Medically Reviewed by: Nicole Anne Vergara, RD
Digestion is not just about food passing from one end of the digestive tract to another. True digestion involves many complex processes that happen at different times and work together as a whole .
Our food is broken down into smaller molecules as it travels through the digestive tract after being chewed, where it is then exposed to a range of digestive secretions with various purposes.
The functions of each of our digestive organs, including the stomach and intestines, are unique. However, only when our meal is effectively digested with the aid of digestive enzymes can our body actually utilize the nutrients present for energy, development, and repair.
The nutrients in food that we need for energy, growth, and cell repair can only be utilized by our body when they are effectively broken down by digestive enzymes. The body can lack digestive enzymes for a variety of causes, which can result in both short-term and long-term discomfort.
How Do Digestive Enzymes Work?
Proteins known as enzymes quicken or “catalyze” chemical reactions in our bodies. The body contains many different kinds of enzymes, but digestive enzymes in particular break down large food molecules into smaller ones with the assistance of water molecules. Hydrolysis is the name of this process.
Enzymes are extremely effective; after a reaction is finished, they move on to the next molecule and repeat the process. And the only reason our body can digest food to absorb the energy and nutrients like vitamins and minerals contained therein is because they are so quick and effective.
While the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine produce the majority of digestive enzymes, our salivary glands also play a role in the process.
The following are a few of the main digestive enzymes in the body:
- Sucrase: Sucrose is broken down into glucose and fructose by this gut enzyme. A number of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other naturally occurring foods contain sucrose, also referred to as “table sugar.”
- Amylase – Amylase is a starch-degrading enzyme that is released by the pancreas and salivary glands.
- Lipase: The pancreas, mouth, and stomach produce the enzyme lipase, which aids in the breakdown of lipids.
- Proteases: Proteins are broken down into peptides and then amino acids by proteases. One form of protease is pepsin, which is produced by the stomach. The pancreas produces trypsin and chymotrypsin.
- Alpha-galactosidase: The complex sugars that might produce gas and bloating, such as those in beans and cruciferous vegetables, are broken down by the enzyme alpha-galactosidase.
- Lactase: You need this enzyme to aid in the digestion of lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk.
Other digestive enzymes, which are naturally present in raw and fermented plant-based foods but are not produced by human bodies, include:
- Cellulase is an enzyme that is mostly present in green vegetables and plants. It is required to convert cellulose, the plant fiber that makes up the cell walls of plants, into beta-glucose, a vital source of energy for the body.
- Bromelain: Pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain, which aids in the breakdown of proteins.
- Papain: is a protein-digesting enzyme found in papayas.
Symptoms That May Indicate You Should Take Digestive Enzymes
A person in perfect health will manufacture the required quantity of digestive enzymes for their body. But there are a number of things that can make us fall short. Even if you consume a balanced, healthy diet, if your body isn’t producing enough enzymes, this might result in malnutrition, gastrointestinal problems, and a number of other symptoms.
But fortunately, taking digestive enzyme supplements can be a useful approach to support your body’s ability to digest food, boost nutrient absorption, and lessen symptoms like gas or bloating.
Here are some indicators that your body may not be producing enough digestive enzymes and that a supplement may be beneficial for you:
1. You have Digestive “Problems”
You may have low digestive enzyme levels if you have persistent digestive problems like:
- reflux of acid
- inconsistent bowel motions
- Your stool contains undigested food
2. You Consume A Bad Diet
The way our bodies work is greatly influenced by the food we eat. The amount of digestive enzymes that are released when we eat can therefore be decreased by a poor diet, according to this logic.
Your digestive enzymes’ efficiency can be negatively impacted by eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in cooked, processed foods high in sugar or inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, corn, soy, caffeine, and alcohol.
3. Constantly Feeling Tired
Even if you consume an abundance of vegetables and salads, you won’t be able to access the wealth of nutrients they contain if your digestive enzyme levels are insufficient. This implies that your body won’t be able to absorb the nutrients that it requires for energy. Nutrient deficits may result from this, and weariness and other symptoms may develop.
4. Chronic Stress
Although stress is a root cause of many symptoms and ultimately diseases, it can also have an impact on how well your digestive system works. In addition to the frequent occurrence of heartburn and diarrhea symptoms when under stress, your body may also struggle to release enough digestive enzymes. The body may require more energy and nutrients as a result of stress. You can acquire the nutrients you need to assist your body fight off the impacts of stress by getting your digestive enzymes under control.
5. You’re Over 45 Years Old
We are powerless to stop aging. But our ability to produce enzymes starts to decline around the age of 45. At this point, certain foods may become difficult for us to digest. A digestive enzyme supplement can assist your body in breaking down foods that it was previously unable to.
6. You Can’t Reduce Your Weight
If you’re eating well and exercising regularly but your weight isn’t moving, you could not have enough digestive enzymes. An excessive amount of water and fat can be stored in the body due to poor digestion, which can also make it difficult for the body to properly eliminate waste and toxins.
