An enzyme acts as a catalyst to increase the rate of a chemical reaction. Enzymes are proteins. Scientists have named 3,000+ different enzymes, but perhaps 50,000 additional enzymes may exist. Enzymes all have specific functions that result in biochemical reactions. For example, certain enzymes are involved in the absorption of oxygen and production of energy; other enzymes help nutrients get into the cells.
Digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are the most well-known, because they help break down food. Tay-Sachs disease and juvenile diabetes (Type I) are caused by genetic problems that inhibit the pancreas’s ability to generate the necessary enzymes in enough quantity.
Production of enzymes by the pancreas is reduced as people age. As a result, older people are less able to absorb nutrients into their tissues and bloodstream. Symptoms typical of poor pancreatic enzyme production include excess gas, bloating, constipation, cramping, and acid reflux (heartburn). See our suggestions for helping indigestion.
Not absorbing food correctly can lead to serious health problems. For example, it is suspected that the eye disease Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) may be caused by essential nutrients not reaching the retina. Therefore, the retina begins to sustain damage and fail.
Eating too much processed, cooked and sweet foods may make it difficult for the body to produce enough enzymes. Powerful prescription drugs such as antibiotics may also hamper the body’s ability to produce sufficient enzymes.
At temperatures above 116 degrees Fahrenheit, most enzymes are destroyed or rendered inactive. Therefore, cooked foods contain much fewer enzymes than raw. A healthy diet must include raw foods such as salads, carrot sticks, raw veggies dipped in sauce or dressing, fresh fruit, raw nuts, raw seeds and perhaps some fermented foods. Sprouted grains, sprouted beans and sprouted peas are also an important source of natural enzymes. Various “raw food movements” are based on improving health by eating active naturally-occurring enzymes in foods.
In addition to aiding digestion, the enzymes in food are thought to help clean the body and break down allergens/environmental products.
If sufficient quantities and variety of enzymes cannot be easily found in the diet, taking supplemental enzymes may be helpful. Enzyme supplements are available in many online stores — see our “indigestion” category on naturaleyecare.com.
Supplemental enzymes should typically be taken with food. However, enzymes such as Serrapeptase and Nattokinase are best taken an empty stomach — this helps with detoxification because they can break down debris in the blood and tissues. Unresolved debris is suspected of causing wide large number of different inflammatory conditions including arthritis, allergies, arthritis and even heart disease. Eye conditions that are suspected of being triggered by this debris include uveitis, macular edema, diabetic retinopathy and iritis.