In both The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods — and for many years here on the blog — I’ve discussed the importance of enzymes. Today’s post will give you both a primer, if you’re still new to the importance of enzymes, but also go deeper than I have in the past.
We’ll learn how enzymes:
- Affect your body’s health & wellness
- Influence your energy levels
- Help breakdown of food and digestion
- Keep you looking and feeling younger
- Assist in inflammation and pain relief
- And much more!
I also want to clear up some myths floating around, regarding so-called immune reactions when eating “cooked” foods that lack enzymes.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a richer and deeper understanding of enzymes and the exact steps you can use to ensure you’re using them to maximize health, vitality and beauty.
A Basic Definition of Enzymes
The easiest way to understand enzymes is to see them as “worker bees” in your body’s cells, creating chemical reactions that allow them to break down existing materials or create new ones. They also serve as the “spark” for cell growth and renewal.
Their therapeutic role was popularized by Dr. Edward Howell, author of a book called, “The Status of Food Enzymes in Digestion and Metabolism.” He was quoted as saying, “Enzymes may be the key factor in preventing chronic disease and extending the human lifespan.”
Dr. Howell’s work influenced many other figures in the health movement, including Dr. Anne Wigmore, one of the pioneers of the living foods movement (who I spent time learning about and studying from her direct disciples in my journey). Dr. Wigmore was an amazing woman and a big proponent of dietary enzymes.
The Science of Enzymes, Simplified
This section will sound a little technical, but I’m going to do my best to make it fun and easy to understand. My purpose in going through the science is that you’ll have more confidence in making food and lifestyle choices that are rich in enzymes — which will benefit your health in the long run.
As I mentioned, enzymes are proteins that serve as catalysts or the “spark” to quickly bring about specific chemical reactions in your body’s cells. There are more than 3,000 types of enzymes in the human body, playing key roles in more than 4,000 biochemical reactions.
Put differently, nothing in your body happens without the action of enzymes!
Enzymes are vital for proper digestion, metabolism, respiration, nutrient absorption and transportation, detoxification and purification, muscle building, hormone production, cellular rejuvenation, and so many other elements related to your health and beauty. Once an enzyme does its job, it is removed and must be replaced by new enzymes in order to keep your body humming along. Your body gets enzymes from three main sources:
1. Your body’s cells manufacture metabolic enzymes to assist in every key bodily process. These do not come from food, but are produced by your body in the presence of the right nutrition and health conditions.
2. Your digestive organs produce digestive enzymes, which break down food into forms that nourish your body. Digestive enzymes include: Amylase allows you to digest carbohydrates in fruit, starchy vegetables, and grains. Lipase breaks down fats. Protease breaks down proteins. Cellulase digests fiber. Pretty straightforward. Each one has its specific job.
3. Surprisingly, the bacteria in your gut actually also produce enzymes as well! A study, published in the journal Cell Reports, shows that healthy gut bacteria produce an enzyme that sends signals to make even more enzymes, including enzymes to break down food! This is yet another reason why taking the right probiotic supplement can be so powerful — because a healthy gut can help you make more enzymes!
4. The foods you eat contain food enzymes, but they are typically only “alive” and bio-available to you if the food is raw (heated below 118 degrees Fahrenheit). These enzymes can strengthen your immune system and work in conjunction with nutrients to repair cells and build health. This, however, doesn’t mean that everything you eat must be raw. More on this in just a moment.
When you eat foods that do not contain enzymes, or overheated foods with inactive enzymes, then your body must work harder to produce the enzymes it needs. Foods like cooked oils, which become trans fats, are completely devoid of enzymes, toxic and actually trigger an immune reaction, according to research summarized by Harvard. That’s a BIG reason why fried food should be avoided at all costs.
Does This Mean All Cooking Is Bad for You? No!
Dr. Joel Fuhrman states, “It is true that when food is baked at high temperatures—and especially when it is fried or barbecued—toxic compounds are formed and important nutrients are lost. Many vitamins are water-soluble, and a significant percent can be lost with cooking, especially overcooking. Similarly, many plant enzymes function as phytochemical nutrients in our body and can be useful to maximize health. They, too, can be destroyed by overcooking.”
Dr. Fuhrman goes onto explain, as I have in my books, that the nutrient and enzyme loss that occurs during cooking is often exaggerated by raw food diet proponents — and often overlooks the nutrients made more bioavailable by the cooking process. (Such as the additional lycopene in tomatoes that is made more bio-available through cooking.)
What’s more, cooking certain foods — including cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts — actually makes those foods more easy for the body to digest. This can actually save you enzymes in the digestive process, versus attempting to eat and break them down in raw form.
I also think this is instinctive. Isn’t cooked broccoli or cauliflower or asparagus often more appetizing than eating those vegetables raw? Listen to your body — cooking certain plant foods is beneficial and can actually help you digest them fully, feel better, and get more beauty benefits. Just avoid deep frying or burned food and you’ll be fine!
