November 10, 2009

Enzymes are present throughout our bodies and they are vital to keep each body system functioning healthily. Enzymes are produced within living cells to perform specific biochemical reactions. Digestive enzymes are involved in the breakdown of foods, and are found in the mouth, pancreas, stomach and intestines. Cellular enzymes help the blood and organs to in the process of metabolism and the elimination of waste. Antioxidant enzymes are involved in the prevention of oxidation (associated with disease and aging)

Enzymes are proteins that catalyze, or help to speed up, biological reactions in the body and are specific for the action they are designed to perform. Enzymes are unstable and can be easily denatured or inactivated by extreme temperatures and certain chemicals as well pH.

The pancreas is the primary producer of digestive enzymes within the body. Nearly every raw food contains the enzymes necessary for its digestion, but cooking denatures or ‘kills’ these enzymes and the body must work hard to replace them in order for the food to be broken down and assimilated. So, animals who eat a highly processed, cooked diet, may become deficient in certain types of digestive enzymes.

Plant-derived enzymes include protease, which aids in the digestion of protein; lipase, which helps in the digestion of fats; and amylase, which digests carbohydrates or starch. These enzymes can be supplemented into the diet in powder or capsule form and when taken on an empty stomach, they can help to reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and stimulate the digestion of bacteria, toxins and partially digested proteins. Papain, which is derived from papaya, has anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. Bromelain, derived from pineapple, reduces inflammation and helps prevent bruising.

Enzymes are involved in almost all aspects of metabolism within the cells of the body. Metabolic enzymes are responsible for the maintenance, growth and repair of cells and for the proper function of the blood, tissues and organs. They also remove worn-out material from the cells, keeping them clean and healthy. These are probably the most important of all enzymes and are especially important in aging pets, because as an animal gets older, its cells begin to become diseased or die during the process of oxidation. Such oxidative responses include graying hair, arthritis and cancer.

To counteract the process of oxidation, (the production of free radicals), the body maintains reserves of antioxidants including enzymes (like Superoxide Dismutase) as well as antioxidant vitamins like beta-carotene, Vitamin A and Selenium. Antioxidant enzymes are found in many fresh vegetables and fruits as well as in fresh sprouts.

References:

The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM
Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen