Enzymes are proteins that are required for every chemical action that takes place in our body. Our ability to see, think, feel, and breathe depends on enzymes. Our stamina, energy and immune system – all these are regulated by enzymes. Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins would be of no use in the absence of enzymes. Enzymes also help destroy the trillions of viruses, bacteria, and cancerous cells. Enzymes control cell metabolism - the processes by which each living cell takes in nutrients, eliminates waste, and maintains life. Like all catalysts, enzymes work by providing an alternative metabolic pathway, which requires a lower energy level. This can make the reaction millions of times faster.
Nature has packed raw foods with vital enzymes. Our bodies need enzymes to carry out the critical function of digestion. However, to prevent spoilage, and for taste, we cook our food. This kills most bacteria; but at those temperatures, there is huge ‘collateral damage’ - all the enzymes get killed too. As more than 90 per cent of the food we consume in urban living is cooked, digestion just gets harder. The resultant incomplete digestion and stress on the body has become a key factor in today’s rising levels of allergies and chronic degenerative diseases.
What can we then do to protect and use enzymes, so that all the metabolic pathways are maintained intact and healthy? In this Part 1 we look at Proteases or Proteolytic Enzymes (proteolytic means “breaks down protein”). The vast majority of metabolic enzymes in the body are proteases.
Tip of the week
There are two potential actions of Enzyme therapy. When we take a digestive enzyme formula along with our meal, the enzymes break down the food in the stomach faster, and aid in digestion. When we take a proteolytic enzyme between meals, the enzyme rapidly enters the bloodstream, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and helps with optimising the blood and tissue health. This strengthens the immune system and helps the body’s innate ability to natural-heal itself.
Nature’s Wonder Foods of the week : Bromelain rich Pineapple (Ananas comosus, Ananas sativus)
Pineapples were first discovered by the 15th century travellers to the Caribbean islands. By the end of the 16th century, this tropical fruit had travelled to most of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where it is grown in large quantities today. Interestingly, like a community of cells makes up the body of an organism, the Pineapple is a composite of many flowers, whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core. In the Bromeliaceae family, the pineapple is the only edible bromeliad today.
Bromelain rich pineapples help digest the protein in the food, and clean the blood by removing debris and toxins from the blood stream. Bromelain works to neutralise fluids, to promote an alkaline environment; it also helps regulate the secretions in the pancreas, to aid in digestion. Bromelain enzyme contains anti-inflammatory properties that benefit our internal organs, speeding up recovery after external injuries – and reduces swelling. Apart from arthritis, it can improve other conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome and gout.
Pineapples are loaded with dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, B1, B6, folate, Vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper. The high Vitamin C and Bromelain content is useful against sinusitis.
Pineapple is an excellent source for the trace mineral manganese, that our body needs for building bones and connective tissues. It is an essential co-factor in a number of enzymes. A cup of pineapple gives 73 per cent of our total body requirement for manganese. Eating pineapple strengthens the gums, and helps keep teeth healthy and strong. Beta carotene in Pineapple can lower the risk of macular degeneration(associated with loss of vision) by as much as 36 per cent.
It is worth noting that most of the demonstrable benefits have come from bromelain extracts made from the stem of the plant used in therapeutic dosage. When consuming the ripe succulent fruit we get some of the benefits, but there is also the added load of calories (82 cal per cup/165 gm).
Pineapple can affect various enzymes in the liver, and can also increase the risk of bleeding. If you are taking certain medications like anti-coagulents, then bromelain supplements should be taken under the advice of a healthcare practitioner.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
(Canadian School of Natural Nutrition) For education purposes only; always consult a healthcare practitioner for medical conditions