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The Importance of Digestive Enzymes for Health and Longevity

written and compiled by Tony Isaacs

(The Best Years in Life) During a trip to Utopia, Texas I took part in a natural health seminar (my part of the presentation was a talk on "beating and avoiding cancer naturally") that included three segments by a good friend of mine, Dr. Ken O'Neal. Doctor Ken, as he is known, was an MD for 30 years and for the past 10 years plus also a naturopathic doctor because he realized that mainstream medicine and the prescription drugs he had been taught were not curing anyone, just managing their symptoms and making them sicker in the long run.  It was a great way to make money but he wanted to heal people . . .

One of Doctor Ken's segments dealt with digestive enzymes and the vital role they play in our health.  Until the advent of modern farming and food preparation most people got ample digestive enzymes from the plants they picked and ate - consuming a great deal of them more or less ripe from the vine.  A ripe fruit or vegetable freshly picked contains the most digestive enzymes it will ever have.  Only a couple of hours off the vine will result in significant deterioration.  Pick a fruit or vegetable that is less than ripe and then ship it via cold storage to your local grocers and it may have less than 10% of the enzymes of a fresh picked ripe fruit or vegetable.  Add to that  our over-farmed and mineral-depleted soils,  the lack of time between crop plantings and lack of sufficient micro-organisms which convert available minerals to bioavailable forms the plants can utilize and the end result is crops that have far less available nutrients and enzymes than those decades ago.

Digestive enzymes play key roles in our health by enabling our bodies to digest and utilize all the nutrients we ingest to the greatest extent possible.  Moreover, these enzymes also play a key role in the elimination of toxins and the digestion and removal of scar tissue that builds up inside all of us as we age.  I am not sure how many of you may have seen my article on the valuable role houseplants can play in eliminating toxins and providing fresh oxygen

but what I did not know when I wrote the article was that it was digestive enzymes in the plants that enabled them to remove toxins.


When it comes to our bodies, there are at least 45 essential nutrients that the body needs to carry out normal bodily functions - and likely more when you include all the vital trace minerals. Essential means that the body cannot manufacture them and they must come from outside sources.

There are at least 13 kinds of vitamins and 20 kinds of minerals, in addition to fats, carbohydrates and water that are required for proper metabolic function. When food is consumed it gets broken down for absorption and transported by the blood stream.

Nutrients, including enzymes, work synergistically which means they cooperate with each other acting as catalysts. This promotes absorption and assimilation. The importance of digestive enzymes resides in the fact that the human body cannot absorb nutrients in food unless digestive enzymes break them down.

The body progressively loses its ability to produce enzymes with major drops occurring roughly every ten years of life. At the beginning it may not be that noticeable, however, later on you will discover that you cannot tolerate or enjoy certain foods like you did before. This may also be accompanied by a feeling of reduced stamina. Yes, you're running low of enzymes.

Noted alternative health voice Jon Barron noted the important role digestive enzymes play in anti-aging in his report on digestive enzymes:

Dr. Howell, in his book on enzyme nutrition, puts it quite clearly when he says that a person's life span is directly related to the exhaustion of their enzyme potential. And the use of food enzymes decreases that rate of exhaustion, and thus, results in a longer, healthier, and more vital life.

Enzymes are proteins that facilitate chemical reactions in living organisms. In fact, they are required for every single chemical action that takes place in your body. All of your cells, organs, bones, muscles, and tissues are run by enzymes.

Your digestive system, immune system, blood stream, liver, kidneys, spleen, and pancreas, as well as your ability to see, think, feel, and breathe, all depend on enzymes. All of the minerals and vitamins you eat and all of the hormones your body produces need enzymes in order to work properly. In fact, every single metabolic function in your body is governed by enzymes. Your stamina, your energy level, your ability to utilize vitamins and minerals, your immune system -- all governed by enzymes.

As it happens, they are produced both internally (most notably in the pancreas and the other endocrine glands) and are present in raw foods that we eat. At birth we are endowed with a certain potential for manufacturing enzymes in our bodies, an enzyme “reserve,” if you will. Nature intended that we continually replenish that reserve through proper nutrition and eating habits. Unfortunately, that just doesn't happen. Let's take a look at why.

Most people believe that when you eat a meal it drops into a pool of stomach acid, where it's broken down, then goes into the small intestine to have nutrients taken out, and then into the colon to be passed out of the body -- if you're lucky. Not quite.

What nature intended is that you eat enzyme rich foods and chew your food properly. If you did that, the food would enter the stomach laced with digestive enzymes. These enzymes would then "predigest" your food for about an hour -- actually breaking down as much as 75% of your meal.

After this period of "pre digestion," hydrochloric acid is introduced. The acid inactivates all of the enzymes, but begins its own function of breaking down what is left of the meal.

