction with us by adding what we call from our human-centered point of view “food enzymes” to each living element of nature. These food enzymes have the exact ratio of proteases, amylases, and lipases required to begin the digestion of the food for the body.

Importance of Enzyme Preservation

The relevance of this gift of Mother Nature becomes more obvious when we explore what Dr. Howell called the Law of Adaptive Secretion of Digestive Enzymes. Based on research at Northwestern University and confirmed by many other researchers, the Law of Adaptive Secretion proposes that the living organism will secrete no more enzymes than are needed for digestion of a particular food. 

This means that if a food from Mother Nature comes into our system in its live form, filled with exactly the right proportion of food enzymes to begin digestion, then it will result in less digestive enzymes being secreted by our organism for the digestive process.

The significance of enzyme preservation and the Law of Adaptive Secretion becomes even clearer when we see how much our enzyme level is linked to chronological age and disease. For example, Dr. Meyer and his associates at Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital found that the amylase in the saliva of young adults was thirty times greater than in people with a chronological age of 69. Dr. Eckardt in Germany found that young people had 25 units of amylase in their urine as compared to 14 in older people. Individuals 27 years of age have been found to have twice the amount of lipase as 77-year-old people. A lower enzyme content is also found in people with chronic diseases. In Japanese patients with tuberculosis, 82 % had lower enzyme contents than normal. In patients with liver diseases, all had lower levels of amylase. In diabetes, it has been found that 86% are lower in amylase. Researchers have also found a lowered lipase level in people with obesity, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure. Directly and indirectly, we can see how important enzyme preservation and harmonious utilization are to health and vitality.

Evidence compiled by Dr. Howell strongly suggests that eating foods devoid of enzymes as a result of cooking, food irradiation, and microwaving causes an enlargement of the pancreas and also stresses associated endocrine glands, such as the adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, and testes. In all of nature, the human pancreas is three times larger, as compared to total body weight, than that of any other animal. What is interesting is that when mice are fed cooked foods, the ratio of their pancreas weight to total body weight becomes approximately that of a human’s. When they are switched back to a raw-food diet, their pancreas shrinks back to normal size. The most obvious conclusion is that the pancreas becomes hypertrophied, or enlarged, because it is forced to keep up a high digestive enzyme output.

A great deal of the body energy goes into the process of digestion. Sometimes so much energy is needed for digestion that we tend to become sleepy after a meal. This increased amount of energy implies that a large input of enzymes is used up in the digestive process. Some theorize that in order to keep this enzyme production up, the pancreas has to draw enzymes from other bodily glands. This forces these other glands to overwork and eventually enlarge to compensate for the demand. This hypertrophy primarily starts with the endocrine glands. Hypertrophy of a gland eventually leads to its early exhaustion.

How Do We Preserve Our Enzymes?

Eating raw food is the number-one activity which preserves enzymes and maximizes health. It is the diet of choice of all the rest of Mother Nature’s children that dwell on this planet. Animals that live in the wild do not suffer from chronic degenerative diseases as do humans and domesticated animals. It is a striking fact that all other species, without exception, eat their foods raw, whereas the overwhelming majority of humans do not. When animals are fed cooked foods, they too begin to suffer chronic degenerative diseases.

The foods with the highest amount of live enzymes are biogenic, predigested, and fermented foods. Seeds that have the highest enzyme content are those with a 1⁄4-inch sprout. Some have estimated that the enzyme content is ten times greater at this 1⁄4-inch sprouting stage. In Asia, the idea of fermenting soybeans by exposing them to the enzymatic action of fungal plants has been practiced for thousands of years. The fungal plants not only add enzymes to the food, but predigest the protein, carbohydrates, and oils. Miso, a fermented soybean product, and tempeh, a soy product with a cultured fungus, are examples of this. One can also make enzyme-rich, fermented, raw seed and nut cheeses through a fermentation process.

Fasting is another powerful way to conserve and redirect enzyme potential. During a fast, we stop producing digestive enzymes and the enzyme energy is diverted to the metabolic sphere of operations, which includes an increased rate of autolysis (breakdown of old cells), as well as a breakdown and elimination of fatty deposits, incomplete proteins, and other toxic material in the system. The enzymes become a rejuvenating power for us. Raw- food expert and author of Survival into the 21st Century, Victoras Kulvinskas, suggests that during a fast, our natural body bacteria have an opportunity to add a great deal more of their enzymes to our system and thus increase our total enzyme force. My observation in guiding many individual fasts and running several spiritual fasting retreats per year is that fasting is an incredible way to rejuvenate our total life force and SOEFs. When we fast on water or juices, we are giving a substantial rest to our digestive enzyme systems, and this takes the burden off our enzyme pool.

Not Overeating: The Secret to Health, Longevity, and Enzyme Preservation

Not overeating raw foods is itself another way to conserve enzymes. It is different from an obsessive undereating, which can result in a physical and mental deprivation syndrome. Not overeating is what I call the art of conscious eating. It is learning to take just the right amount of food and drink to support our individual needs on every level of our spiritual and worldly functioning. Researchers have shown that not overeating increases longevity. World-famous nutritionist Paavo Airola, Ph.D., has proclaimed that undereating is the most important health and longevity secret. He believed that overeating of even health foods was one of the main causes of ill health.

Jesus, in The Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One (p. 31), said, And when you eat, never eat unto fullness.

