Enzymes - In a Nutshell

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Hello friends. As promised, here's an excerpt from my book, which covers one of my favorites topics on Metabolism, and Nutrition. The book goes into a little more details, with pictures but I've inclulded enough here to get your minds thinking.

A quick note about enzymes

Next week I'll be publishing an article on metabolism, so I won't go into great detail on that process here. However, in that article you'll learn that the metabolism of food into simpler molecules is similar to the breakdown of any fuel. In order to breakdown the food into usable fuel, some energy must be added. In the body, this breakdown is facilitated and regulated by Enzymes.

When we eat foods that have their enzymes intact, digestion is easier and less taxing on our bodies. (Because our body doesn't have to produce enzymes for the digestion.)

Also worth mentioning, they are present in all living things and perform the essential functions of converting food into energy.




Before we get started, it's important to know some basic terminology. (Most we learned as kids in science class)

  • Catalyst - A substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.
  • Biocatalyst - A catalyst of biological\natural origin (Such as enzymes). They speed up chemical reactions or make reactions take place that otherwise would not.
  • Chemical Reaction - A process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. In technical terms, a process in which atoms of the same or different elements rearrange themselves to form a new substance. While they do so, they either absorb heat or give it off.
  • Catalysis - The change in rate of a chemical reaction due to the participation of a substance called a catalyst.
  • Biocatalysis - Biocatalysis is the use of natural catalysts, such as protein enzymes, to perform chemical transformations on organic compounds. Both enzymes that have been more or less isolated and enzymes still residing inside living cells are employed for this task.

So what are Enzymes? (Food Digestion)

Enzymes are essentially proteins that act as a biocatalyst in converting food to energy. Like other proteins, enzymes are made up of long chains of amino acids held together by peptides (Peptide Bond).

They convert food to energy by binding to the starting material called a substrate. A simple example of a substrate is a sucrose molecule which consists of both glucose and fructose.

Once the Enzyme binds to the substrate, it causes a chemical reaction by breaking the molecule down into a new product. For example, a Sucrase Enzyme binds to Sucrose, acting as a catalyst to form two new products; Glucose and Fructose. The enzyme then releases itself from the products and are available to repeat the cycle. (More on that later) Once they've done their jobs, they break down easily and are absorbed back into the environment.

An important thing to note; Enzymes are very specific, and only work on catalyzing a particular chemical reaction. This is due to the characteristics of an enzyme called the active site which only fit certain molecules (Substrate). Enzymes are controlled by regulatory molecules that bind to the substrate, which shuts down the entire metabolic pathway as a result.

Enzymes are typically classified by the type of substrates they work on. There are over three thousand different enzymes that have been identified, and more exist.

Some common ones to be familiar with are;

  • Protease - Work on proteins
  • Carbohydrase (Amylase) - Work on carbohydrates (Starches & Sugars)
  • Lactase - Work on Dairy Products
  • Cellulase - Work on cellulose
  • Lipase - Work on lipids. Fats and Oils
  • Bromelain & Papain - Work on multiple foods

They can also be classified by the types of reactions they initiate;

  • Hydrolases - Split molecules
  • Synthetases - Join molecules
  • Tranferases - Move groups of atoms from one molecule to another.

Breaking it down further [Work in Progress]

There are three main categories of enzymes;

  • Metabolic (Human Supply) - Initiate and maintain all metabolic activities. (I.e. Removing carbon dioxide from oxygen, processing glucose into energy, etc.)
  • Digestive (Human Supply) - Responsible for food digestion (See Above), breaking down macro nutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats) into usable micro nutrients. Each of these enzymes have an ideal pH in which they function. (See Separate article on pH and Food Combining.)
  • Food (Present in Whole RAW Foods, and living foods) - Control rather a seed sprouts (Leveraging Enzyme Inhibitors in times where conditions are not favorable), control when food ripen, or the breakdown of foods (Decomposing), once they're past their prime.

Enzymes in Cell Biology

Without enzymes, reactions within cells would not occur fast enough to keep cells alive. It's important to understand the role enzymes play in relationship to the speed and quality of cell reconstruction after a strenuous workout. If the body doesn't have enough enzymes to rebuild, then the repair process slows, which results in signs of aging.

