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What happens to enzymes when you ferment food?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 09, 2012 at 9:08 AM

There are people who can digest raw food while the same foods in cooked form give them trouble (though it's usually the opposite). I suppose it's the natural enzymes in the raw foods that make the difference.

So what happens to those enzymes during lacto-fermentation? Does anyone know the science? Is there anyone sensitive to cooked foods who can share their experiences with fermented fruit and veggies?

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(3024)

on January 10, 2012
at 05:47 AM

Thanks for your detailed comment. What you say makes sense, but I'm asking for someone who isn't a healthy person as far as digesting is concerned. And as opposed to many, she can eat raw with no problems, but suffers from discomfort when she eats cooked vegetables. My best guess is that she is lacking some enzymes. Interestingly enough, this seems to run in her family.

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4 Answers

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4
A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on January 09, 2012
at 09:59 PM

This is a gross simplification, but foods need not already contain the enzymes that digest their own tissues in order for us to digest them. Our salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and intestines produce the enzymes necessary for digestion, and for some compounds, we depend on gut microbes to do part of it for us after we eat the food--that is, in healthy people. In the case of some foods, we coax microbes into taking a first pass before we eat them, then we eat the results (milk to yogurt; cabbage to sauerkraut, etc.).

Of course, not all people are healthy. Some can't eat raw cabbage, but do fine with cooked or fermented. Some can't eat dairy with lactose, but yogurt is okay.

I believe we attribute these problems not to the foods lacking the enzymes, but rather, to either a digestive system not evolved to eat the food (e.g., lactose intolerant people) or to a faulty digestive system that either cannot produce the necessary enzymes, is compromised by overgrowth of the "wrong" microbes somewhere in the system, drugs, etc. (Alas, my own digestive enzyme production was likely compromised by my long-term abuse of PPIs--which I have kicked, by the way; I didn't need the enzymes in the food itself, I needed my own enzyme production to return to normal.)

In the case of fermented foods, microbes produce the enzymes they need to break down the foods. In cabbage, microbes digest the sugars and produce lactic acid, giving sauerkraut its tang. It's not the cabbage digesting itself with its own enzymes--it's the microbes producing the necessary enzymes to break down the sugars.

We also purposely deactivate enzymes to prevent discoloration, loss of flavor or texture, etc. Frozen vegetables are usually blanched first for this purpose. A frozen vegetable is essentially a cooked vegetable. If you saw what happens when you freeze, then thaw a raw, non-blanched vegetable, you'd have no qualms about this procedure.

Cooking/blanching, and fermenting may change or deactivate the enzymes present in a food, but I'm not persuaded that the enzyme deactivation is bad, nor that it's the root cause of why people have troubles digesting foods in various states. I sort of cringe when I hear people say things like "it kills the enzymes," as if enzymes were living creatures that we must eat to survive.

Medium avatar

(3024)

on January 10, 2012
at 05:47 AM

Thanks for your detailed comment. What you say makes sense, but I'm asking for someone who isn't a healthy person as far as digesting is concerned. And as opposed to many, she can eat raw with no problems, but suffers from discomfort when she eats cooked vegetables. My best guess is that she is lacking some enzymes. Interestingly enough, this seems to run in her family.

2
B8592e62f9804ddabae73c1103d6bcb9

(1956)

on January 09, 2012
at 03:33 PM

The enzymes should survive. Heats kills them. Acidic/alkaline conditions may de-activate them but they will work when they're in the right acidity again (ie stomach versus small intestine).

0
008054408eefac50b684e0e322324a56

on March 18, 2013
at 02:38 PM

The main reason for not killing enzymes, would be (if I understand the process correctly...) to give your own body a break during the digesting process... The less enzyme you kill, the less enzyme you're forcing your body to produce... The less enzymes your body is forced to produce, the more energy resources your body can save for other functions... The immune system, has at least two main functions: 1) defensive function 2) repair function

If you do not kill enzymes at all, then your body spends minimum energy for the minimum digestive process necessities, and therefore all the spare energy saved can be used for defence/repair/other functions...

You do not have to be a rocket-scientist to see the benefits in keeping the enzymes in foods alive...

Personally since I'm a raw-foodist, I did not have a cold or any other kind of the usual seasonal problems that most of people do have, at least here in our consumerism kind of culture...

0
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on January 09, 2012
at 04:54 PM

Fermentation goes after sugar. And in the case of dairy, primarily lactose.

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