Moses Maimonides (1135‒1204), one of the most celebrated of all Jewish healers and spiritual teachers, taught in his Mishveh Torah:

Overeating is like a deadly poison to any constitution and is the principal cause of all disease.

Animal research by Dr. Clive McKay of Cornell University showed that when food intake was halved, the lifespan of rats was doubled and they were healthier. The rat’s life span increased to the equivalent of approximately 170 human years. At Brown University, animals were overfed and another group was put on a near-starvation diet. Those on the sparse diet lived 40% longer. For those who might be concerned that they have been irreversibly overeating to the detriment of their health, research by Roy Walford and Richard Weindruch showed that one could extend the life of even middle-aged animals by underfeeding them. Some of their mice lived 40% longer, and fish lived three times longer, on a sparse diet. Researchers also noticed that degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart and kidney disease occurred less frequently, and the onset of these diseases occurred at a later age in the underfed mice. These researchers even discovered that the mice’s immune systems were rejuvenated.

From what we now know about the importance of enzyme preservation, not overeating, especially of raw foods, less frequent meals, no snacking between meals, and fasting are effective ways to conserve enzymes and thus build and maintain a high quality of vitality and healthy longevity

Enzyme Supplementation

In addition to eating live foods and not overeating, the use of exogenous enzyme supplementation is another way to build up enzyme reserve. Since 1949, enough research has thoroughly documented that these enzymes are not only active in the digestive system but will increase in concentration in the blood after being taken orally.

Live plant digestive enzymes may be the best source of enzyme supplementation. They seem to be active at a much fuller pH range than animal enzymes. These plant enzymes show some activity in the stomach, especially the enzyme stomach, and become immediately active in the small intestine. One study, reported in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that 70% of plant amylase is active in the small intestine after being ingested orally. Because of these facts, I recommend that people consider using plant digestive enzymes for their digestive supplementation. They are actually concentrated food enzymes from nature. This is welcome news to those who feel they need digestive enzymes but who do not like to eat animal pancreas products taken from slaughterhouses. Because of the versatility of its activity, plant digestive enzyme supplementation can take the stress off the entire digestive enzyme system.

Reasons to Use Enzymes

1. Anyone eating cooked, microwaved, or irradiated food should take food enzyme supplements to compensate for the lost and destroyed naturally occurring food enzymes that were previously in the food. This approach is still not the same as eating the food in its active, live state. Even if a person eats 90% live food, if they still have imbalances in their health, they would do well to take enzyme supplements.

2. Since age correlates with a decreasing enzyme reserve, enzyme supplementation should theoretically slow down the aging process by building up the enzymes and quenching free radicals. For this reason, I now recommend that everyone use enzyme supplementation, including those who are eating 100% live foods. These live food enzymes can be found in any health food store.

3. During acute and chronic illnesses, there is often an enzyme depletion that can be alleviated by enzyme supplementation. In my clinical observations as well as those of others, enzyme supplementation seems to increase the rate of recovery.

4. I have found that people with digestive disturbances, endocrine gland imbalances, blood sugar imbalances, diabetes, obesity, cholesterol excesses, stress-related problems, and arthritic inflammations all seem to benefit from enzyme supplementation. Dr. W.W. Oelgoetz has shown that partially digested fats, protein, and carbohydrate molecules get into the blood system when the blood enzymes become too low. He observed that when he gives clients oral supplements of amylase, lipase, and proteases, the allergies which seem to be associated with these incompletely digested molecules subside. Thus, enzyme supplementation can be a support to the immune system.

5. Enzymes help the detoxification process because they free up more metabolic enzyme energy for this work.

6. Health-promoting use of proteolytic enzymes.

Summary of the Importance of Enzymes

At this point a summary on the importance of enzymes would be helpful. Enzymes contain the power of the life force itself. Eating a live- food diet helps to maintain the quality and quantity of our enzyme pool and therefore maintain our health and longevity. Enzymes are not simply catalysts that make digestion and all metabolic processes work; they are living proteins that direct the life force into our basic biochemical and metabolic processes. They even help repair our DNA and RNA. Enzymes help transform and store energy, make active hormones, participate in their own production cycle, dissolve fibrin and thus prevent clotting, and have anti- inflammatory effects, anti-edematous effects, and even analgesic effects. The research suggests they also balance and enhance the immune system; help to heal cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid diseases, and arthritis; minimize the effect of athletic injuries; decrease injury recovery time; and aid with digestion.

With age, under stress, or after illness, the amount of enzymes decreases in our bodies. Enzymes are critical for our health. As they diminish, our ability to perform the tasks which keep the body healthy also diminishes. Aging happens when enzymes decrease in concentration in the body. Some enzyme researchers and live-food teachers like Ann Wigmore believe that enzyme preservation is the secret to longevity.

One way to preserve the body’s store of enzymes is to eat living or raw foods because foods in their natural state are loaded with digestive and other enzymes. Another way to enhance the enzyme pool is by adding natural digestive enzymes to support digestion and create even less of an enzyme drain on the system. One may also take proteolytic enzymes which break proteins down into free amino acids. These include protease enzymes bromelain, and papain between meals on a regular basis, or certain mixtures of enzymes therapeutically. Over time, I have become more impressed with the effectiveness of adding enzymes to the system as a natural anti- aging, preventive measure and/or for therapeutic reasons. This includes digestive enzymes in general and proteolytic enzymes specifically.

The above article is an excerpt from the book Conscious Eating, by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D