Digestive Enzymes

Enzyme nutrition

Enzyme nutrition is the art and science of using nutrition to maintain homeostasis and health in the body. It works with the body’s innate intelligence to bring the body to optimal health using enzymes to digest your food completely so that is does not turn into toxic waste due to putrefaction, rancidity, and fermentation. I also encourage a whole foods diet that contain protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, rather than chemically manipulated substances that are toxic compounds which produce side effects.

Food enzymes are a natural and important component in our food supply, yet they are systematically removed to extend shelf-life. While shelf-life is necessary in our modern society, enzymes must be replaced, just as vitamins and minerals are. For example, when milk is pasteurized it depletes the vitamin A and D content as well as enzymes. The vitamins are added back in, but the enzymes are not. Enzymes are the construction workers of the body. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals are simply the building materials.

I use proven and time-honored standards to nutritionally support the body. Recognizing that the best sources of nutrients are not concentrated chemical compounds but whole foods with contents that act synergistically when properly digested and assimilated.

Just taking 2 enzyme capsules with every meal will dramatically improve your digestion and therefore your health.


What do Plant Enzymes do?

by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Along with vitamins and minerals, enzymes occur in food that is in a natural state. All raw food contains the proper types and proportion of enzymes necessary to digest itself. This occurs in our stomach when the food is eaten or in nature as the food ripens.

The type (protein, sugar, starch, fat) and amount (caloric value) of the major components present in the food determine the type and amount of the various enzymes found in the food. For example, olives and bananas are higher in fat and lipase, while peaches are higher in carbohydrate and amylase.

Protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber are building blocks but they do not possess the energy (capacity to do work) necessary for biochemical reactions. Only enzymes can furnish this energy. When raw food is eaten, chewing ruptures the cell membrane and releases the indigenous food enzymes. Once liberated the enzymes begin to digest food, but their action is very limited in the foods they can work on.

Four plant enzyme groups exist:

  1. Proteases – break long protein chains into smaller amino acid chains and eventually into single amino acids
  2. Amylases – reduce polysaccharides to disaccharides: lactose, maltose, and sucrose
  3. Lipases – break triglycerides into individual fatty acids and glycerol
  4. Cellulases – digest specific carbohydrate bonds found in fiber

Besides needing a substrate to “work” on, enzymes require heat, proper pH and moisture in order to activate.

Heat: All enzymes work within limited temperature ranges. The optimal temperature range for most plant enzymes is 92˚F to 104˚F, which means that these enzymes work best at body temperature. However, enzymes cannot tolerate the high temperatures used in cooking, baking, microwaving, canning, and pasteurizing. These methods all produce heat of 118˚F or higher which destroys the enzymes.

Proper pH: Plant enzymes work in a very broad pH range, 3.0 to 9.0, which coincides very nicely with the human gastrointestinal tract. This is an important factor to remember when comparing plant enzymes with the body’s own digestive enzymes or with supplemental animal enzymes, such as pancreatin. Plant enzymes work in both the stomach and intestines. Pancreatic enzymes, whether produced by the body or provided as a dietary supplement, only work in the small intestine.

Moisture: Plant enzymes must have moisture in order to perform their digestive function. Quite simply, digestion is the process of breaking molecules apart with the addition of water hydrolysis. The body satisfies this need with saliva. Conversely, plant and animal cells use the process of condensation—the removal of water—to form the long molecular chains that foods are composed of.



Why Food Enzymes are Important

by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Plant enzymes are important because they are capable of digesting food before the body’s own digestive process begins. In other words, plant enzymes can enhance the digestion of food and the delivery of nutrients to the blood even if you have a compromised digestive system. The same cannot be said of animal enzymes such as pancreatin.

Everyone agrees that proper nutrition is crucial to the maintenance of a healthy body. However, most healthcare practitioners overlook the true cause of many nutritional disorders. It is assumed, quite mistakenly, that digestion occurs automatically and the correction of a nutritional disorder simply requires matching the right nutritional supplement to the condition. For example, vitamin C for colds, vitamin A for viruses and herbal laxatives for constipation. While this treatment may relieve patient symptoms, the relief is only temporary because the underlying problem of faulty digestion is ignored. Healthcare practitioners who want to effectively manage health problems that are related to nutritional imbalances must consider each person’s ability to digest food. Unfortunately, most clinicians give little or no thought to the role of enzymes in digestion, despite overwhelming evidence of their importance.

