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The Key to Health and Longevity

     The best cure for disease is to prevent its occurrence in the first place. We each are blessed with a body that is “fearfully and wonderfully made” with an amazing innate ability to heal itself. Too many people suffer and even die from diseases that could have been prevented if they better understood how disease develops and what the body needs to maintain optimal health.

     Each person is their own best health care provider. Focusing daily on making the choices that give our bodies what they need allows us to reap the benefits of good health and avoid dealing with sickness and disease later. Even when the health of the body is already compromised, the same measures that prevent disease from developing in the first place can also help to restore wellness.

The Basis for Health

     What most determines health or disease is the condition of the cells that make up the tissues, organs, glands and systems of our bodies. Cells continually die off and are replaced.  If the needed raw materials are readily available and toxic waste does not accumulate, cells remain healthy and able to do their job of producing energy and fueling the processes of the body. More importantly, they are able to regenerate healthy new cells.

     It is the fluid that surrounds cells that delivers oxygen, water, nutrients and other raw materials to them and carries away the metabolic waste. This fluid must be kept within very narrow ranges in terms of pH, volume, temperature and levels of dissolved nutrients if the body is to experience the balanced state of health known as homeostasis. Keep in mind that the body always strives to maintain homeostasis.

What Causes Disease to Develop?

     Nearly all health conditions start with something that interferes with this normal state of balance. That “something” can be described in one word - stress. It may be mental or emotional stress, physical or structural stress or, more commonly, nutritional or chemical stress.  It is important to keep in mind that the body responds to all stress in an identical manner regardless of the type experienced.

     Due to the way it is designed, the body can handle a certain amount of stress thanks to various communication and feedback systems that monitor and regulate the state of the internal environment, and then direct affected organs, glands and tissues to make necessary adjustments to compensate for the stress. The affected parts of the body do whatever it takes to reestablish balance in the blood and fluid surrounding the cells, whether it means taking what is needed from other parts of the body or speeding up or slowing down various functions or reactions. Normal function returns when the needs of the cells are once again met. 

How Stress Affects Nutrients

     Since organs, glands and tissues must have nutrients to do their respective jobs, being deficient in a nutrient or low in nutritional reserves causes a certain amount of stress to the body in and of itself. The extra activity and effort the body has to make in order to compensate for the impact of additional forms of stress rapidly uses up nutrients and enzymes, creating a further state of depletion.

     The more nutrients are utilized, the more cellular waste is produced. Additional cellular waste translates to greater demands on the body’s detoxification processes since specific vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and enzymes are required to power the phases of detoxification that take place in the liver. Therefore, it is no wonder that stress significantly drains the nutritional resources of the body.

    If a person who lacks sufficient nutritional reserves and/or who accumulates too much toxic waste faces the challenge of a stress that is either too strong or continues too long, their body can no longer adequately compensate for the stress. When the body exhausts its ability to compensate, it becomes increasingly difficult for it to maintain a state of health.

Symptoms – What They Really Mean

     It is at this point that changes begin to take place in the function or chemistry of the body that manifest as symptoms.  Symptoms are just the body’s way of signaling that it is struggling to compensate for some stress that is trying to throw it out of balance. These warning signs merit heeding if a person desires to prevent conditions from turning into serious illnesses.

     Symptoms that first begin to appear such as fatigue, muscle aches, headache, joint pain, heartburn, weight gain (a metabolic imbalance), constipation, diarrhea, and allergic reactions are considered by most as either a normal part of life or just what happens with aging. People typically deal with these symptoms by resorting to the use of over-the-counter or other medications that may indeed provide some degree of relief but only serve to suppress or just manage the symptoms. It is important to realize that drugs of this nature do nothing to improve health nor do they address the root causes of the condition. Instead, they block receptor sites, poison enzymes or otherwise artificially control natural processes of the body to make it seem like it is functioning normally when, in fact, it is not.

The Body’s Ability to Compensate

     As long as the body is able to continue compensating for deviations in the extracellular fluid, these types of symptom-producing changes may not necessarily show up in blood work or other lab results.  People can mistakenly think that nothing is really wrong when blood or lab tests come back normal and the doctor does not find anything to diagnose. But keep in mind that medical tests do not reveal early on what system or organ is stressed or how the body may be trying to compensate.

     In a person with osteoporosis, for instance, calcium and phosphorus blood levels may be perfectly normal. But that is only because calcium stores were withdrawn from the bones to buffer acidity in order to keep the body’s blood pH within the narrow range required for life. That type of scenario could go on for years before bone loss would appear on a bone density scan. The body always makes every effort to maintain balance in the extracellular fluid even if it means “robbing Peter” to “pay Paul” and sacrificing bones in the process.

