Food is the source of our energy, the fuel of our lives. However, most people only care about what goes into their mouths and where it comes out, a process that can be simplified as “point A to point B.” But digestion isn’t as simple as that and instead, digestion could have as many points as A-Z.
Digestion is an integral part of our body. It’s the biological machinery that enables us to breakdown the foods that we eat and transform them into energy that gives us the capacity to work. While digestion itself is an accumulation of various processes, digestive enzymes work in wondrous ways that make them an integral part of the system.
Digestive Enzymes: What Are They?
In the most literal sense, digestive enzymes are just that, enzymes found in the digestive system. But to understand what digestive enzymes are, we must first know what the word “enzyme” means. To make things simple, enzymes are basically catalysing molecules that bring about a specific biochemical reaction and with the case of digestive enzymes, they breakdown the food that people eat.
Food is composed of macronutrients that are too big to absorb and thus, our body uses digestive enzymes to breakdown large substances such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat into simpler forms. There are basically three main types of digestive enzymes: lipase which breaks down lipids, protease for proteins, and amylases for carbohydrates. Within these three groups are other types of digestive enzymes that each performs an essential catalysing function.
Digestive Enzymes: Where Are They Found?
Digestive enzymes come naturally from various different places around the digestive system. Since digestion begins in the mouth, there are salivary amylases secreted by the salivary glands. Digestive enzymes can also come from the stomach, the pancreas, as well as the glands found in the small intestine.
Furthermore, there are also raw foods that contain their own natural digestive enzymes which makes it easier for us to digest them after consumption.
Digestive Enzymes & Gut Health
Digestive enzymes are important to gut health and gut-relief. Thankfully, they’re produced naturally in our bodies. However, there are cases where the body doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes which can be influenced by a poor diet, stress, chronic conditions, and especially age. As people age, the gastro-intestinal tract becomes less effective which often leads to poor production of digestive enzymes.
A poor diet consisting of processed, genetically-modified, chemically treated, and refined foods can impair digestive enzymes. The more refined foods there are, the more difficult it is to digest them which is why the digestive system would need to work harder to breakdown these foods. This means that glands producing the digestive enzymes would need to produce more and this in turn can affect their efficiency. Stress, on the other hand, can reduce pancreatic output.
In the long run, this could lead to the digestive tract becoming more alkaline which in turn impairs our ability to breakdown food. When this happens, we may experience various symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and constipation among many others.
Furthermore, the impaired catalysis of food due to the inefficiency of the gut and digestive enzymes can lead to poor nutrient absorption and malnutrition. This could cause long-term and debilitating conditions such as obesity, chronic fatigue, anxiety, poor immune system, autoimmune conditions, thyroid issues,
When the body produces less digestive enzymes, it may be time to start taking supplements. There are many digestive enzyme supplements found in the market today but before you go out and procure one, you may have to consult with your doctor first. This is because you would need to determine what kind of supplement you would need. More than that, it’s important to confirm whether or not you actually need to take these supplements.
An efficient digestive function is integral to good health and with this, you may need to start prioritizing your gut health. Our body needs digestive enzymes in order to breakdown food and absorb their nutrients. This means that our entire health is dependent on the efficiency and production of our digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes are naturally produced in the body but since they can be impaired either due to age, stress, chronic conditions and poor diet, you would need to start thinking of ways in order to maintain their functioning at an effective rate so you won’t experience the repercussions that come with poor gut health.
Remember, you are what you eat, but more than that, you are what you digest.