It took me some time to fully understand the benefits that enzymes played in my diet and because of this lack of understanding I continued to eat a diet void of foods complete in nutritional enzymes. I knew the rumblings I would hear very often in my stomach were clear evidence that I had to make a powerful change in how I thought about foods.
Having adopted mainly raw foods into my diet in the last few years, I believe enzymes are the “work horse” in our bodies and are crucial to digestion and the maintenance of good health. We should think about the role of enzymes in very simple terms: An enzyme is the “life force” that activates vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other physical components within our body.
There are two major enzyme systems in the human body. One is digestive and the other is metabolic. The digestive enzymes help break down all of the food that we eat so that it can be absorbed by the body. The metabolic enzymes help to run all of the body systems, from the respiratory system to the nervous system.
The seven categories of food (digestive) enzymes and their activities are:
Amylase: breaks down starches
Cellulase: breaks down fibers
Lactase: breaks down dairy products
Lipase: breaks down fats
Maltase: breaks down grains
Protease: breaks down proteins
Sucrase: breaks down sugars
I want to talk about the enzyme bromelain, which is very beneficial in skin care treatments. Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes found naturally in the juice and stems of pineapples (Ananas comosus), a tropical fruit-bearing plant indigenous to South American countries as well as the Hawaiian Islands. Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme, which is an enzyme that helps you digest the proteins in foods. Papaya and pineapple are two of the richest plant sources of proteolytic (protein-dissolving) enzymes.
Bromelain used in skin care treatments is an alpha hydroxy acid and is very effective in gently removing the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin by chemical exfoliation.
Enzymatic activity destroys the keratin of dead cells and the debris, allowing the skin to breathe and feel more alive and vibrant. When you remove dead tissue during exfoliation, you make your pores appear smaller because you remove the keratinized skin around the edges of your pores and make them less visible. Exfoliation also reveals the moisture underneath the tissue.
Once the skin has been exfoliated, you will notice a visual difference in the tone and smoothness of the skin. The follicles are clearer and the skin is softened and hydrated, allowing for a deeper penetration of serums and moisturizers.
People who experience acne will notice a visible difference in the way this treatment will unclog the pores and reduce inflammation of accumulated buildup of skin cells on the surface of the skin.
Raw honey is a natural humectant that attracts and binds water to the upper layers of the skin. Exfoliation of pineapple on sensitive skin can cause skin irritation, so honey’s natural moisturizing ability makes it a perfect fit for this treatment.
Remember the next time you’re thinking about buying high-priced products to exfoliate your skin, look no further than the produce section of your local supermarket, farmers market, or co-op, and buy an organic pineapple.
Try this easy, natural exfoliating ritual:
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
3 tablespoons honey
Purée pineapple in blender and apply in a circular motion to a cleansed face. Leave on face for ten minutes, then rinse well with cool water and pat skin dry. Apply the honey and leave on for five minutes. Rinse with cool water, pat the skin dry again, and apply your favorite moisturizer.
Photo Credit: Kyle McDonald, Cliff, Hannah VanderWeide