The Important Health Benefits of Digestive Enzymes

By: Nigel Wall

Food has to be broken down into different components before it can be absorbed in the body. Digestive enzymes do just that. What’s left is discarded in liquid and bulk waste products. Look to this information to learn how enzymes work and why they are so important.

Enzymes Defined

Enzymes are catalysts that help biochemical reactions take place quickly and efficiently. They are proteins made of amino acids. Amino acids connect in specific sequences to form protein chains that bond together. These bonds cause the enzyme to fold in a distinct pattern to give it its function. An enzyme may be destroyed or become inactive when there is a problem or disruption in the specific folding pattern.

How Digestive Enzymes Work

Digestive enzymes are produced naturally in the body and there are supplements and foods that can add more to your diet. All naturally occurring digestive enzymes belong to the hydrolase class. They function to break down large food molecules into different components including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, cholesterol and other nutrients. Then the components are absorbed through the gut wall and into the bloodstream for transport to the liver and other parts of the body.

Amylase is one enzyme found in saliva and the pancreas. It helps to digest starch. Protease and hydrochloric acid are found in the stomach and help break down proteins. Lipase and protease are also found in the pancreas and digest fats and proteins. Intestinal enzymes include peptidase, sucrase, lactase and maltase. These break down peptides, sucrose, lactose (milk sugar) and maltose. Bile salts in the liver help digest fat globules.

Humans don’t have the digestive enzymes that break down compounds from plant cell walls also known as fiber. Since some fiber can’t be absorbed it can travel through the digestive system and contribute to the formation of bulk waste.

The natural production of digestive enzymes start to decrease as we age. When there is a deficiency in digestive enzymes, people may experience gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, heartburn, flatulence, belching, bloating or cramping. Lactose intolerance, celiac disease and pancreatic insufficiency are just a few disorders that result from a lack of important digestive enzymes.

It is important to eat healthy and incorporate more raw living foods in your diet to maintain healthy levels of these important enzymes. Pineapples, kiwi, grapes, raw honey, extra virgin olive oil, raw meats and coconut oil are just a few enzyme-rich foods. Others may consider supplementation to gain more digestive enzymes. It is always a good idea to talk with a healthcare provided before changing your eating habits or taking any dietary supplements.

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References

1. US News – Digestive Enzymes: Help or Hype? – http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/04/23/digestive-enzymes-help-or-hype

2. Science Learning – Digestive Enzymes – http://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/Contexts/Digestion-Chemistry/Looking-Closer/Digestive-enzymes

 

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