In his classic work on the therapeutic use of digestive enzymes “Enzyme Nutrition”, Dr. Edward Howell, wrote that food processing and reduced intake of plant enzymes is one of the major causes of enzyme deficiency and ultimately of chronic degenerative diseases.
Enzymes, substances that speed up the rate of chemical reactions in living systems (including the human body), come in two varieties. The first affect foods, and increase the reactivity rate of digestive chemistry, and are called appropriately enough, digestive. The second, those that affect the rate of all other chemical reactions, including healing, growth, repair, cancer-fighting, immune boosting, and ant-aging are called metabolic enzymes. In addition to being found in all living beings, so-called digestive enzymes are also found in foods themselves. Unfortunately, these food enzymes are delicate and ephemeral and unable to survive the intense processing of the modern industrially produced modern foods. Doctor Howell believed that by eating these kinds of foods Americans were killing themselves with their diet. He said that when digestive enzymes were missing from foods, the body’s precious allotment of metabolic enzymes was used up for the digestive process, thereby causing their depletion and ultimately shortening life.
Whether or not that is the case, the fact cannot be disputed that food enzymes found in foods can make a substantial contribution to the digestive process. Enzymes in vegetables, as well as meat and dairy and eggs, can allow food to self-digest or predigest even before it’s blasted with digestive tract enzymes. However, because of the delicate nature of these enzymatic substances, they are typically unable to withstand the rigors of ordinary cooking and processing.
This makes the dietary use of uncooked and unprocessed foods very important. Certainly, light and quick cooking can be helpful. It can make foods safer in the case of bacteria and other pathogens, and steaming or slighting roasting can help released nutrients, but the fact remains; cooking destroys enzymes.
Dr. Howell also came up with a concept he called the “food enzyme stomach”. He noticed that many animals have their food pass multiple stomachs and that in many cases the initial stomachs don’t have their own enzymes, but rather are a holding area where enzymes in the foods themselves can in essence self-digest their food. This makes them easier to process and help support the animals digestive enzymes breakdown foods. Giraffes, yaks, and many farm animals (scientifically classified as “ruminants”) have four stomachs, the first three of which are enzyme-less. Other examples in the animal kingdom include the three stomach’s of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and the pre-stomach-like “crop” in birds.
According to Dr. Howell, human beings also have a version of a food enzyme stomach even though, unlike ruminants, quite obviously don’t have four. Rather, human beings have one stomach that is divided into 4 sections. The first part is where food enters into the stomach from the esophagus, the “cardiac stomach”, so called because it’s located just beneath the heart. This section like the initial stomachs of ruminants, birds and cetaceans produces no enzyme secretions. According to Doctor Howell it is the equivalent of a food enzyme stomach. That means that like the fore-stomachs of various animal species, the cardiac stomach is an ideal setting for the enzymes in raw vegetables and in minimally cooked meat and fish to do their predigestion work on food, so that when it progresses into the latter areas of the stomach and the intestine the digestive process has already begun.
Thus the importance of eating slowly and ingesting smaller bites and portions of food. By reducing the speed and the amount of substances that enter into the alimentary tract and the enzyme secreting areas of the digestive tract, food stuffs can spend more time in the cardiac stomach holding area, where they can be pre-processed, i.e; self-digested, prior to their contacting the body’s enzyme juices. The end result of such pre-digestion is a more efficient utilization of comestibles, a reduction in the formation of toxins and potentially allergenic unprocessed food, and much improved nutrient availability.