Enzymes are present in all living animal and plant cells. They are the primary motivators of all natural biochemical processes. Life cannot exist without enzymes because they are essential components of every chemical reaction in the body. For example, they are the only substance that can digest food and make it small enough to pass through the gastrointestinal mucosa into the bloodstream. Three very broad classifications of enzymes are:

  1. Food enzymes – occur in raw food and, when present in the diet, begin the process of digestion
  2. Digestive enzymes – produced by the body to break food into particles small enough to be carried across the gut wall
  3. Metabolic enzymes – produced by the body to perform various complex biochemical reactions

In the 1930s, Edward Howell, MD, the food enzyme pioneer, found that there is a difference between plant enzymes and those that are produced by the body. He was convinced that plant enzymes in food and supplements have a different function in human digestion than that of the body’s own digestive enzymes. With this theory, he began isolating and concentrating plant enzymes from their sources. He found the difference is that food enzymes begin digesting food in the stomach and will work for at least one hour before the body’s digestive system begins to work. For this reason, enzymes should be considered essential nutrients. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and food manufacturers are removing them from food to gain shelf-life.

Dr. Howell was particularly impressed by the way the ingestion of raw food slowed the progress of chronic degenerative diseases and spent his professional life postulating and then validating his theories.


Digestion in the Stomach

by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Digestion begins in the mouth. When you chew your food it is mixed with saliva, which not only supplies moisture but also the carbohydrate-digesting enzyme, amylase. When you eat raw food, its enzymes work with the salivary amylase to begin digestion.

Swallowing prevents food from remaining in the mouth long enough for any significant amount of digestion to occur. However, the food and salivary enzymes continue the digestion process until the secretion of stomach acid causes the pH to drop below 3.0, which is the activity range of plant enzymes. Before food arrives, the stomach normally has a pH between 5.0 and 6.0. In young and healthy adults it takes about 45 minutes before enough acid is generated to drop the pH to 3.0. This is because stomach acid is secreted into the stomach in response to the expansion of the stomach wall. During this time a considerable amount of digestive work can be accomplished if plant enzymes, either indigenous to the raw food ingested or from a supplemental source, are present. Unfortunately, the amount of time necessary to make stomach acid increases with age. Studies have proven that older adults often suffer from inadequate stomach acid levels.

There is a common misconception that enzymes are destroyed by stomach acid. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stomach acid does not digest protein. Rather, it activates an enzyme called pepsinogen which then becomes pepsin that is secreted by the stomach wall. This enzyme is only active within the pH range of 3.0 to 5.0 and requires the acid to maintain that pH. Pepsin is very specific in its action and is simply incapable of digesting food enzymes, which are very large molecules and are more than just protein.

More than seventy years ago, Olaf Bergeim conducted a series of experiments on salivary digestion at the Laboratory of Physiological Chemistry in the University of Illinois, College of Medicine in Chicago. He found that an average of 59-76% of ingested carbohydrates is digested within 15-30 minutes after a meal. He concluded that a very considerable degree of starch digestion may be brought about by saliva if food is chewed properly.

The pH within the stomach rarely, if ever, drops below 3.0. Pure stomach acid has a pH of 1.8 when it first enters the stomach, but is quickly diluted in the presence of food. Regardless, plant enzymes are not destroyed by the highly acidic environment of the stomach. They simply become dormant until reaching the higher pH levels in the small intestine, where they again become active and continue the digestive process. Once their digestive function in the gastrointestinal tract is completed, a large number of enzymes are absorbed through the gut wall into the bloodstream.

A lot of research remains to be done to determine the exact fate of these enzymes after they pass through the gut wall into blood. However, it is known that plant enzymes will pass from the body into the urine after they have completely lost their usefulness.



by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Heartburn is a common condition that results from what is claimed to be an excess amount of acid in the stomach. Billions of dollars are spent each year on over-the-counter remedies for this condition.

Increased acid production in the stomach is usually attributed to the expansion of the stomach wall that results from eating an excessive amount of food. Symptoms of excess stomach acid are not caused by a particularly low pH of the secretions. The most common causes of heartburn are the failure to reduce the rate of secretion, which results in a large quantity of gastric juice, and a delayed emptying of the stomach.

