Digestive enzymes play a huge role in digestive health. Without them, the digestive process wouldn’t exist. The body does not absorb food; it absorbs nutrients. Many people with digestive ailments turn to digestive enzymes to reduce their symptoms, but do they really work? Here’s what you need to know about the missing puzzle piece from your healthy diet, and why it could help with digestive dysfunction.
What are Digestive Enzymes and How Do They Work?
The primary role of digestive enzymes is to act as catalysts by speeding up chemical reactions in the body. Mostly, they are needed to break down larger food molecules into smaller ones, where they can be easily absorbed into the small intestine and utilised throughout the body. Imagine how hard it would be, or how long it would take, for the body to absorb food that has not been broken down?
The small intestine is responsible for breaking down amino acids from proteins, cholesterol and fatty acids from fats, and simple sugars from carbohydrates. All macronutrients, or carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, are broken down into smaller molecules that can be carried in the bloodstream where they are distributed throughout the body. Micronutrients are also released and transported in the bloodstream too.
In the pancreas, bile salts or acids are produced, which are made up of amino acids, cholesterol, fats, water, electrolytes and bilirubin. These compounds are sourced from the gallbladder and liver and are needed to break down fats in food, which enables the enzyme lipase to reduce them further and make them available for absorption.
Different types of enzymes are needed to perform different yet crucial actions within the digestive process. There are three main enzymes: amylase, lipase and protease. Amylase is required to break down starches into sugar molecules; lipase is needed to break down fat; and protease breaks down protein into amino acids. However, there are many more digestive enzymes that carry out important processes.
The following is a list of intestinal and pancreatic enzymes and their functions:
- The milk sugar lactase converts lactose to glucose
- Sucrase converts sucrose to monosaccharides and disaccharides
- Aminopeptidases break down peptides into amino acids
- Cholecystokinin helps break down fats and proteins
- Maltase converts maltose to glucose
- Lipase converts triglycerides into glycerol and fatty acids
- Amylase converts starches into simple sugars
- Trypsin and chymotrypsin convert proteins to amino acids
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are needed to break down food. Without them, the digestive process simply would not exist! Supplementing with digestive enzymes could improve the digestive process in those with gastrointestinal disorders.
According to a 2008 article published in Alternative Medicine Review, digestive enzymes play an important role in the management of various digestive disorders, especially those with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. The study also found that digestive enzymes could help with lactose intolerance. A 2016 study published in Current Drug Metabolism supported these claims and found that plant-based and microbe-derived enzymes are a great treatment for many digestive orders, such as celiac disease and pancreatic diseases.
Benefits of digestive enzymes may include:
- Improve or treat leaky gut syndrome by relieving stress on the gastrointestinal tract
- Assist in the breakdown of gluten and lactose, which are generally difficult to digest
- Counteract enzyme inhibitors found in foods such as wheat germ, peanuts, egg whites, beans, potatoes, nuts and seeds
- Enhance nutrient absorption and prevent deficiency
- Improve the symptoms of digestive and pancreatic disorders and acid reflux
Who Should Take Digestive Enzymes?
Anyone can benefit from improved digestion and nutrient absorption, but people who especially want to include digestive enzymes in their diet are those with digestive diseases, age-related enzyme insufficiency, liver disease, pancreatic disorders and hypochlorhydria. Other disorders that may warrant digestive enzyme supplementation include Crohn’s disease, anaemia or iron and vitamin B12 deficiency, and vitamin A or vitamin D deficiency
People who drink fluorinated water may want to consider supplementing with digestive enzymes. Research shows that fluorinate water may be responsible for decreasing the pancreatic enzymes protease and lipase, which can result in free radical damage and a decrease in mitochondria production. Stool changes and gastrointestinal disturbances after eating may be a sign of digestive problems.
If you suffer from after-meal gas, indigestion or irregularity and bloating, look into our Enzymes today.