     However, if a state of imbalance combined with exhausted resources continues uncorrected, more defining pathological and anatomical changes in tissues, organs and glands will eventually occur that can be detected by medical testing. The unfortunate truth is that by the time this happens, the body has lost its ability to compensate for the stress and the disease process is well underway. 

Better to Prevent than Wait for a Diagnosis

     Rather than allow a disease process to progress, how much better to know early on the meaning of symptoms and be able to recognize imbalances and how the body is trying to compensate for stress before a disease diagnosis comes?  Assessments used by natural health practitioners are geared to show imbalances in the internal environment of the body and which body systems or organs are in need of extra nutritional support.

     Knowing how the body is stressed and nutrient deficient allows a person to take proactive steps to reduce sources of stress and make sure the body has the needed raw materials to build and repair tissue as well as nourish nutritionally stressed organs and glands. Addressing the cause rather than treating the compensation is by far the best way to prevent symptoms from turning into serious health problems.

Getting Nutrients to the Cells

     Meeting the nutritional needs of the cell is accomplished primarily through a nutrient-rich diet and good digestion. When people continue to experience symptoms even when medical tests come back negative, it often indicates that the real problem lies with nutrition and dietary imbalances or an inability to adequately digest and assimilate protein, carbohydrates or fats.

     It takes more than the typical American diet to meet the nutritional needs of the body, especially when it is weakened by some form of stress. Because much of our food supply is grown in nutrient-depleted soil and then refined and processed, it falls woefully short on providing the body the many vital nutrients needed for optimal health. If food is void of the vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, amino acids, essential fatty acids, enzymes and other raw materials cells need to function well; nutritional deficiencies will eventually take a toll on health.  Because our modern food supply is so depleted of vital nutrients, quality whole food supplements may be needed to fill in the nutritional gaps.

The Important Role of Digestion

  Good digestion is equally important. When the digestive system is not functioning properly, nutrients from even the best of foods or even supplements cannot be absorbed or utilized to generate healthy new cells, repair damaged tissues and nourish stressed and weakened organs and glands. Continuing to eat foods the body doesn’t digest well itself becomes a source of stress, especially considering the body deals with the intake of food on a regular basis.

     When food is not sufficiently digested, it can cause all types of health problems. Partially digested food molecules become food for yeasts, bad bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that overgrow and release toxic by-products. These toxins irritate and inflame the intestinal lining where food is absorbed, which in turn creates gaps between cells (known as “leaky gut”) that allow partially digested food particles, bacteria, and metabolic waste to leak into the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, often resulting in systemic inflammation. Because these substances are typically foreign to the bloodstream, immune cells mount a defense to attack what they regard as a “foreign invader.” Food allergies, fibromyalgia, joint pain, auto-immune diseases and a weakened immune system are just some of the health challenges that occur in conjunction with ongoing immune system reactions.

The Secret of Good Digestion, Health and Longevity

     The work of breaking food down into usable nutrients and delivering them to the cells cannot take place apart from the work of enzymes. Enzymes are energy-producing substances that act as catalysts for every biochemical reaction in the body. Enzymes are the workers of the body that make everything happen. The strength and number of our enzymes directly correlates with our body’s ability to digest and absorb food, repair and regenerate cells, produce energy, break down toxins, and ward off disease. So far, more than 3,000 specialized enzymes have been identified.

     Digestive enzymes and food enzymes are the two main categories of enzymes involved in the process of digestion. Digestive enzymes are those secreted by the pancreas that aid in the final stages of digestion that take place in the small intestine prior to the absorption of nutrients through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. Food enzymes are enzymes that naturally exist in living raw food in the amounts and types needed to digest that particular food. The enzymes that run all the other processes of the body are generally classified as metabolic enzymes.

Why Enzymes are Missing from Foods

     Much of the food in the average modern diet is depleted of food enzymes due to a number of practices that reduce or inactivate them. Enzymes are at their peak when produce is fully ripened and freshly picked, after which time their viability progressively diminishes. Foods from the grocery store rarely meet these criteria. In fact, much produce is picked unripened and the average time between harvest and market is two weeks due to storage and transport factors. Certain types of fruits and vegetables today are even genetically modified to reduce their enzyme activity in order to keep them from spoiling as quickly during storage, transportation and the time they sit in grocery stores.

     Enzyme activity is primarily destroyed by heat used in the cooking and processing of foods. Besides the fact that people typically microwave or otherwise cook most of their food, heat used in processing methods, such as canning, refining and pasteurization, completely destroy enzymes in addition to denaturing and depleting many other nutrients. While food manufacturers sometimes add back in certain vitamins and minerals, the food enzymes are never replaced.

