So why should we care if our food has enzymes or not and what actually are enzymes? In order to understand enzymes and the importance of their function, first it is necessary to understand what is meant by "metabolism".
Here are three good definitions:
1) All of the processes that occur in the body that turn the food you eat into energy your body can use.
2) Metabolism is the sum of all the chemical and physical changes that take place within the body and enable its continued growth and functioning. Metabolism involves the breakdown of complex organic constituents of the body with the liberation of energy, which is required for other processes, and the building up of complex substances, which form the material of the tissues and organs.
3) The chemical and physical processes continuously going on in the body involving creation and breakdown of molecules; a process utilizing the raw materials of nutrients, oxygen, and vitamins, along with enzymes, to produce energy for bodily functions.
So, what about enzymes? Here's some definitions:
1) A protein produced by living cells that regulates the speed of the chemical reactions that are involved in the metabolism of living organisms, without itself being altered in the process. Also called a ‘biological catalyst’.
2) A protein that acts as a catalyst, speeding the rate at which a biochemical reaction proceeds but not altering the direction or nature of the reaction.
3) A protein that facilitates a specific chemical reaction.
So, enzymes are proteins produced by living cells and they exist in all tissues and fluids of the body and their purpose is to speed up chemical reactions in the body to a level that the body can tolerate for optimum metabolism. Without enzymes, many chemical reactions would occur too slowly to sustain life and enzymes can speed up biochemical reactions by more than a thousand times.
They are very specific as to which other molecules they interact with and they can process millions of molecules every second. By their actions they help maintain the tissues, orchestrate the many functions of the body and they digest food. Almost every significant life process is dependent on enzyme activity and almost all degenerative diseases stem from a lack of complete digestion and improper elimination of what we ingest into our bodies, both of which are affected greatly by enzymes or the lack of them.
There are three major categories of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes and food enzymes.
Metabolic enzymes instigate many of the reactions inside the cells of our body. Our organs, tissues and cells would not work properly without the actions of metabolic enzymes.
Digestive enzymes secreted by our own pancreas (when it's in good shape) break down the nutrients contained in the foods we eat. Food enzymes are contained (or should be) in the foods we eat. Food enzymes help to break down the foods before it's the turn of our digestive enzymes. If our food doesn't contain the necessary enzymes (and these days, most doesn't), then the pancreas is called upon to work far harder than it was designed to and eventually it wears out and we become unable to create the vital enzymes needed for proper food digestion.
As stated in a Garden of Life article:
"According to the Surgeon General’s report on nutrition and health, 8 out of 10 leading causes of death in the United States are diet related. Digestive problems comprise the number one health problem in North America. Digestive complaints, including everything from hemorrhoids to colon cancer, result in more time lost at work, school and play than any other health related problem. Many of these digestive problems were rare or non-existent less than a century ago. "
"Enzymes are perhaps our most important nutrients. Enzymes are responsible for nearly every facet of life and health. When we eat raw foods, we consume the enzymes in the foods. The foods are then digested easily by the body...
...Food enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118 degrees. All cooked and processed foods are devoid of food enzymes...
...When we eat cooked or processed foods, the body must create the enzymes necessary to digest the cooked foods. This constant need for enzymes depletes our store of enzymes, strains the body and causes the pancreas to enlarge. Without enzymes, we're dead. In fact, Dr. Edward Howell, the groundbreaking physician who devoted his life to the study of enzymes, has stated in his classic work, Food Enzymes for Health and Longevity, "After we have attained full mature growth, there is a slow and gradual decrease in the enzyme content of our bodies. When the enzyme content becomes so low that metabolism can't proceed at a proper level, death overtakes us."
If one does not consume proper levels of enzymes from foods or supplements the following symptoms may occur: excessive gas and bloating (particularly after meals), diarrhea and/or constipation, heartburn, low energy, acne, arthritis, allergies, insomnia, high cholesterol and many more. Once enzymes have completed their appointed task they are destroyed. For life to continue you must have a constant enzyme supply which requires continual replacement of enzymes."
According to the excellent resource at http://stopcancer.com/Enzymes&Cancer.htm,
"There are only two types of food on earth:
1st - raw foods are enzymatically alive, which means these foods have live enzymes within them to help digest 40 to 60% of that particular food.
2nd - cooked and processed foods are enzymatically dead or denatured, which means there are no live enzymes within that food to help with digestion of that food. These dead foods will stress the entire body including the digestive system, the pancreas, the immune system, the body’s energy and the body’s enzyme reserves."
"*** A double blind study found karate fighters on enzymes recovered from injury in 7 days. The karate fighters on placebos took 16 days to recover.
*** Dr. Max Wolf, who is a former Fordham University Professor of Medicine, tested 347 patients with circulatory disorders. His findings showed 87% completely free or almost free of any symptoms after taking enzymes.
*** A study in Germany on patients suffering from vein disorders were given oral enzymes. 94% were completely recovered or had significant improvement...According to Dr. Paul Kautchakoff, man-made, processed and refined foods, such as carbonated beverages, alcohol, vinegar, white sugar, flour and other foods, cause severe leukocytosis (a marked increase in the number of white blood cells, usually because of infection or disease).
...Enzymes are the very life force that activates vitamins, minerals, proteins and other physical components within our body. Vitamins, minerals, proteins or hormones can’t do their work without enzymes… and vitamins do not deliver energy by themselves... they require enzymes for energy. Enzymes unlock the energy in food and make it possible for the human body to function properly. Every time we add digestive enzymes to our foods… we give our body a serious amount of assistance instead of draining the body’s power."
Dr. Edward Howell, one of America’s pioneering Biochemist and Nutritional researchers demonstrated through 50+ years of enzyme research that most physical problems and disease can be traced back to food which is improperly or not fully digested.
Your immune system will attack and defend your body against improperly digested foods that get into the bloodstream. The immune system doesn’t recognize these particles as food but sees them as toxic invaders and attacks and attempts to kill them. When this happens we don’t get the full benefit of that food particle and we weaken the immune system. This is also how food allergies are created since the body now "recognizes" that food as something it should reject.
So, good digestive enzymes should be a standard part of any person's supplement regime if they wish to gain and sustain good health.