If I Were Limited to Only One Supplement...
Which One Would I Choose?
by Steven H. Horne, RH (AHG)
Recently, Karta Purkh Singh Kalsa (co-author of the Secrets of Chinese Herbs Course) and I hosted a free conference call on Chinese herbs. We allowed listeners to submit questions via E-mail prior to the call. One of the questioners wanted to know if I could only recommend one Chinese herbal formula what would be it be? My response was that if I were limited to only being able to recommend one supplement, it wouldn’t be a Chinese herbal formula. It would be enzymes. Plant enzymes to be specific.
I was introduced to plant enzymes through another company in the early 1990s. I had previously tried NSP’s Food Enzymes product, which contains digestive enzymes, bile salts, hydrochloric acid (HCl) and a couple of plant enzymes. Digestive enzymes are different from plant enzymes because they come from animal sources. They are the same enzymes our body produces to digest food. Plant enzymes, of course, come from plants. They are the enzymes naturally present in raw foods. They are also present in fermented foods as they are produced by lactobacillis bacteria (probiotic bacteria). These plant enzymes are not manufactured by the body; they are supposed to be found in the foods we eat.
There is nothing wrong with Food Enzymes, it is a great product, and one of NSP’s top sellers. But, I did not like taking it. It did not make my digestive system feel “right.” As I shall explain later, I pay a lot of attention to the feedback my body gives me about diet and supplements. Also, I have this basic philosophical idea that I don’t like to take anything my body is supposed to be producing on it’s own, if I can help it. My thoughts on this are that all chemicals in the body have feedback loops. When levels of a particular substance rise, it shuts down the body’s own production. This, in my opinion, tends to make the body “lazy,” and is not restoring natural function.
However, I do realize that many times, when people’s natural digestion has been impaired through illness, injury or age, that this kind of supplementation is helpful. So, I do use Food Enzymes in these kinds of cases. However, for the most part I prefer plant enzymes (Proactazyme) because they are the enzymes we would be getting in our diet if we were eating in a healthy, natural way.
My Experience With Plant Enzymes
When I first started taking plant enzymes, I noticed an immediate improvement in my digestion. I think weak digestion has been one of my problems since childhood. That may be because I am an A Blood Type and A Blood Types tend to have weak digestive systems, but for whatever reason, enzymes were something that made an immediate and obvious improvement for me. Nature's Sunshine has a line of plant enzyme products and I started using their enzymes. I still use all of NSP’s enzyme products, including Proactazyme Plus, Protease Plus, Hi-Lipase and Lactase Plus.
Lactase Plus is very important to me because I am lactose intolerant and on those rare occasions when I indulge in a little ice cream, it is essential for me. (By the way, 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, so there are a lot of us.)
Anyway, I have been taking plant enzyme supplements for nearly 20 years now. They are the only supplement that I take with any great regularity, and the reason is, that I notice a big difference when I don’t take them. So, whenever I’ve been off them for a while, I notice that my digestive health (and over all health) is not as good, and I get right back on them. They are the only supplement I have had this experience with.
But why are plant enzymes such an important supplement?
Here are my reasons.
* First of all, no supplement you take is going to do you any good if you cannot digest and assimilate it. Neither is eating good food. So, if your digestion is poor, then dietary changes, supplements, etc. are not going to do you a whole lot of good. I know that when I first started in natural healing, I had to really carefully watch my diet. After I learned about the hiatal hernia from Jack Ritchason, got that problem fixed, and started using digestive enzymes, all my other supplements worked better and I did not have to be so careful about what I ate. I find a lot of people have very poor digestion. In fact, in my experience, everyone who is chronically ill has digestive problems (more on that later).
* Secondly, when I first got started in natural healing, I was taught, “death begins in the colon.” That is because autointoxication from the waste products in the colon is an underlying cause of numerous diseases. However, if I am seeing pollution in a mountain stream, then I need to go upstream and look for the source. Problems in the colon begin “upstream” in the stomach. If food is not digesting properly, it creates waste that builds up downstream in the colon. You can cleanse the colon all day long, but if you don’t fix what’s happening “upstream” in the digestive organs it will just get polluted all over again. Digestive enzymes work “upstream” to keep the colon healthy.
