The concept of digestive enzymes can be confusing for many, however, it is helpful to take a step back and understand what the myriad of available enzymes are actually doing within the body. While different enzymes are needed to interact with the food we eat, there are three pretty important enzymes to look at such as amylase, protease, and lipase which are associated with the primary macronutrients in our diet; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats respectively.
The pancreas is the primary organ responsible for the production and release of amylase, protease, and lipase. As food passes through the digestive tract, it stimulates the release of these important enzymes to drive the efficient breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller particles which can be absorbed later in the digestive process and eventually used throughout the body. In addition to the pancreas, amylase is also released in saliva in the mouth and is known as salivary amylase.
While the digestive process relies on much more than just amylase, protease, and lipase for the complete and efficient digestion of food eaten, these are some core components and a great place to start when considerering how digestive enzymes contribute to gastrointestinal health.
Why do digestive enzymes matter?
At times, food may not be fully digested as it passes through the digestive tract. A number of reasons might cause this problem. This can result in the inefficient absorption of nutrients in food. There are several things that can point to the need for a bit more focused digestive enzyme support. When someone is experiencing occasional gas, bloating, and/or indigestion, a supplemental digestive enzyme may be an effective solution. When food is not digested fully prior to progressing through the gastrointestinal tract, it comes into contact with bacteria in the distal small intestine and colon. Bacteria present in that area will ferment the undigested macronutrients and can result in gases released to the digestive tract. This excessive gas buildup is what many people notice and initially report as symptoms to their healthcare practitioner. Our Gut Culture digestive enzyme formula can help with these symptoms and is a great way to keep a healthy digestive system.
There are many digestive enzymes to match whatever your digestive system lacks.
Amylase Enzymes: Amylase is responsible for breaking down the bonds in starches, polysaccharides, and complex carbohydrates to help absorb simple sugars. Salivary amylase is the first step in the chemical digestion of food. This is one of the major reasons that it is so important for people to take time while eating and thoroughly chew their food. Chewing our food slowly is overlooked in its importance in our busy world. This initial step in the digestive process is essential to the proper breakdown of food eaten and the ultimate liberation of the nutrients within to be absorbed later in the digestive process. As the starches, polysaccharides, and complex carbohydrates continue through the digestive tract, they are further broken down from additional amylase released from the pancreas into the small intestine.
Diastase Enzymes: In some cases, people do not produce that much in their saliva, creating issues with the breakdown of carbohydrates. Diastase enzymes come to the rescue and back up amylase if amylase on its own is not enough to digest food such as fruits and vegetables. It is good to remember that even as we mature our diastase enzyme output will decline and may not be there the same way it used to be. If this occurs, people may experience side effects such as acid reflux, indigestion, belching, and stomach discomfort. Diastase enzyme comes in handy for a number of reasons. Diastase helps to digest the starch and breaks it down into small soluble sugar molecules called glucose. It significantly accelerates the rate of digestion.
Protease Enzymes: Another important enzyme for the efficient digestion of food eaten is protease. It is responsible for the primary breakdown of proteins and polypeptides from animals and plants and for proline dipeptides from gluten and casein. Proteases are released by the pancreas into the small intestine, where they mix with proteins already denatured by gastric secretions and break them down into amino acids, the building blocks of protein, which will eventually be absorbed and used throughout the body.
Lipase Enzymes: While amylase and protease do a great job of breaking down carbohydrates and proteins, the body needs another enzyme for the breakdown of fats, oils, and triglycerides. This is where lipase is necessary for the full digestion of fats to their smaller fatty acid components.
Lactase Enzymes: Lactase’s function is to break down lactose into the two simple sugars it is made up of, glucose and galactose. Breaking down lactose into its simple sugars makes it possible for it to be absorbed via the small intestine and used by the body. If lactose is not broken down, it will pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed.
Invertase Enzymes: Invertase is an enzyme that is widely distributed among plants
and microorganisms and that catalyzes the hydrolysis of the disaccharide sucrose into glucose and fructose.
Cellulase Enzymes: Cellulase is an enzyme that is an essential part of digesting plant fiber, but it’s not something that we naturally produce in our bodies. Other species that eat exclusively plants have the means to get around this. For example, a cow has a four-chambered stomach, containing plenty of microbes that digest cellulose. This enables them to get virtually all the energy they need from eating plants.
For humans and other omnivorous creatures, we don’t have that advantage. Instead, we have to rely on our gut to help get the most out of our plant foods. Some plant fibers are fermented and digested in the large intestine, while others are eliminated from the body, therefore, cellulase is essential to digesting the fibers. It helps convert cellulose into beta-glucose, one of the most fundamental forms of energy in the body.
Plant source Organic Noni (fruit) (Morinda citrifolia): Noni juice is known for its high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent cellular damage caused by molecules called free radicals. Your body requires a healthy balance of antioxidants and free radicals to maintain optimal health
Pepsin (vegetarian source): In the digestive tract pepsin affects the only partial breakdown of proteins into smaller units called peptides, which then either are absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream or are broken down further by pancreatic enzymes. A powerful enzyme in gastric juice that digests proteins such as those in meat, eggs, seeds, or dairy products.
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar also contains a substance called mother, which consists of strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance. Apple cider vinegar has long been promoted to help with bloating. One problem is that the exact cause of bloating isn’t straightforward. Therefore addressing this common gut complaint needs a little nutritional detective work. Bloating can be due to low stomach acid or constipation or it could be due to something else. Many believe that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar will help with the digestion of protein-rich foods. The stomach produces acid for this reason but as we age, we make less of it.
Some people benefit from taking some apple cider vinegar diluted in water with meals to help relieves some post-meal heaviness. Please don’t use vinegar as self-treatment if you’re having trouble with digestive and gut issues, seek professional help.
Depending on your health concerns, you’ll want to look for a digestive enzyme that suits your specific needs. Many will indicate which condition they’re best used for on their bottle. If you’re unsure, consult your healthcare provider for guidance.
Most digestive enzymes can be found in capsule form. However, you can find them in gummy, liquid, or droplet form as well. If you prefer not to swallow full capsules, these alternative options may be best for your preferences.
Health Studio Labs and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Health Studio Labs is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.