Heartburn can also occur if the mucosal lining of the stomach is not able to protect the stomach wall from the acid. The stomach needs mucus to protect itself from the acid- and protein-digesting enzymes. Two commonly used herbs that enhance the body’s ability to produce mucus and protect the gastrointestinal tract are Slippery elm and Marshmallow root.

The major goal of both prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies is to reduce or eliminate the production of hydrochloric acid and protein-digesting enzymes. These products relieve symptoms but severely compromise normal digestion and interfere with the delivery of nutrients to the body that is necessary to maintain health.

Antacids prevent digestion in the stomach and transfer the entire stress of digestion to the pancreas. Plant enzymes, on the other hand, relieve the pancreas of some of its digestive burden by reducing the amount of pancreatic secretion required. The digestion accomplished by plant enzymes occurs early enough in the digestive process to trigger a reduction in this secretion. Thus, plant enzymes have the ability to lower stomach acid secretions without compromising the digestive system.



by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Indigestion is perhaps the most common ailment affecting people today. A multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry has emerged to provide over-the-counter remedies to sufferers. Why do so many people suffer from indigestion and why don’t traditional remedies for indigestion correct the problem rather than merely provide temporary relief from its symptoms? The reason is that digestion is a very complex process.

It is very difficult to know exactly which step in the digestive process is at fault. The symptoms of indigestion and other digestive problems such as heartburn, gas, bloating, nausea, and cramps are vague and there are no lab tests to define the exact problem.

Indigestion has many causes. One of the most common causes is a deficiency in stomach acid (HCl). This inability to produce adequate stomach acid is common in people over 50 years of age who are free of gastric disease. Some studies even report as high as 25-35% of the elderly have this condition.

The lack of acid (HCl) secretion in the stomach was found in 14-20% of patients in the hospital for conditions other than gastric disease or pernicious anemia. This condition is diagnosed when the pH of the gastric contents fails to drop below 6.5 following maximal stimulation. The “resting pH” of the stomach, when empty, is normally 5.0 to 6.0.

HCl is critical for proper protein digestion in the stomach because it adjusts the pH of the stomach to allow protein digestion to occur. HCl changes pepsinogen to the active proteolytic enzyme, pepsin, and maintains the highly acidic pH needed for pepsin’s activity. Stomach acid activates this enzyme, it does not destroy it.

The secretion of HCl and pepsinogen are governed by separate mechanisms. This is the reason that the pepsinogen concentration in the gastric juices of those who are lacking stomach acid is very close to normal in many cases.

Physiologists have confirmed that HCl is produced from one cell and pepsinogen is produced from another. This means that the body may be producing enough pepsinogen but it is still unable to properly digest protein because of an insufficient amount of HCl.

So, what can be done to improve digestion and relieve the symptoms that result when the body cannot produce adequate amounts of stomach acid? The answer is enzymes. Protein digestion can be improved with food enzymes that “predigest” food in the stomach. Plant enzymes are capable of digesting food before your own digestive process begins. In other words, plant enzymes can enhance the digestion of food and the delivery of nutrients to the blood even when the patient has a compromised digestive system.



by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Stedman’s Medical Dictionary (27th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkens, 2000) defines constipation as a condition in which bowel movements are infrequent or incomplete. While one movement per day might be considered ideal, any deviation requires further questioning. Most people believe constipation implies hard or painful bowel movements and not just frequency. Many believe a bowel movement every two or three days is normal and that even a bowel movement every four or five days is no cause for concern. The simple fact that it happens that way does not mean that it is normal.

Infrequent bowel movements indicate slow movement of fecal material through the intestine. The longer fecal material remains in the intestine, the more water will be reabsorbed making the stool drier and harder. This is the result of bacterial decomposition in the large intestine.

Slow movement also allows for autointoxication, as the waste products of bacterial and fungi/yeast must be absorbed into the blood, detoxified in the liver, and sent to the kidney for elimination. This is a burden on the body and the maintenance of health. The waste products formed in the bowel by bacterial or fungal action on inadequately digested food (i.e., food that could not be absorbed into the body and used for nourishment) cause an inflammatory reaction in the mucosal lining of the bowel. This triggers an immune response that is associated with the so-called “leaky gut syndrome” and fibromyalgia. These conditions have deservedly received a great deal of attention in the past few years; unfortunately, little is directed toward their association with poor digestion.

The usual recommendations to overcome constipation are to increase your water consumption and exercise. But, as anyone who frequently suffers from the problem can tell you – it seldom works. That is because the major cause of constipation is excessive food intake and poor digestion of that diet. In other words, constipation tends to perpetuate constipation!