* Third, as we grow older, our digestive system tends to get weaker. Hydrochloric acid and enzyme production diminishes with age and is usually quite deficient by the time a person is 50, although it may start becoming deficient in many people much earlier than that. This deficiency of digestive secretions is a major part of protein and mineral deficiencies in the elderly. It is also why Food Enzymes is practically a “must-have” product for senior citizens.
* Fourth, plant enzymes have a sparing effect on digestive enzymes. By getting adequate amount of plant enzymes when you are younger, you reduce stress on your digestive organs, which keeps them healthier longer. This has a major anti-aging effect.
* Fifth, most Americans do not get a lot of these enzymes in their diet because most of the food they eat is processed, cooked food. In addition, many foods Americans eat contain enzyme inhibitors that actually interfere with enzyme activity. Some of these enzyme inhibitors are chemical additives meant to keep foods from spoiling, but others are naturally-occurring. Plant enzymes not only supplement these natural enzymes missing from our diet, they help to “override” the enzyme inhibitors in people’s diets.
To further understand the importance of enzymes (and why we need them), it helps to understand a little about the digestive process. Here are some essential facts.
Digestion begins in the mouth, with the teeth and the saliva. Most Americans eat too fast. I have a tendency to eat too fast, but I have been learning to slow down and getting better at it. When you eat more slowly, you enjoy your food more. You also get “full” quicker as your body has time to register that you have had enough to eat. This helps you lose weight. It also helps your food digest better and that makes you healthier. However, the fact that most Americans eat too fast, means that digestive enzymes can at least help them make up for this problem. Digestion continues in the stomach with the secretion of hydrochloric acid and pepsin. With all the ads on TV about antacids and acid blockers, you would think that acid in the stomach is a bad thing. It is not, it is a very good thing. You need hydrochloric acid (HCl) to break down proteins properly and you also need it to absorb minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper. Also, HCl is part of your pH buffering system. It may sound crazy, but neutralizing your stomach acid actually makes your body more acidic.
The interesting thing is that most people who suffer from acid indigestion are actually acid and enzyme deficient. If you get burning pains in your stomach about one hour after eating, then you don’t have enough digestive secretions to break down your food. Taking plant enzymes with meals will actually help this. I sometimes get this type of acid indigestion, especially when I mix heavy grains with meat. I can eat grains and vegetables and vegetables with meat, but I don’t do well with a lot of grain and protein. Here is how I deal with the problem—I take bitters in liquid form (not Digestive Bitters because its too sweet for me—the more bitter the remedy, the better it works). My usual choice is a glycerine extract of goldenseal or goldenseal powder straight from the capsules (open them and dump the powder in your mouth). This rapidly reduces the burning pain in my stomach. (I take a little every five minutes with water until I feel better.) The nice thing about bitters is that they don’t interfere with digestive secretions, they enhance them. Liquid bitters is a good way to restore natural digestive function.
Stomach Acid and Calcium
And, while we are talking about stomach acid, one of the most ridiculous things people do is to take various forms of calcium carbonate as calcium supplements thinking this will build their bones. Calcium carbonate blocks HCl production in the stomach, which is why it is used in antacid tablets. By blocking HCl, calcium carbonate supplements are also interfering with proper digestion of proteins and mineral assimilation. In other words, it is reducing digestive capacity. Even the calcium that is absorbed from calcium carbonate is not in a bound form, which means it isn’t very easy to utilize. So instead of going into the tissues and bones, it winds up getting dumped in the urine. This alkalizes the urine and makes people think they are balancing their pH. They aren’t. They’re really just temporarily buffering the acid, without correcting the underlying problems that cause the waste acid buildup.
pH buffering is more than just getting an alkaline reading on a urine pH strip. You can do the same thing with baking soda and its a whole lot cheaper. Besides, using calcium carbonate to buffer acid increases the risk of kidney stones and calcification. If you really want to alkalize, eat lots of green leafy vegetables. In my experience, they not only supply calcium and buffer pH, they help, instead of interfering with digestion. I have heard Jack Ritchason talk about “curing” people with acid indigestion by giving them PDA, which supplements hydrochloric acid production. This can also help make the system more alkaline. As I have mentioned earlier, I don’t personally like the way PDA makes my stomach feel. I do better with bitters, aromatics and enzymes.
