Healthy Living: Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes play a key role in breaking down the food you eat. These proteins speed up chemical reactions that turn nutrients into substances that your digestive tract can absorb.

In an ideal world, we would eat enough raw, unprocessed food to supply ample enzymes in addition to those that naturally occur in our bodies. The reality is, our bodies only produce so many enzymes, which also need time to replenish in between meals.

Your saliva has digestive enzymes in it. Some of your organs, including your pancreas, gallbladder, and liver, also release them. Cells on the surface of your intestines store them, too.

When enzyme production is reduced, or other factors prevent the ability to produce sufficient enzymes, our bodies suffer. Not only can temporary discomfort such as gas, indigestion, or bloating occur, but the lack of enzymes prevents our bodies from absorbing the necessary nutrients for overall health and wellness.

If enzyme deficiency isn’t offset with the help of digestive enzyme supplements, a variety of food intolerance symptoms can occur.

Food intolerance is simply the inability to fully digest, or break down, certain types of foods due to not having enough of a certain type of enzyme.  Otherwise known as a “digestive enzyme deficiency”, it means the body doesn’t have the normal levels of enzymes for digesting certain types of foods.

Each of the many different digestive enzymes targets a specific nutrient and splits it up into a form that can eventually be absorbed. The most important digestive enzymes are:

  • Amylase is important for digesting carbohydrates. It breaks down starches into sugars.
  • Maltase is responsible for breaking down maltose (malt sugar) into glucose (simple sugar). The body uses glucose for energy.
  • Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. It turns lactose into the simple sugars glucose and galactose.
  • Lipase is responsible for the breakdown of fats into fatty acids and glycerol (simple sugar alcohol).
  • Proteases, also called peptidases, proteolytic enzymes, or proteinases, these digestive enzymes break down proteins into amino acids. 
  • Sucrase is secreted by the small intestine, where it breaks down sucrose (the sugar in table sugar) into fructose and glucose. These are simpler sugars that the body can absorb.

There are a variety of health conditions that can interfere with the secretion of enough digestive enzymes to fully digest foods. Some are inherited genetic conditions while others develop over time.

People who don’t have sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes or who are looking to support healthy digestion should consider supplementing their diet with digestive enzymes. They can do this by eating healthy foods that contain naturally occurring digestive enzymes. But they can also take nutritional supplements under a healthcare provider’s guidance.

Digestive juices require hydration, so make sure that you drink water throughout the day.

A variety of foods, especially tropical fruits and fermented vegetables, are naturally high in digestive enzymes that might speed up the digestion of certain nutrients. It’s best to eat them raw since heat can lessen or destroy these plant enzymes.

FOODS WITH DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

FoodEnzymesBenefit
PineappleProteases (bromelain)Helps digest proteins and has additional anti-inflammatory effects
Papaya Proteases (papain)Helps digest proteins and is a popular meat tenderizer 
Kiwi Proteases (actinidain)In addition to its digestive enzymes, the fruit is high in fiber to support digestive tract function
Mango Amylases Helps break down carbohydrates from starches into simple sugars and increases as the fruit ripens
Banana Amylases,  glucosidases Like amylases, glucosidases also break down complex carbohydrates
Raw honey Amylases, Diastases, invertases, proteasesThe amylases and diastases help to break down starches, invertases break down sugars, and proteases break down protein
AvocadoLipasesHelps digest and metabolize fat
KefirLipases, lactase, proteasesThe lactase in kefir helps to digest the fermented milk and may be tolerated by some people with lactose intolerance
Sauerkraut, kimchiLipases, proteasesFermented foods develop enzymes during the fermentation process as well as probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, to further support digestive health
Miso Lactases, lipases, proteases, amylasesThis fermented soy paste contains a potent combination of enzymes that help break down lactose in dairy, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
GingerProtease (zingibain)In addition to its enzymes that can help break down proteins, ginger may also help ease nausea 

Gut health is the most important factor to maintaining a healthy immune system. The gut and the immune system support one another to promote a healthy body.

If you are looking for a daily supplement to help with your digestion, we have found Enrich to be the best digestive blend formulation around.

As one of the most impactful digestive-enzyme formulations on the market, this blend of digestive enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics helps to support gut health and healthy digestion so your body can get the most nutritional value from what you eat. 

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