Digestive and poor dietary choices are rarely considered to be direct causes of constipation. Yet, stomach acid deficiency can be directly related to inadequate protein uptake, allowing much of the protein to pass into the large intestine. Stomach acid deficiency is also directly related to thickened bile and gallstone formation, which are directly related to poor bowel function.

In addition, stomach acid deficiency and inadequate protein digestion result in increased protein putrefaction in the bowel. The absorbed toxins produce many clinical problems. Extensive clinical outcome studies dating back over the last 100 years indicate bowel toxicity as a major causative factor in the most commonly seen health problems, including headaches as cited in Textbook of Medical Physiology (A. C. Guyton, 9thed., W. B. Saunders Co., 1986).


The Gallbladder Syndrome

by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Gallbladder dysfunction is one of the most common health problems today. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Clinicians frequently refer to it as the 5-F Syndrome—fair, fat, female, fertile and over forty. Right shoulder pain accompanied by flatulent dyspepsia is considered to be the best indicator.

Once the presence of gallstones is confirmed the usual procedure is to schedule surgical removal of the gallbladder. Over 600,000 cholecystectomies are performed in this country every year despite overwhelming evidence that most are not necessary. Repeated warnings have been printed in medical journals against this practice, but to no avail.

The key points of gallbladder dysfunction and gallstones:

  1. The removal of gallstones does not change the consistency of bile. Gallstones develop because poor digestion causes the bile to become too thick. The bile will remain thick even after the stones are removed unless digestion is improved.
  2. Gallstones are extremely common. Their occurrence in women is roughly double their occurrence in men. The occurrence and size of the stones increases with age and depending on the ethnic group, their incidence can range as high as 25% to 44% of the population.
  3. Gallstones usually do not cause symptoms. Three major studies involving more than 3,000 patients found that 67% of all confirmed cases of gallstones were asymptomatic. Other studies placed the figure above 80%.
  4. Patients with gallstones who are asymptomatic are likely to remain so. Studies indicate the chance of asymptomatic gallstones becoming symptomatic in the next five years is less than 10%. This percentage decreases to less than one percent after 10 years.
  5. The majority of gallstones are found by chance—even in patients with abdominal pain. More gallstones are being detected incidentally with the increased use of the abdominal ultrasound. Therefore, the opportunity to recommend gallbladder removal is increasing.
  6. Once the presence of gallstones is confirmed the usual procedure is to schedule surgical removal of the gallbladder.
  7. Gallbladder removal does not always relieve symptoms that are traditionally thought to be caused by gallstones. Most studies show complete relief of symptoms in 75% to 80% of patients after surgery. However, studies concentrating on the relief of symptoms in those that had symptoms before surgery indicate relief in only about one-half of the cases! The most persistent symptoms remaining after surgery are flatulent dyspepsia and chronic, dull pain in the upper right quadrant.
  8. An acute gallbladder attack should be used as the indication for surgery—not the accidental finding of gallstones. An acute attack consists of severe “colicky (spasmodic wave-like) pain” or constant (cystic duct obstruction) pain lasting up to four hours, which is occasionally accompanied by low-grade fever (only 13% of the time), and characteristically followed by a “washed-out” feeling for up to 24 hours. The occurrence of constant pain is much more common (57% to 94%) than the colicky wave-like pain.
  9. Don’t bet on referred pain to the right scapular area. Radiation of pain outside the abdomen occurs only 60% of the time. The pain can radiate anywhere in the torso, including both flanks, both shoulders and scapula, and the mid-thoracic area (20%).
  10. Gallbladder emptying has been shown by ultrasound to be unrelated to the fat content of a meal. In fact, there is no proof that gallbladder attacks are precipitated by eating. In one study “fatty food” intolerance was more common in the controls than in those patients with confirmed gallstones.
  11. Bloating, belching, and flatulence are no more common in patients with gallstones than in the controls without gallstones. Therefore, a cause and effect relationship cannot be established. Since these symptoms often persist after surgery they cannot be caused by gallstones.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome

by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common and chronic disorder. The 27th edition of Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defines it as a chronic non-inflammatory disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits ranging from diarrhea to constipation. There is no detectable pathological change with IBS. This condition is often referred to as Spastic Colon or Spastic Irritable Bowel. Painless diarrhea or constipation may also be referred to as Irritable Bowel.