Eventually, this nutrient rich food concentrate moves on into the small intestine. Once food enters the small intestine, the pancreas reintroduces digestive enzymes to the process. As digestion is completed, nutrients are passed through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream.

That's what nature intended. Unfortunately, most of us don't live our lives as nature intended!

To read the full report, see:


At the aforementioned seminar, Dr. O'Neal provided a handout which explained the many benefits that a good regimen of systemic enzyme therapy from diets and supplementation could provide.  Here, with product references removed, is what it said:

Major Functions of Systemic Enzyme Therapy

Fights Inflammation:

Inflammation is the cause of pain associated with many different conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and sports injuries; including muscle sprains, sciatica, and chronic back pain.  Systemic enzymes are a healthy alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

  • Helps reduce joint and muscle inflammation

  • Acts as a natural pain reliever

  • Helps reduce C-Reactive proteins, a marker for inflammation

  • May lower inflammation by removing toxins and debris in the circulatory system

  • May reduce the inflammation associated with Sjogren's syndrome

Fights Fibrosis:

Fibrosis is a type of scar tissue formation containing fibrin (a type of protein) that can form masses or webs throughout the tissues, muscles, and organs.  Excess fibrous tissue is marked by the body as “foreign proteins”.  When there is a build up of excess fibrin, systemic enzymes can help reduce these so called “foreign” proteins, which may help:

  • Fight the aging process by removing the buildup of fibrin

  • Reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms by reduction and removal of fibrin buildup

  • Reduce Endometriosis by removal of fibrin buildup

  • Reduce Uterine Fibroid Tumors by removal of fibrin buildup

  • Reduce Pulmonary Fibrosis by removal of fibrin buildup

  • Reduce Chronic Fatigue Syndrome pain

  • Reduce thickening of the blood (fibrin deposits), increasing circulation

  • Unclog the microcirculation system, increasing circulation

  • Reduce spider veins and wrinkles

  • Reduce formation of scar tissue

  • Increase penile functionality

  • Reduce post-operative scar tissue, increases healing capabilities

Immune System Modulation:

When the immune system is run down too low, digestive enzymes can help increase the immune response, produce more Natural Killer cells, and improve the efficiency of the white blood cells, all leading to improved immunity.  They can also help:

  • Speed healing

  • Balance the entire body synergy

  • Increase the body’s defense mechanism by modulating our immune system

  • Prevent the rejection of transplanted and health-restoring organs and tissues

  • Modulate the cell-signaling pathway that triggers immune activation

Fights Blood Contamination:

Blood can become contaminated with toxins when the liver is over burdened and its capacity to cleanse the blood becomes diminished as a result.  Another way contamination can occur is when excess fibrin builds up in the blood causing it to become too thick.  This creates the perfect environment for blood clots to form. When systemic enzymes are taken, they can stand ready in the blood and take the strain off of the liver by helping to:

  • Clear excess fibrin from the blood and reducing the stickiness of blood cells, which in turn helps minimize one of the leading causes of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.

  • Break down dead material small enough so it can immediately pass into the bowel.

  • Maintain a normal blood flow by helping to prevent blood clots and platelet aggregations within blood vessels

  • Assist in the liver’s detoxification process

  • Improve functionality of white blood cell receptors and their ability to fight off infection.

  • Reduce clogging of the microcirculatory system

  • Improve homeostasis

Fights Viruses:

Viruses have an exterior protein coating that is used to bond itself to the DNA in our cells so they can replicate and possibly cause harm.  Systemic enzymes can disrupt this outer protein wall and render viruses inert by inhibiting replication. 

Digestive enzymes which include Serrapeptase content can help:

  • Improve anti-virals, kills the virus

  • Internal filters clean the circulatory system

  • Lower viral loading

I might also add that Dr. O'Neal explained one reason that digestive enzymes, particularly pancreatic enzyme that contain chymotrypsin, are so effective as a tool in fighting many cancers, such as pancreatic cancer:  they help break down the protective coating cancer cells encapsulate themselves in.

So, digestive enzymes important?  It surely made a believer out of me!

Live long, live healthy, live happy!

Tony Isaacs

See also:

Use Enzymes for Fibrosis, Scars, Keloids, Lung Disease and Cancer

Research: Pineapple Enzyme Kills Cancer Without Killing You

Sources included:

Dr. Ken O'Neal and his handouts from the Utopia Texas Health Seminar
Jon Barron

About the author

Tony Isaacs is a natural health advocate and researcher and the author of books and articles about natural health including Cancer's Natural Enemy.  Mr. Isaacs articles are featured at The Truth About Cancer, the Health Science Institute's Healthiertalk website, CureZone, the Crusador online, The New Zealand Journal of Natural Health, the Cancer Tutor and several other venues. Mr. Isaacs also has The Best Years in Life website for baby boomers and others wishing to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. In addition, he hosts the Yahoo Oleandersoup Health group of over 3500 members and the CureZone Ask Tony Isaacs.

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