Enzymes and Beauty
Along with helping to clean the toxic sludge in your system that can dull your complexion, remove pigment from or thin your hair, contribute to acne, and lead to premature lines and wrinkles — enzymes also control the release of a compound called ATP, which provides vital energy to every cell in your body.
Since your body utilizes this energy for cell repair to keep your skin glowing, your hair thick and shiny, and your cells regenerated, the absence of enzymes can disrupt delivery of this all-important, life-sustaining energy.
This part of the reason why we need to be thinking beyond just dietary enzymes. Because maximizing your body’s enzyme production and preservation is as much about lifestyle as what you eat!
For instance, the more we overwork our bodies with foods that are not Beauty Detox-friendly, or if we have high levels of stress, or emotional upheaval, or anything that upsets our balance — we will harm our enzyme levels. This is because, as we have been learning, enzymes are required in every process in the body. If we tax our bodies unnecessarily, we are forcing it to use up more enzymes, and that comes at a cost to our health and beauty.
Enzymes and Pain Relief
Do you ever have back or joint pain?
Well, one of the most exciting areas of enzyme research is role they play in pain relief. Specifically, science has discovered a certain class of enzymes, called “systemic enzymes,” which play a direct role in reducing inflammation, which is the underlying element of pain. Some refer to them as the body’s “clean up crew” because they can aid in cleaning up debris following injuries and inflammatory damage.
Dr. Dale Peterson writes:
“A 1996 report on Ukrainian athletes typifies the results. Thirty-one members of the Ukraine soccer and karate teams suffered severe sprains or strains. Half of them were given systemic enzyme supplements. The others received aggressive medical treatment including compresses, heparin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, novocaine and hydrocortisone. The athletes given systemic enzymes reported significant pain relief within two days and returned to training three and a half weeks post injury. The group given medical treatment did not report pain relief for seven to nine days and did not resume training for six weeks.”
The science behind enzymes and pain relief is only in its infancy, but two of the most popular systemic enzymes available for purchase are serrapeptase and nattokinase. The former helps “eat” improve blood flow and reduce inflammation, while the latter helps your arteries and heart. I expect to write more about systemic enzymes in the near future, as they are both powerful and fascinating!
10 Steps to Maximize Your Body’s Enzyme Levels (Yes, please!)
I know this has been a fairly science heavy article, but I wanted to go into depth so that you have a strong understanding and unshakeable confidence in the power of enzymes. Thanks for pushing through- this info is so helpful and applicable to your life!
Hopefully, it’s now clear that you can support your immunity, health, and beauty by maximizing your body’s ingestion and production of enzymes. Here are some action steps to bring more food enzymes into your diet and help your body produce more as well:
1. Be sure to eat a great deal of raw, organic fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Raw nuts (preferably soaked and rinsed first) and seeds (especially chia seeds) should also be worked into your diet. Be sure raw veggies are present at every meal, especially green vegetables (for breakfast see #3).
2. If you do heat or cook your food, which I recommend and love for certain veggies, avoid frying and cooking in heavy oils. This will preclude an “immune response” that could tax your body and force it to use up more enzymes.
3. Start each day with a GGS (Glowing Green Smoothie), which is a tremendous source of enzymes.
4. Chew your food well to release the enzymes and make them readily available for use in your body.
5. Take the right probiotic (there are very big differences, not just as far as number count, but in actual efficacy!) as healthy gut bacteria can aid in your body’s enzyme production, and your ability to produce enzymes is even more important than those you consume.
6. Follow a Light to Heavy food eating schedule to give your digestive system the support it needs to fully break down the foods you eat and make the most of the nutrients they contain, including enzymes.
7. Don’t water down your enzymes by drinking water with food. Instead, drink no more than 30 minutes before or 60 minutes after eating. Tiny sips in between meals are okay.
8. Reduce your stress levels and be sure you get plenty of sleep and overall recovery time in your life. Anytime you are overworked or exhausted, you will be potentially depleting your body of enzymes as it has to work harder to achieve balance.
9. Take a high quality plant-based digestive enzyme supplement. We are working on our own enzyme product for later this year, however, in the meantime you can trust brands such as Rainbow Light, Garden of Life, and Enzymedica for high quality enzyme products.
10. Eat Probiotic & Enzyme salad regularly. If you lack the time to make it yourself, pick up some raw sauerkraut in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. In fact, many of the longest living cultures, such as the Hunzas, do not have access to enzyme supplements and rely on cultured foods like this, to maintain their incredible health.
Any one of these steps will maximize your enzyme levels. All together, those steps can help transform your health and give your body the ability to rejuvenate at a level most people cannot imagine.
I encourage you to do any number of the above steps and then notice how you have more energy, digest your foods much more easily, and look and feel better than you have in years. You deserve to feel amazing! And there is nothing more that I would love for you to experience.
Have a wonderful day and see you back here very soon.
With love and gratitude,