“Nutrition is the science of how food is digested, transported, assimilated, utilized and eliminated …”
The old saying, “You are what you eat”, may be better stated as, “You are what you can digest”. Digestion determines how much of a particular food will be broken down into micro-sized nutrients available for cellular nourishment. Digestion, however, can only occur in the presence of enzyme.
Enzymes are biologically “alive” substances made up of protein (amino-acids) and minerals. They are the workhorses performing every function in the body. They are the “Vital Forces” pulling things apart and putting them together making them available as nutrients or eliminating them as waste. They are responsible for all biological, chemical/physiological and even mental functions. Unlike non-living catalysts in chemical reactions, enzymes are not destroyed but continue to work until they are exhausted or used up.
Contrary to collective thought within the medical field, enzymes are not destroyed in stomach acid but rendered inactive due to the acidic pH. They are not denatured nor destroyed in the digestive tract. There is considerable research and clinical work that bears this out. Plant enzymes are able to work within a broad pH range of 2.0 (very acidic) to 12 (very alkaline). Animal based enzymes can only work within a very narrow range of 7.2 – 9 which is alkaline.
Metabolic enzymes are Produced by every cell for day to day functions – breathing, cardiovascular and immune systems, digestion and reading this page are a few examples.
Digestive enzymes are manufactured by the digestive organs, primarily the pancreas, but also in the salivary glands and stomach – amylase, pepsin, chymotrypsin and trypsin are a few examples.
Food enzymes are found in all raw, uncooked food. As soon as food is heated to 118°F or above for any length of time, all enzymes are destroyed. Food enzymes are there to digest (breakdown) the food. The burden of digestion then falls to the body’s own enzyme reserves.
Carbohydrates are broken down into simple starches and sugars. Amylase and other disaccharides are the enzymes responsible for this process. Fats and oils are first emulsified by bile and lecithin. This makes the molecules smaller, giving more surface area for the enzymes to work on. Lipase is the primary enzyme responsible for digesting fats.
Protein goes through an enzymatic process that breaks it down into smaller protein peptide chains and simple amino-acids. Pepsinogen is an inactive pro-enzyme secreted by the chief cells in the stomach. It is converted to the active form enzyme named pepsin. This can only take place in the presence of hydrochloric acid (HCl). The ph of the stomach at rest is about 5.5. When protein enters the stomach, the chief cells begin to concentrate hydrochloric acid. It takes between 30 to 60 minutes for enough hydrochloric acid (HCl) to form in the stomach to convert pepsinogen to pepsin. The pH within the stomach by this time is at about 2.0 – 3.0 which is very acidic – enough to burn through metal.
It is the protective coating of mucus in the digestive tract, especially the stomach, that prevents this from happening. When one experiences heartburn, acid-reflux, pre-ulcerative conditions or ulcers, it is not that the stomach makes too much hydrochloric acid. It is a reflection of the mucus lining having been worn away over time. This happens due to stress, poor nutrition, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, excessively rich diets and over consumption of junk food. The television ads promoting the latest drugs to combat excessive acid buildup or consuming calcium carbonate (Tums® & Rolaids®) are nothing more than misinformation in the least and out right lies at worst. These products do nothing to actually HEAL the condition. They are temporary band aids design to sell more product. As soon as you consume calcium carbonate to alkalize the stomach acid, the hypothalamus signals the stomach to manufacture more HCl. Why? Because protein can only be digested by the enzymatic activity of pepsin or other protease enzymes. And this can only occur in an acidic environment. If the pH in the stomach rises above 5.5, which it certainly will do because of the alkalizing properties of calcium, the body is forced to make more.
Finally, a word about fiber. There are two types of fiber consumed in human diets – water soluble and insoluble. They come from the fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds and grains. Animal protein has very little fiber in it. Although we need both types, water soluble is more beneficial and attention should be given to getting enough in the diet. It carries the water with it as it cleanses the digestive tract, especially the colon. Fruits and vegetables contain the largest amount of water soluble fiber. In order to digest it though, Nature played a sort of trick on humans.
We cannot manufacture cellulase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down cellulose – plant fiber. Cellulase, however, is contained within the plant cell walls. In order to liberate cellulase from the fiber we need to chew our food very thoroughly. By chewing our food well, cellulase is released from the fiber and breaks it down. Elderly people often complain they cannot eat uncooked vegetables or fruit because of the gas and bloating experienced afterwards. Not having good teeth or dentures makes it more difficult for them to chew well. They are not able to breakdown cellulose (plant fiber) to obtain the enzyme cellulase to digest the food.
You will find more studies in the articles and other pages on this website.
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