Until we got our plumbing overhauled, we’d been experiencing some real problems at WholeHealth Chicago, including clogged toilet drains that had bested some of Chicago’s top plumbers. After power rodding and chemicals, followed by actual pipe replacement, in the end we got everything working and didn’t have to send patients to the carwash next door to pee.
In retrospect, we probably should have used an enzyme mixture for preventive maintenance: no corrosive chemicals, no pushing away blockages, no plumbing surgery, just bacterial enzymes like these, cleaning out our pipes slowly but efficiently.
Interestingly and not unlike our toilet system, much of your own body can benefit from enzymes both for preventive maintenance and as ancillary treatments for chronic disease.
What exactly are enzymes and why do we need them?
Enzymes are proteins, which, if you remember from high school biology, are strings of amino acids. Some of these amino acids your body itself can generate (called non-essential amino acids), while others you need to get from food sources (essential amino acids).
Enzymes are very specific proteins manufactured by our bodies. To date, some 5,000 enzymes have been identified. They act as biological catalysts–molecules that accelerate any of the body’s millions of chemical reactions.
When enzyme levels decline, as they do when we get older and during chronic illness, everything slows down and, not unlike our plumbing, becomes less and less efficient.
Your digestion slows, your arteries clog, your immune system gets lazy, and you start to feel inflamed and achy. You’re getting older (sorry).
Let me give you a common, classic example of enzyme activity that even the most conventional physicians agree on. Many people experience chronic indigestion from dairy products and if they avoid dairy, they’re fine. What they’re lacking is adequate amounts of the enzyme lactase, needed to act on the milk sugar lactose. This group is lactose intolerant.
As a rule of thumb, you can recognize when a molecule is an enzyme because it ends in -ase. An enzyme acting as a catalyst on a protein (like meat) is a protease, on a fat (lipid), lipase, and on a starch, amylase (amylum is Latin for starch).
One of the major flaws of gastroenterology is that doctors reach first for medications to suppress acid, in the process suppressing digestion, rather than first recommending digestive enzymes (with probiotics). Click here and here for two of the most frequently prescribed digestive enzymes at WholeHealth Chicago.
Fairly sophisticated blends of enzymes can be taken by mouth because they’re manufactured with a coating that prevents them from being immediately dissolved in your digestive tract. This is so they can last longer and be absorbed into your bloodstream. You’ve already got lots and lots of enzymes throughout your body, but as I mentioned, their levels decline as you age.
Here are some good reasons for supplementing with absorbable enzymes:
–Enzymes act as molecules called chelators, which can remove toxic metals from your body.
–Enzymes can dissolve certain immune complexes, called biofilms, that coat and protect chronic infections. New treatments for infections like Lyme disease include biofilm-blasting enzymes.
–Certain chronic conditions (including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, cancer, and autoimmune diseases) are associated with excessive blood coagulation and/or increased levels of inflammation. Systemic enzymes have been shown to reduce these.
Enzymes have been shown to dissolve accumulated plaque in the arteries. It’s been fairly standard to include oral enzymes during IV chelation therapies. Here’s a link to the well-known protocol of Garry Gordon, MD, DO. The two products he recommends–Wobenzym N and Rutozyme–are available on special order in our apothecary.
Enzymes and cancer
Many studies have shown that a variety of enzymes can be an effective adjunct to cancer treatment. A protein called fibrin actually coats the cancer cell and hides it from the immune system, which is attempting to destroy it. Proteolytic (protein-dissolving) enzymes destroy this fibrin covering and have been shown to be useful in slowing cancer progression.
Here’s just one of many research articles, this one from Memorial Sloan Kettering on using Bromelain (an enzyme from pineapple) as an adjunct to cancer treatment.
Enzymes are complicated but very interesting. If you want to learn more about them, I suggest two very readable books by Hiromi Shinya, MD, a high-profile New York-based gastroenterologist known for his pioneering work in colonoscopy. Here’s a link to The Enzyme Factor: How To Live Long and Never Be Sick. And one to The Rejuvenation Enzyme: Reverse Aging Revitalize Cells, Restore Vigor.
David Edelberg, MD