Relating this to food: RAW

When you hear the term RAW, such as RAW Vegan or RAW foods, this means that food is not heated above 118°F. Cooking foods above this temperature destroys their enzymes and nutrients. If food is void of enzymes, then your body must manufacture enzymes using energy and materials, while generating a mild amount of stress.

Foods void of enzymes poses the following problems;

  • Food is harder to digest
  • Can result in diseases associated with malnutrition. (Even if you have a healthy diet)
    • Your body has to be able to digest and absorb the nutrients from your food

In addition to these, eating foods lacking in digestive enzymes can cause;

  • Heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lowered Immune System
  • Headaches
  • Inflammation (Attributed to a long list of disease and complications)

Like hormones, enzymes diminish (And eventually cease) with age leaving us more dependent on consuming foods with their enzymes intact. (The decline in enzymes in the body begins at age 35) This wasn't a problem in our past, as most of our food was whole and rich in nutrients and enzymes. However, since food became plentiful, and we learned how to cook and preserve food, foods became less nutritious and void of enzymes. Consuming foods high in starches, sugars, and fats places a high demand on our enzyme stores, further exhausting our supply. Foods, especially whole plant foods have plenty of enzymes to facilitate their digestion. And the sooner we can extract the nutrients from the food, the quicker the food can be eliminated. Food void of nutrients, and enzymes hang around, and cause many problems such as fatigue, bloating, and indigestion and puts further stress on the body.

When glands and organs produce hormones, or perform a specific function are over worked, they become less efficient in carry out their duties. A pancreas that's producing insulin to constantly control sugar metabolism is a perfect example. Eventually, you store all sugars as fat. Same thing with a liver that's constantly working over time to eliminate toxins, eventually you get a fatty liver and toxins can't be eliminated properly. So your body protect itself by storing the toxins in fat, isolating it from the body. (At least until you metabolize it, releasing the toxins back into your bloodstream). Enzyme producing glands are no different, when they get exhausted they are no longer able to produce enzymes to help with digestion. (And your food is also void of these enzymes). Now what? There is evidence to suggest this may be the cause of premature aging, and disease as the body is no longer able to properly fuel itself. Stress also destroys enzymes, as well as cells the enzymes are required to reconstruct. Stress also inhibits enzyme production, creating a vicious cycle.

Digestion and Enzymes [Work in Progress]

Digestion begins with chewing, and the saliva produced in the mouth (Alkaline enzyme secretion of Amylase). This is where the breakdown down of carbohydrates and fats begin . This also triggers the production of enzymes in your stomach. Once the food enters your stomach, the enzymes work on the further breakdown of carbohydrates (sugars), fats (fatty acids), and protein (Amino acids) in preparation for absorption into the body.

Our stomach actually contains two sections; Upper and lower. The upper section secrets no enzymes or acid. This is where foods containing their own enzymes work to continue breaking own carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. (For about an hour). This is a problem when our food is void of enzymes, as food either ferments (Starches\Sugars) or putrefies (Proteins\fats) before moving to the lower stomach, causing toxins as a by-product. (Gas & Bloating, more on that in another article on pH and Food Combining)

When food leaves the upper stomach, the protein splitting enzyme pepsin is secreted but remains inactive until it settles into the lower stomach. (Due to the alkaline pH of the upper stomach) Once food is settled in the lower section, hydrochloric acid dropped the stomach's pH (More Acidic) so that protein digestion can continue.

Why Humans Are NOT Truly Equipped to Eat Meat

Remember when I mentioned that food digestion starts in the mouth? This is specifically the enzyme Amylase, which targets starches and is alkaline, which doesn't do squat for digesting meats and proteins. Also, if you recall protein is broken down in the lower section of our stomachs by hydrochloric acid (HCL), which is produced in a small amounts compared to 10 times the amount present in the stomachs of carnivorous animals. Other interesting signs are our intestines are much longer compared to that of carnivores, who have shorter intestines so the meat is secreted quicker. Even though carnivores are better equipped, the process is still taxing on their bodies which is why they're lethargic and sleep a lot after feeding. Even their teeth are better equipped for chewing meets. It's a personal belief of mine (Everyone is entitled to opinions right?) that humans are meant to eat plant based foods, and whole raw foods.

Our bodies are able to process meats, when our preferred food source is scarce, but is not as efficient at it.