Over the years, over 2000 enzymes have been discovered and every single one with its own chemical reaction. Enzymes are proteins and similar to other proteins; they are made of amino acids. They are critical for the metabolic process and have different functions and a unique ability to ease biochemical reactions without going through changes themselves. They convert food into energy, and unlock the energy resulted into the body. Although they can’t be seen, they’re indespensable and powerful, and can have a profound impact on the health such as improving immune system and blood functioning.
Enzymes are present in all living animals and plants
We eat food, but our digestive system doesn’t absorb food, it absorbs nutrients. The human body makes approximately 22 different digestive enzymes which are capable of digesting carbohydrates, protein and fats. Enzymes are present in all living animals (including humans) and plant cells. They are complex proteins that act as catalysts (primary motivator) in almost every biochemical process that takes place in the body .
Enzymes do not work alone
Enzyme activity depends on the presence of adequate vitamins and minerals to accomplish their tasks. Many enzymes incorporate molecule(s) of a trace mineral —such as copper, iron or zinc for it to function — without which the enzyme cannot function. These elements are called "coenzymes.". One of the coenzyme you would probably know is CoQ10.
All enzymes have some important properties
- They are all proteins, which is one reason why we need protein in our diet.
- They are all biological catalysts. They speed up a reaction without being used up; this means they can be used over and over again.
- A small amount of enzyme can effect the change of a large amount of chemical.
- The way enzymes work is affected by temperature, pH and pressure. They can be denatured (destroyed) by excessive heat.
- The reactions are reversible.
- Enzymes are specific that is they control only one reaction. So maltase only acts on maltose, sucrase on sucrose etc.
There are 3 broad classes of enzymes: Metabolic, digestive and food enzymes
- Metabolic- made within the human body for various cell functions
- Digestive- which are produced by the body for digestion
- Food enzymes- which are found in certain types of foods
1. Metabolic enzymes
Metabolic enzymes are intra-cellular (meaning, inside your cells), produced by the body to help the cells carry out a variety of functions and complex biochemical reactions related to its multiplication and replenishment. Examples of activities performed includes breathing, talking, moving, thinking, breathing and maintenance of the immune system. Another important function of the enzyme is to neutralize poisons and carcinogens such as pollutants and tobacco smoke, changing them into less toxic forms that the body can eliminate. Every tissue, organ and all other trillion cells within the human body depend on the metabolic reaction of enzymes with their corresponding energy factor. Metabolic enzymes are manufactured by the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and additional organs. The pancreas produces most of these metabolic enzymes as well as digestive enzymes.
2. Digestive enzymes
Their main attribute it to convert food into nutrients; which are taken in by the bloodstream.
The digestive enzymes, are produced by the body to break food substances into forms that can be absorbed and assimilated by the body. These are the enzymes primarily manufactured in the pancreas and intestine and to a lesser extent in the salivary glands and the stomach. In the digestive system enzymes break down large insoluble molecules (e.g. starch, proteins and fats) into small soluble molecules that can be absorbed into the blood from the small intestines.The main digestive enzymes are as listed below:
salivary glands, pancreas, small intestine
Converts starch to sugars in the mouth and small intestine
stomach, pancreas, small intestine
Converts protein to amino acids in the stomach and small intestine.
pancreas, small intestine
Converts lipids (fats and oils) to fatty acids and glycerol in the small intestine
If we don’t have enough digestive enzymes, we can’t break down our food—which means even though we’re eating well, we aren’t absorbing all that good nutrition.
Other important enzymes are:
Maltase - Converting complex sugars from grains into glucose
Lactase - Digesting milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products
Phytase - Helps with overall digestion, especially in producing the B vitamins
Sucrase - Digesting most sugars
And many more which are not highlighted here.
There are around 45 important nutrients that are needed by the body. Without these 45 nutrients, the body cannot function properly and people must get them from outside sources. Nutrients, enzymes included, cooperate with each other and they act like catalysts; thus, they promote assimilation and absorption.
Did you know that 90 percent of your digestion and absorption takes place in your small intestine?
3. Food enzymes
Food enzymes are ingested by the body through the raw food that we eat daily. When ingested, foods that contain enzymes provide us with digestive enzymes, elementary for our digestion.