7. You Frequently Fall Ill or Experience Candida Issues (Yeast)
Your body’s digestive enzymes work to break down food into tiny molecules so that your body can absorb the nutrients it needs, as we’ve already taught. But they also aid in the breakdown of some fibrous food we consume.
Through the process of fermentation, this in turn aids in providing food for and promoting the growth of the beneficial bacteria in your gut. These beneficial bacteria are crucial for our immune system and the health of our gut lining because they prevent yeast and other harmful germs from overtaking the environment. Our first line of defense is a healthy gut lining because 70–80% of our immunity is found there.
8. You’re Expecting a Baby
Even if you are typically in good health, pregnancy can put a significant demand on the body in terms of nutrients and energy, so your digestive enzymes may not be functioning at their peak. Although digestive distress is frequently experienced by pregnant women, some people may find relief from symptoms by taking a digestive enzyme supplement.
9. You Have Issues Digesting Milk and Other Foods
If you have a hard time breaking down dairy products, you may not have enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar present in milk, cheese, and ice cream. Since lactose intolerance is common and can run in families, not having this enzyme does not necessarily indicate that you are unwell.
10. Your Illness Is Chronic
A lack of digestive enzymes can be a direct result of several illnesses. These consist of:
- Small intestinal disorders including Crohn’s and Celiac disease
- cancer and chronic pancreatitis are two pancreatic diseases.
- Dysplastic fibrosis
- SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
- Gallbladder Illness
11. You Experience Breakouts and Skin Issues
The health of our skin and the health of our stomachs have long been thought to be related, according to medical professionals and studies. Despite the paucity of research on the relationship between intestinal health and your skin, many medical professionals hold the opinion that skin diseases like acne, eczema, and psoriasis are simply the outward signs of an underlying interior issue.
Digestive enzymes can support healthy skin by assisting the body in the breakdown and absorption of minerals that are beneficial for the skin, such as zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E.
12. Your Stomach Is Leaky
Leaky gut is a disorder where big, undigested food particles can enter your bloodstream through tears in the intestinal wall’s lining that are brought on by inflammation.
When this happens, the immune system responds by attacking the particles as though they were foreign invaders, which can result in symptoms like exhaustion, food allergies and sensitivities, as well as mineral deficiencies including a lack of magnesium and vitamin B12.
Later on, it might also lead to a few auto-immune illnesses. Digestive enzymes lessen the potential for partially digested food particles to harm the gut wall and trigger the immune system while assisting your body in breaking down food into a secure and easily absorbed form.
Enhancing Digestive Enzymes
Making certain whole food selections can help you keep a healthy gut and build up your digestive enzymes. Raw fruits, vegetables, and berries, sprouted seeds, nuts, and legumes are the main sources of enzymes.
Plant-based digestive enzymes can be found in abundance in pineapple, mango, ginger, papaya, avocado, bananas, and kiwi. In addition to supporting the growth of our beneficial gut flora, naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut are significant providers of enzymes.
However, food alone cannot supply us with all of our digestive enzymes. Therefore, taking digestive enzyme supplements may be a useful and occasionally required strategy to restore the balance to your digestive system.
While assisting you in absorbing more nutrients, they can also help you minimize or even completely eliminate uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating and gas.
Qualities Of A Quality Digestive Enzyme Formula
Three crucial factors should be taken into account when selecting a high-quality digestive enzyme supplement:
The enzymes listed on the label should be measured using the designated units that reflect the enzyme’s potency. For example, HUT stands for protease, ALU for lactase, DU for amylase, and FIP for lipase. Weight (in milligrams) alone cannot demonstrate this.
Preservatives, allergies, and other dangerous components that could cause undesirable side effects should not be present.
If you’re looking for high quality digestive enzymes that can assist you to have better gut health, we highly recommend the Casa De Sante FODMAP Digestive Enzymes.
FODMAP Digestive Enzymes is designed for short-term use to help support the digestive health of individuals with IBS, Crohn’s disease, and other digestive disorders with symptoms triggered by high FODMAP foods. FODMAP Digestive Enzymes can provide relief from occasional cramping, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation that may result from the consumption of high FODMAP foods. The recommended use is 1 to 2 capsules with each meal or as needed.
What Time of Day Is Best to Take Digestive Enzymes?
The optimal time to take digestive enzymes is right before eating. Take an additional capsule in the middle of a filling meal. They can also be added as a finishing touch to your cuisine just before you consume it.
How Long Do Digestive Enzymes Take To Start Working?
Digestive enzyme capsules start working as soon as you swallow them.
Who Isn’t a Good Candidate for Digestive Enzymes?
The best course of action is to consult a doctor before beginning any new supplement or regimen. Antacids and several diabetes medicines may interact with specific digestive enzyme supplements.
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