It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of the adult population is afflicted with IBS in some form and degree. The percentage is probably much higher because the symptoms are mild and often go untreated. Proper diagnosis and treatment are important because continued irritation of the bowel is a progressive condition that may lead to diverticulosis, ulceration of the bowel, and ultimately result in surgery. About 23,000 colostomies are inserted in this country annually. The difference between Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis is that Crohn’s is considered to be a chronic inflammatory condition of a section of the bowel wall, while Ulcerative Colitis adds ulceration of the wall in addition to chronic inflammation.

Early recognition is important to relieve symptoms and to decrease the absorption of food that is associated with an irritable bowel, which may lead to weakness, anemia, and malnutrition (weight loss) as well as produce associated conditions such as gallstones, kidney stones and arthritis.

The cause of this insidious problem is the presence of inadequately digested sugars that remain in the bowel attracting water and resulting in diarrhea. Both lactose (dairy) and maltose (grains) are sugars that attract water, which results in severe distention and pain. One way to halt symptoms associated with IBS is to reduce the amount of sugar that is consumed in the diet. This includes dairy products and grains, as well as white sugar and flour. In order to get the best results, you should also supplement the appropriate food enzymes.

Normally, bacteria in the large intestine digests sugars that were not completely digested in the small intestine. This results in a large amount of gas formation. Gas and toxins are absorbed into the blood, detoxified in the liver and discarded in the urine. The gases are not readily absorbed into the blood and are expelled rectally. These irritants affect the bowel and produce an inflammatory response that can cause bleeding and excess mucous formation.

The consumer market has recently been flooded with lactose-digesting enzyme products. Manufacturers suggest that with their product, everyone can enjoy all of the ice cream and dairy products that they want. This is simply not true because of the complexity of the digestive system. They may help, but because they address only lactose, they do not solve the whole problem. In order to solve this problem, we must be conscious of our diet and use the appropriate enzyme supplements that focus on improving digestion rather than targeting one specific digestive problem.



by Howard F. Loomis Jr., D.C.

The symptoms associated with altered bowel function have far-reaching effects throughout the body in tissues and organs other than the bowel itself. Frequently, dysfunctions here are involved in many chronic degenerative disorders.

Infrequent bowel movements indicate slow movement of fecal material through the intestine, allowing more time for the bacterial decomposition and absorption of water from the bowel. As a result, the fecal material becomes very dry and hard. This slow movement allows for autointoxication as the waste products of bacterial and fungi/yeast must be absorbed into the blood, detoxified in the liver, and sent to the kidney for elimination.

While this process may sound efficient, it is actually a burdensome compensation by the body in an attempt to maintain health. The waste products formed in the bowel by bacterial or fungal action on inadequately digested food (i.e., food that could not be absorbed into the body and used for nourishment) cause an inflammatory reaction in the mucosal lining of the bowel. This triggers an immune response that is associated with the so-called “leaky gut syndrome” and fibromyalgia. These conditions have deservedly received a great deal of attention in the past few years, but not enough has been paid to their association with poor digestion.

If you suffer from any inflammatory disorder, it is likely that your immune problems are associated with autointoxication and inadequate digestion. It is becoming increasingly apparent that chronic degenerative diseases (chronic inflammatory states) are evidence of food enzyme deficiency. The 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Health and Nutrition stated unequivocally that chronic degenerative diseases are dietary related.

The body uses enzymes as its main line of defense against any bacterial, viral, chemical irritant, or inflammation from a mechanical source. People with symptoms of fever, redness, swelling, pain, or soreness demonstrate signs of food enzyme deficiency. This deficiency may not be the cause of the disease process, but a deficiency is certainly present.

The inability to adequately digest food, either because of enzyme deficiency or overloading the digestive system with excessive amounts of food, challenges the body. Food particles not digested well enough to be absorbed across the gut wall pass down the alimentary canal where they putrefy, forming chemicals that irritate the mucosal lining of the G.I. tract. Inflammation of the mucous membranes increases permeability of the gut wall to larger molecules. This allows partially digested food particles to enter the blood, where they cannot be utilized by the body as food, but must be attacked as a foreign invader.

Dietary modification and inclusion of food enzyme supplements to enhance digestion and assimilation must be considered as part of any program to restore normal function and relieve symptoms of chronic inflammatory disorders.