Food enzymes are those found in raw food; of both plant and animal origin. They are important because they can initiate the process of digestion in the mouth and upper stomach before the body’s own digestive process begins. Enzyme rich foods actually "predigest" in your stomach through the action of their own enzymes in a process called autolytic digestion. Before stomach acid enters the process, you can actually break down as much as 75% of your meal. If the enzymes in food are destroyed, it will compromise pre-digestion in the mouth and stomach and your body is forced to compensate by over producing stomach acid and digestive enzymes in the pancreas in an attempt to break down these "dead" food. Therefore, in order to take beneficial enzymes from food, we must avoid high heat and prolong cooking because it destroys the enzyme in the process. Some examples of food enzymes are as per insert.
Enzymes used in the preparation of many different foods
Amylases which are present in yeast are used in brewing and baking to convert sugars into alcohol (including the making of 'tapai') and carbon dioxide.
Proteases are used in tenderising meat. Papaya contain large amounts of the enzyme known as papain which helps to break the peptide bonds of proteins, hydrolyzing them into smaller molecules.
Rennin is essential to create cheese. The function of rennin enzymes is to curdle milk and separate it into semi-solid curds and liquid whey.
Raw pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain. Besides contributing to the digestion of proteins, bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant.
While all raw foods contain enzymes, the most powerful enzyme-rich foods are those that are sprouted (from seeds and legumes) of many different types of grains. Sprouting increases the enzyme content in these foods tremendously. Sprouts are the most concentrated with active enzymes when they are germinated. Germination requires soaking the seeds in water to allow them to sprout. Once activated, the live enzymes are potent health-promoting factors for proper digestion and overall wellness.
Note: Raw, unsprouted seeds and nuts contain enzymes in their “dormant” state. To activate the enzymes in seeds and nuts, they must be soaked in water for a period of time.
Nuts and seeds contain lipase, the enzyme that breaks down lipids or fats. Triglyceride fats are hydrolyzed to break the ester bonds, creating fatty acids and glycerol.
Other enzyme rich foods include mango, kiwi, avocado, raw honey, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and raw meat .
Enzymes are heat and pH sensitive
All food enzymes are deactivated at a wet-heat temperature of 1180 F (480 C) and a dry-heat temperature of about 1500 F (660 C). For this reason, food are best eaten raw or low heat to optimise the enzyme activities.
In the body, increasing the temperature increases the rate of the reaction up to a certain temperature. This temperature is known as the enzyme’s optimum temperature. Different enzymes have different optimum temperatures. The enzymes in animal bodies (including human) work best at 37˚C. If the temperature is increased beyond the optimum the enzyme has so much kinetic energy that the bonds holding the enzyme molecule together start to vibrate and eventually break. The enzyme loses its specific shape so that it no longer able to carry out it's function. When this happens we say that the enzyme is denatured.
Enzymes also have an optimum pH too. Different enzymes have different optimum pHs, e.g. pepsin found in the stomach works best at pH 2, which is why the stomach produces hydrochloric acid.
Enzymes in diet
Fermented vegetables are rich in enzymes and probiotics
Raw foods are enzyme-rich, and consuming them decreases your body's burden to produce its own enzymes. The best way to boost up your metabolic enzymes is to provide your whole body with the raw materials and energy it needs to make them.
Almost all traditional societies incorporate raw, enzyme-rich foods into their diet — not only vegetable foods but also raw animal proteins and fats in the form of raw dairy foods, raw meats (Eskimos), and raw fish (Japanese). Their diets also include a certain amount of cultured or fermented foods like miso, kimchi, tairu, jeruk, which has an enzyme content that is actually enhanced by the fermenting and culturing process.
Digestive enzymes (produced in the body) and the food enzymes (found in raw foods), enable us to digest and assimilate the foods that we eat, so that the body can absorb the nutrients and get rid of the waste. A diet composed exclusively of cooked food puts a severe strain on the pancreas, drawing down its reserves which is needed by other functions of the body.
Therefore, to get the life-force energy of foods filled with high enzymatic activities, one must strive to eat raw foods or fermented foods (or supplementation).
Common conditions arising from lack of enzymes from the system
- Lack of energy
In generally, the main benefits of enzymes are detoxification (to carry away waste that is toxic), purify the blood, digest food and deliver nutrients, balance cholesterol, feed the brain and optimise energy availability and production. All these serve to strengthen the immune system and boost your energy level.
Stay away from processed foods which had been refined (such as white flour and white rice), pasteurized (a process in which milk and juice are heated to high temperatures to kill bacteria), homogenized (also seen in milk where the fat in milk is subjected to artificial suspension), or chemically preserved (chemicals are added to food to delay spoilage or to enhance texture or taste) all these processes kills the enzyme.