Digestive Enzymes And The Food Enzyme Concept For Health

     In nutrition classes and supplement marketing campaigns, we hear a lot about digestive enzymes. But what is the big deal? In this article, I am going to reveal why you and your pets need digestive enzymes added to your foods for healthy living.

The Importance of Digestive Enzymes : Explanation of The Food Enzyme Concept

     Many critical enzyme requirements were outlined by pioneers of the nutritional health movement. When modern diets were adopted in developed countries, physicians noticed that the population was getting sicker, not healthier. To determine the cause of this trend, many important researchers started comparing vibrantly healthy populations to sick chronically ill populations and the role that the specific diets played.

importance of healthy digestion


     Today the evidence gathered by researcher Weston A. Price is well known. The stark difference between traditional simple diets and modern foods was obvious. Less known than Dr. Price, was Dr. Edward Howell. Howell studied population life span, health, and nutrition. He developed the “Food Enzyme Concept” also known as the “Enzyme Nutritional Axiom”. **

     The idea originated from studies of ancient civilization, tribal cultures, and Eastern medicine. Dr. Howell explained these large differences in health status were due to the presence or absence of natural enzymes. He wrote that “the length of life is inversely proportional to the rate of exhaustion of the enzyme potential of an organism”.

     In simple terms, it said that we had a limited amount of enzymes that we could produce in a lifetime. The faster you would use up these essential enzymes, the faster you would die. He then showed the difference in nutritional enzymes used by the “evolving” population in the US. Americans began cooking most foods, processing them, and treating food for a longer shelf life. Enzymes are naturally present in food and these applications of food preservation destroyed the enzymes.

Why Do We Need Digestive Enzymes? The Modern Diet’s Destruction of Beneficial Enzymes

    Most applications of food processing destroy the natural enzymes present in raw, unadulterated food. This neutralization of enzymes allows food to stay “fresh” longer. It also means added work for our whole body.


     Foods cooked at 118 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter experience 100% destruction of all enzymes. We were told that cooking food makes it safer to eat. It is safer in the short term due to the reduction of bacteria and parasites. Longer shelf life resulted in more money for food producers as well as the ability to distribute food across the country and feed more people.

healthy cooking


     Pasteurization can be applied to many different types of food, however, the most commonly known use of this process occurs to milk. The purpose of this application of heat onto food is to kill bacteria, but unfortunately, this heat also kills most of the natural enzymes. Homogenization also contributes to the breakdown of normal proteins and fats which alter the nutritional content of the milk.


     Canning is another way in which food is processed and has increased shelf life. Canning heats, removes oxygen, and sterilizes the food content. This destroys all of the natural enzymes. Depending on the food, canning also decreases nutrients by 15-92%. The blanching of green beans, as studied by food manufacturers, reduces the enzyme amount by 98%. This change is good if you are the food producer, but not so great if you are the one digesting the green beans.

healthy canning


     Freezing by its self does not necessarily destroy most of the natural enzymes, but most frozen food is processed by blanching first and then freezing. 

Exposure to Heat / Storage 

      Exposure to heat, even in small amounts can cause natural enzymes to break down. This is even true about food storage. If you buy an apple from the grocery store in April, it doesn’t mean the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, maybe not even over 50 degrees. However, any temperature above freezing still allows the destruction of enzymes. As an example, if you ate a fresh apple off the tree in November - natural enzymes will be at 100%. If that apple was picked, washed, sorted, packed, transported hundreds of miles, and stored in a warehouse for 4 months, the enzyme concentration would be significantly lower. Your body can easily digest a fresh apple, but it has a harder time digesting the 4 month old apple.

     Any food processing technique, such as bleaching, mixing, grinding, or even exposure to radiation will have a negative impact on enzymes and make digestion harder. Any food that sits in a box or on a shelf, like pet food, does not contain those vital enzymes. It is extremely necessary that we add supplemental enzymes to help our body.

Sugar’s Effect On Digestion

     One additional change to our modern diet that deserves attention in its stress on natural enzymes is sugar. Yes, sugar. That deliciously addictive ingredient that is added to over 60% of our foods here in the US. Sugar binds with digestive enzymes, which means that the body has to produce even more digestive enzymes to break down foods.

sugar is bad

     The ultimate result of this food processing is a significant deficit in natural digestive enzymes which makes our food harder to digest and causes the body  to create more digestive enzymes. When our bodies have to pump out digestive enzymes, there are fewer resources to make other body enzymes. This could mean less energy production in our cells, or less toxin filtering in the liver. Maybe it leads to additional deposits of fat in our blood vessels or slower turnover of the skin cells on our face. Also, it could mean your immune system is weaker when trying to fight off a virus. All of these conditions result in lower health of our whole population.

Health Conditions Linked to Enzyme Deficiency : 

Almost all health conditions can be linked to the added need for enzymes. But specific studies have made some direct correlations. The common health conditions linked to enzyme deficiencies are:

  • Obesity
  • Weight Gain
  • Chronic Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Cancer*

*especially pancreatic cancer                 

pancreatic cancer

Digestive Enzyme Supplements - Best Practices :

Digestive enzyme supplements have been studied for decades. Researchers have conducted comparisons of different types of enzymes for optimal health. Many studies have found that the best enzyme sources come from plants and fermentation cultures rather than animal sources. Animal-derived digestive enzymes are less effective for four reasons.

  • Animal-derived digestive enzymes only work in highly acidic pH environments.
  • Animal-derived digestive enzymes are fragile, which results in enterically coated products.
  • Animal-derived digestive enzymes are often provided in very low doses and are not easily concentrated.
  • Animal-derived digestive enzymes may carry a risk of toxin contamination and auto-immunity components.

1. Since animal-derived enzymes only work in highly acidic conditions, these enzymes will not be the best choice for people with: stomach acidity problems, high carbohydrate-based diets, GERD, take antacid medications, battle gastrointestinal Candida overgrowths, or are taking various medications or supplements.

2. Animal-derived enzymes are more fragile than plant-based enzymes. Even small changes in the environment can cause the animal enzymes to break down or change bioactivity. This fragility has led many animal-based supplement manufacturers to create enteric coatings or other barriers. Enterically coated supplements do not get released until they are in the small intestine. The intestines are not a highly acidic environment therefore when the digestive enzymes are released they have very low activity. The timing of the supplement administration can lead to little-to-no activity in the stomach which is where the enzymes are needed the most.

3. The fragility of animal-derived digestive enzymes means that the ingredients cannot be dried or compressed, because these processing factors would cause destruction of most of the important enzymes. Due to this fact, the enzymes cannot be concentrated. The concentration dose that you would receive from “1 capsule” of animal pancreas is very low compared to “1 capsule” of plant based enzymes. A person trying to gather a significant amount of activity may be required to ingest over 4 times the volume one would need of the plant based variety. 

4. Although it has not been extensively studied, biologic factors of tissue introduction into a different type of animal may come with additional health risks. The animal sources may also contain other hormones, tissue proteins, or unknown particles. Some practitioners also worry about possible contamination with vitamins, minerals, heavy metals, viruses, or bacteria. 

digestive enzymes

What is The Best Digestive Enzyme Supplement?

There are thousands of enzyme supplements, hundreds of home remedies, and even superhero-powerful prescriptions. But, over the years, natural health practitioners like myself keep coming back to one favorite. It is the digestive enzyme supplement that I recommend on a daily basis and the one that families see the best results. 

It’s called Enzycore, and it is made by Standard Process. It is available without a prescription, no exam, no consultation, and no doctor approval required. 


** Resources :