Most people in our culture assume that indigestion is just something that “happens” to you, i.e., it is none of your fault. But indigestion is always a sign that what you just ate was“wrong.” It means that your body is not able to digest what you just consumed, hence you have what should really be called “miss-digestion.” I pay attention to indigestion and try to avoid eating in ways that cause indigestion because when you have indigestion you are creating inflammation in your digestive tract and that leads to chronic illness.
Conversely, when digestion goes smoothly and the food does not feel “heavy” on my stomach and there is no feeling of discomfort, stuffiness, gas, bloating, etc., then I know that what I ate was good. This is why I know that enzymes are good for me. They make my digestive system feel good, and help restore that good feeling when I do something that makes my digestive system feel “wrong.” If people would simply pay more attention to how the food they are eating is affecting them, they would soon learn to eat in a way that produced better health. This is more useful than trying to follow any “expert” advice on nutrition.
More Enzyme Uses
(Systemic enzymes when taken between meals)
A very bright young herbalist, Thomas Easley, clued me into a new and very valuable use for enzymes a couple of years ago. He does enzyme cleanses for cancer patients where he has them fast and take enzymes every few hours for a couple of days (between meals). This made a light bulb go off in my head.
When I travel, I sometimes get constipated and my digestive tract gets sluggish because I find it harder to get quality food. As a result, I start to get a little “acid” stomach and feel bloated and constipated. Now, when this happens, I know I can “fix” the problem with enzymes. What I do is this - I stop eating and start taking 2 enzyme capsules every two hours while drinking lots of water. In about 4-6 hours, my system clears out, my appetite returns and I feel fine again. In other words, digestive enzymes make a great “laxative.”
This leads me to believe that many people who are constipated are actually enzyme deficient. As a result, I have started using enzymes for cleaning and not just for digestion. Now, I take enzymes with my fiber drink and cleansing herbs in the morning. I find this works really well to keep my digestive tract working properly.
Enzymes are also therapeutically useful for a wide range of illnesses.
Enzymes, particularly High Potency protease (protein-digesting) enzymes, are an important aid to eliminating parasites and to helping the body fight cancer. As previously indicated, I learned from Jack Ritchason, and my own subsequent clinical experience, that all chronically ill people have poor digestion. These people nearly always benefit from taking enzyme supplements. However, I have found enzymes to be a critical part of helping people with parasites, chronic infections, cancer, auto-immune disorders, allergies (both respiratory and digestive), chronic sinus problems, digestive disorders and mood problems.
Good digestion is one of the foundations of good health. That is why enzymes are one of the most important, if not the most important, basic supplement people need. I would hate to be without them.
Note from Four Winds Nutrition (Christian Domergue)
This combination of products (below) is ideal for the following reasons:
Minerals are required to activate thousands of enzyme reactions within the body.
Minerals must be obtained from the soil. If the mineral is not in the soil, it cannot possibly be in the plant (and as a consequence in the food we eat!).
All of our body processes depend upon the action of minerals to activate the enzymes which perform bodily functions we take for granted.
Without proper mineral ratios we could not set into motion the properties and functions of enzymes, vitamins or amino acids.
These elemental components are responsible for every activity in every cell of our bodies.
Enzymes are life's great facilitators. They create the conditions needed for thousands of biochemical reactions to happen fast inside the body.
Read above about enzymes.
a. If you want to regain your magnificent energy, feel good allover and achieve long term health then start by fully understand the "Gut Connections". The gut is no longer seen as an entity with the sole purpose of helping with all aspects of digestion. It’s also being considered as a key player in regulating inflammation (as we all know, inflammation is the common factor for virtually all disease in the body) and immunity (responsible to prevent diseases!).
b. "Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine’s understanding of the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way you think." explains Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology,
c. According to Dr. Perlmutter M.D. "...a wide array of human health issues may well depend upon the diversity and complexity of the array of bacteria that lives within the gut, known as our microbiome".
Read about probiotics and the "Gut Connections" here.
Note: Choose Food Enzymes above if you are over 40 years old.