     Even fresh produce items can be enzyme-deficient due to increased use of irradiation, another process that obliterates enzymes in foods. Food enzyme inhibitors added to foods to reduce enzyme activity and subsequent spoilage is yet another way enzymes are stripped from our food supply. Regrettably, food manufacturers are far more interested in extending shelf life than in preserving these essential nutrients so vital to health. 

The Impact of Enzyme Deficiencies on Health

     The initial breakdown of food starts in the upper stomach through the action of enzymes found in live foods. This predigestion phase takes place from the time food first enters the upper stomach until enough stomach acid is secreted to lower pH levels to the point where protein digesting enzymes are released to begin the work of digestion.  If food is cooked, processed or otherwise devoid of enzymes, it just sits undigested during this “predigestive” phase apart from some minimal digestive action by enzymes in saliva.

     When no food enzymes are present to help predigest food in the initial phases of digestion, the body must assume the full burden of producing all of the needed enzymes. The problem is that the pancreas (the main digestive enzyme-producing organ) was only meant to produce enough enzymes to complete digestion in the small intestine – not enough to digest all of the food consumed.

     The more a person eats deficient foods, the more undue strain is placed on the pancreas and other organs involved in the digestive process. A lack of sufficient available enzymes forces the body to “steal” metabolic enzymes from other tissues and organs, which makes them less available when needed for other bodily functions and processes.

     What is especially important to realize is that the body’s supply of enzymes is not without limit. If enzyme reserves are continually appropriated for use in digestive processes and not replaced, lack of available metabolic enzymes eventually weakens the immune system (many immune cells consist of enzymes) and takes a toll on the ability of other organs and systems to maintain health. Food enzyme deficiencies lower the resistance of the body to various kinds of stress and contribute to many health conditions that lead to chronic degenerative changes in the body over time.

One of the Best Health Investments You Can Make

     In a perfect world, we could obtain sufficient amounts of enzymes for good health by consuming a diet abundant in raw enzyme-rich foods. The reality is that most people tend to eat more foods that are enzyme deplete, cooked or processed rather than enzyme-rich raw foods.

     Because of the burden enzyme-deficient foods place on digestive organs, one of the best ways to improve health (besides increasing the amount of raw organic food you eat) is to replace enzymes missing from foods with plant-based food enzyme supplements that provide the same digestive activity of raw food enzymes. The more food gets digested in the stomach, the less pancreatic enzymes are needed to complete digestion and the more metabolic enzymes are conserved to efficiently run the other processes of the body. This is especially important for older individuals as the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes and digest food decreases with age.

     Food enzyme supplements do more than just help digest food in the earlier stages of digestion. They also work to support the immune system. All of the immune system’s functions are fueled by enzymes, including healing damaged tissue and fighting disease. Specialized enzymes taken on an empty stomach pass through the digestive tract and directly enter the bloodstream where they can be used by immune cells to digest whatever does not belong in the blood, such as bacteria, cell fragments or undigested food molecules that overactivate and weaken the immune system. Enzymes used in this manner also improve circulation and reduce symptoms of inflammation by helping the process resolve more quickly.

     Supporting the digestive process by eating enzyme-rich foods and taking plant-based enzyme supplements improves health and longevity by unlocking nutrients in foods, enhancing their assimilation, and conserving the limited supply of metabolic and digestive enzymes produced within the body. It is the best way to ensure that your cells have what they need to keep you healthy.

Concluding Thoughts

      Using enzymes to optimize nutrition and maintain homeostasis and health in the body is a growing and cutting-edge field in natural health.  Dr. Howard Loomis, founder of the Loomis Institute of Enzyme Nutrition, is regarded as a pioneer of enzyme nutrition therapy in this country. Through his many years spent in extensive research and the clinical setting, he developed a comprehensive and scientifically proven method for determining what type of enzyme or nutritional support was needed by the body to maintain or regain a state of balance.

     The assessments used in conjunction with the Loomis System of Enzyme Nutrition work to correctly identify how the body is struggling to maintain balance and the existence of enzyme deficiencies and nutritional problems related to dietary imbalances or inadequate digestion. Dr. Loomis trains all types of health practitioners on the diagnosis and treatment of food enzyme deficiency syndromes. I recently was able to receive this training and complete the Loomis Digestive Health Specialist certification program. Please e-mail me if you would like to learn more about available assessments or any other information about how enzyme nutrition therapy can improve your digestive and overall health.


Enzyme Nutrition by Edwin Howell, M.D.
Enzymes – Key to Health by Howard Loomis, D.C.,
The Enzyme Factor by Hiromi Shinya, M.D.
Enzymes and Enzyme Therapy – How to Jumpstart Your Way to Lifelong Good Health by Anthony J. Chichoke, D.C., M.A.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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