What are Digestive Enzymes?
Enzymes are the workhorses of the body.
You’ve probably heard the term enzyme in a biology class, but what are they? They are proteins that act as catalysts in chemical reactions. In other words, they assist in building and breaking down molecules—which is good news for us since enzymes are involved in almost every chemical reaction in our bodies.
Enzymes work by binding to a substrate (the molecule the enzyme is working on), which then changes its shape for a split second so it can speed up or slow down the reaction that needs to happen to the substrate. This is why enzymes are very specific; each one has its own particular job and will only work on certain substrates.
Enzymes truly are the workhorses of your body! They’re found in all living organisms, including plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi. Most of these organisms use enzymes that bind with other molecules to help break them down into their most basic parts so they can be used for fuel or building blocks for new substances that cells need.
There are three kinds of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes and food enzymes.
The body produces metabolic enzymes that are responsible for virtually every chemical reaction in the body. These reactions include the breakdown of food into usable energy, the removal of toxins from our blood, and the production or repair of all tissues in our bodies including muscles and bones. Think about it! Every time you do something – think, speak, walk or run – your body is performing hundreds if not thousands of chemical reactions to make it happen.
Digestive enzymes are also produced by the body – they’re released by the pancreas into the small intestine and help break down food. But they’re also present in raw foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. When you eat a piece of fruit or vegetable, the enzymes within the food itself help break down its own structure to release the nutrients it contains. When food is cooked, these enzymes are destroyed.
Food enzymes are enzymes that are found in uncooked food. They’re destroyed by cooking and processing, so if you eat a diet of only cooked food, you aren’t getting any food enzymes. Raw foodists claim that by eating a diet of uncooked, unprocessed plant foods, you can get all the enzymes you need from food. They believe that taking dietary supplements that contain digestive enzymes is unnecessary since everyone already has all the body enzymes they need to digest cooked food.
Lipase is a digestive enzyme that helps break down fats into fatty acids that can be digested and absorbed by your body.
Lipase is an enzyme that helps break down fats into fatty acids that can be digested and absorbed by your body. It’s secreted by the pancreas, salivary glands, and small intestine.
It breaks down fat in food as it passes through your digestive tract and converts it into fatty acids that are absorbed by your body. Lipase helps your body get energy from fat, which you need to keep moving throughout the day.
Amylase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates so they can be easily absorbed by the body.
You might recognize that word from a game of Scrabble, where it means “a unit for measuring the amount of sugar in blood or urine.” In general, enzymes are what make chemical reactions happen.
For example, when you eat pasta or bread, amylase makes starches into simple sugars like glucose so they can be easily absorbed by the body. Amylase is produced in the pancreas and salivary glands. It is found in saliva, where it begins the chemical process of digestion.
Protease is a digestive enzyme that digests large protein molecules into smaller molecules like amino acids to be absorbed by the body.
When you’re working on your diet, protein is one of the most important nutrients to get right. Protein is what your body uses to build muscle and it’s also used to make enzymes that break down large proteins into small ones, which are then absorbed and used by your cells. If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, then your body can’t use its protease (the enzyme that breaks down large proteins) properly and you’ll end up breaking down amino acids—which are the building blocks of protein—in a random way. This stops everything from being digested properly: getting enough protein will help with digestion and the formation of new molecules like digestive enzymes.
In order for those digestive enzymes to be formed at all though, you need adequate levels of both trypsin (an enzyme found in proteolytic cells) and chymotrypsin (an enzyme found in pancreatic cells).
It’s important for your body to have all three of these enzymes working in balance.
Enzymes are critical to our well-being, but it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing.
- Are you consuming more cooked foods and fewer raw ones? Raw foods are naturally rich in digestive enzymes. Heating food above 118°F destroys these vital nutrients. If your diet lacks a steady supply of raw fruits, vegetables and nuts, you’ll need to turn elsewhere for those enzymes.
- When the body is overly acidic (such as when there’s an imbalance in the colon or gut), it may require more neutralizing agents like lipase and amylase than usual in order to bring the pH level back into balance.
- Are you suffering from reflux, heartburn or indigestion? If so, your body has signaled that it needs help breaking down fatty acids and starch molecules caused by poor digestion—a sign that it would benefit from extra pepsin and amylase.
Topics: Carnivore Diet , Digestive Enzymes , Men’s and Women’s Health , Wellness ,