Your digestive system and gut are the control center of your body. Digestive enzymes are produced and secreted by your gastrointestinal (GI) system to degrade and metabolize macronutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat, then absorb nutrients to fuel thousands of metabolic processes. Supplementation with digestive enzymes, has become an increasingly popular therapeutic treatment to help reduce inflammation, bloat, and improve digestive health. We’re going to talk more about what digestive enzymes are, how they work, and why you need them.
What Are Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are naturally occurring proteins produced by your body, to help absorb and digest food. Several types of digestive enzymes are released and secreted, starting with the saliva in your mouth to your small intestine and pancreas. The pancreas is considered the epicenter where most of your digestive enzymes are produced. The primary purpose of digestive enzymes is to aid and support digestion.
Types Of Digestive Enzymes
There are several different types of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. A variety of health conditions, that affect the pancreas can lead to deficiencies in digestive enzymes, which can create malabsorption and nutrient deficiency.
- Amylase – an enzyme secreted in the mouth and pancreas which breaks down carbohydrates.
- Maltase – created by the small intestine to break down maltose or malt sugar into glucose for energy.
- Lactase – An enzyme that breaks down lactose and is a sugar found in dairy products. It converts lactose into glucose and galactose. Lactose that is not absorbed is fermented by the gut which can cause bloating and gas.
- Lipase – Lipase breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol.
- Proteases - these are digestive enzymes that break down protein into amino acids. Swolverine’s Whey Protein Isolate adds protease as well as papain from papaya to better digest protein.
- Sucrase – secreted by the small intestine, sucrase breaks down sugar or sucrose (table sugar) into fructose and glucose.
How Do Digestive Enzymes Work
When the pancreas cannot sufficiently produce digestive enzymes, you cannot affectively break down food into functional nutrients. This can lead to malnutrition, as well as bloating, cramping, and inflammation.
Supplementation can aid in auto-immune disorders such as lactose intolerance and cystic fibrosis which are characterized by malabsorption.
Starting in the mouth through saliva and working through the gastrointestinal system, digestive enzymes break down food into smaller molecules such as sugars or amino acids. Hydrochloric acid found and produced in the stomach sterilizes foods and breaks down macronutrients activating digestive enzymes in the stomach. As food passes through the small intestine, the pancreas releases several digestive enzymes to process food, in addition to bicarbonate, as the gall bladder releases bile into the small intestine. Bicarbonate neutralizes stomach acid, creating a neutral environment, deactivating stomach enzymes and activating the enzymes in the intestine.
Digestive Enzymes Found In Food
Many foods contain naturally occurring digestive enzymes, which can aid in digestion. Papaya, pineapple, kiwi, ginger, bananas, and mangos, all contain proteases that break down protein, such as papain, amylase, and bromelain. Avocado contains lipase, which breaks down fat. Adding more of these foods, can help in supporting healthy digestion.
Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Inefficiency
If you experience digestive issues such as regularly occurring cramps, bloating, diarrhea, gas, oily stools, or rapid weight loss, you could have a digestive enzyme inefficiency. This of course can lead to severe malabsorption and nutrient deficiency.
Digestive Enzyme: Takeaway
Your gut and digestive health are crucial to overall well-being and vitality. Digestive enzyme inefficiency can lead to unwanted symptoms such as gas, bloating, inflammation, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Supplementing or adding in key fruit and vegetables, can help aid in better digestion and support a healthy gut.
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