Your body requires a plethora of digestive enzymes to break down food and turn it into energy. Many of the foods you eat contain natural enzymes to help you digest your food. Your pancreas, stomach, small intestines, and salivary glands also produce digestive enzymes to help break down food and properly absorb the nutrients in your food.
Our gastrointestinal system includes a number of organs that work together to digest food, absorb nutrients, and remove waste and toxins from the body. As you age, the digestive tract is not as efficient as before and you begin producing fewer and fewer digestive enzymes. This decrease in enzymes can cause your digestive tract to become alkaline, which makes it difficult to completely break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that you consume.
Symptoms of Digestive Disorders
When your digestive system is not functioning properly, you may experience nutritional deficiencies which affects your whole body. Some common symptoms include-
- Skin rashes
- Decreased immunity
- Weakness and fatigue
- Food intolerances
- Diarrhea or upset stomach
- Constipation, bloating, excess gas
- Abdominal pain
- Stools can be foul smelling and be yellow in color
- Unexplained weight issues even if you are eating a healthy diet and ample calories
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes aid in the digestive process by helping the body to break down food and enhance nutrient absorption through the lining of the intestines and into the bloodstream. The body naturally produces several types of enzymes to support digestion. With an adequate amount of digestive enzymes, your digestive system does not need to work as hard to transform the foods you eat into usable molecules for energy and nutrition. There are various types of digestive enzymes that help digest different types of foods. For example-
- Protease lives in the stomach. It breaks down proteins into amino acids and peptides for cellular regeneration and muscle growth.
- Amylase found in saliva helps break down carbohydrates. It turns carbohydrates into simple sugars for energy.
- Lipase is produced in the pancreas and secreted into the small intestine. It helps to break down and digests fats by dispersing fats into fatty acids (omega 3 fatty acids, omega 6 fatty acids, etc.) for hormone production.
Each type of enzyme plays a special role in breaking down food. There are a number of individuals who can benefit from taking digestive enzyme supplements. If you have one of the following conditions, your body may not be able to produce sufficient quantity of digestive enzymes to digest your food.
- Benign pancreatic tumors
- Blockage in the pancreatic duct
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Food intolerances like lactose intolerance
- Narrowing of the biliary duct
- Pancreatic cancer
- Pancreatic cysts
How Can Digestive Enzymes Help?
Everyone’s digestive system is as unique as they are. The foods that they eat and the bacteria in the digestive tract can vary greatly. There is not a one size fits all digestive enzyme supplement. When evaluating the digestive enzyme that you need, take a look at what you regularly consume and make a note of any foods that cause you digestive discomfort.
While consuming a Keto diet, the number of carbohydrates you consume will be minimal while the amount of protein and fat will increase. In this case, you may need both protease and lipase.
If your pancreas does not produ ce enough enzymes to break down the foods that you consume, you may have condition called pancreatic insufficiency. Pancreatic insufficiency can increase the risk of serious health conditions, malabsorption problems, diarrhea or mood problems.
If you suffer from a food intolerance like lactose, gluten, or casein, you may benefit from a digestive enzyme to help break down the lactose, gluten or casein and minimize the effects of a food intolerance on the body.
Digestive enzymes help to improve colon health by managing and controlling the microbial makeup of the gastrointestinal tract. If undigested food sits in the large intestine, it can begin to rot and feed the bad bacteria in your intestinal tract. Digestive enzymes can reduce the risk of serious infectious digestive diseases.
Foods With Digestive Enzymes
Everything you eat requires some energy to digest. We typically eat three meals per day plus snacks. All this food can take a toll on digestion. The good news is that you can select foods in your diet that are less burdensome on the digestive tract overall. These foods contain natural digestive enzymes which help the body process food more efficiently.
If your body struggles to make enough of its own digestive enzymes, you can consume foods that contain some of their own and in turn provide ease to your digestive tract. Below are top six foods that contain digestive enzymes.
Avocados are truly a superfood. This delicious fruit contains healthy fats as well as the digestive lipase. The lipase in avocados is designed to naturally aid in the digestion of avocados and other high fat foods. Lipase breaks down fat and can reduce and relieve the symptoms of acid indigestion. Avocados are nutrient dense fruits low in sugar.
Bananas are delicious fruits that are rich in potassium and two different types of enzymes – maltase and amylase. Amylase is found in saliva and helps break down carbohydrates. Maltase breaks down malt sugars.
Honey is filled with numerous beneficial compounds, including four types of digestive enzymes, including diastase, amylase, invertase, and protease. Diastase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down maltose. Invertase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down fructose and glucose. Finally, amylase breaks down maltose and glucose, while protease breaks down proteins.
To maximize the digestive benefits of honey, use raw honey. Processed honey is typically heated and high temperatures destroy many of the benefits including its natural digestive enzymes. To obtain the full nutritional benefits of honey, choose a local product with an actual honeycomb in the jar of honey.
Kimchi is a powerhouse when it comes to your digestive health. Kimchi is created by fermenting vegetables (cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc.). During the fermentation process Bacillus bacteria form. Bacillus is a powerful probiotic that offers a number of digestive health benefits. In addition to probiotics, the fermentation process creates several digestive enzymes, including lipase, amylase, and protease in the digestive tract. These digestive enzymes help digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
The digestive enzyme found in papayas is papain. Papain is a protease enzyme that assists with the digestion of proteins. Consuming papayas can help relieve the many symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including bloating, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and constipation. Choose ripe papayas and eat them uncooked to help improve your digestive health. As with most digestive enzymes, high heat can destroy the enzymes.
Pineapples are filled with an enzyme called bromelain, a protease type digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins into amino acids. In addition to helping break down protein, bromelain provides anti-inflammatory properties, immune modulating capabilities, and mucolytic effects. Bromelain can provide therapeutic benefits for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, gout, sinusitis, and asthma.
Bromelain has been shown to help those suffering from pancreatic insufficiency, which is a condition where the pancreas does not make a sufficient amount of digestive enzymes. Researchers have found that combining a bromelain supplement with a pancreatic enzyme supplement would improve digestion better than taking an enzyme alone.
Ready to Improve Your Digestive Health?
Digestive enzymes help break down foods like fats (lipase), carbohydrates (amylase), and proteins (protease) into useable nutrients. If you are not producing enough digestive enzymes, a number of digestive disorders can occur. Adding digestive enzyme rich foods and supplements to your diet can promote better gut health and digestion.
If you experience digestive disturbances like heartburn, abdominal bloating, or food intolerances, your body may lack necessary digestive enzymes to break down your food. Our integrative practitioners specialize in digestive disorders and will work with you to improve your gut health. Your holistic treatment plan may include dietary adjustments to ensure your body is getting the nutrients that it needs to maintain good health, including foods that are rich in natural digestive enzymes.