Digestion and the Value of Digestive Enzymes 

In order to have a healthy body one needs to utilize all the nutrients provided from a meal. It is imperative that the gastrointestinal (GI) system is functioning properly and the nutrients from food are broken down and absorbed. If digestion is not complete one may not absorb nutrients properly and encounter digestive problems such as feeling bloated and/or other issues. Eating a healthy diet is important since some processed foods cause gastrointestinal trouble. Some other factors that may cause problems to the GI system include the inability to handle stress, lack of exercise and being overweight. 

Enzymes are proteins that help make reaction go in the body. Digestive enzymes are essential to break down protein, fat and carbohydrates, which helps digestion. Without enzymes, nutrients would not be broken down properly to be used for their important functions in the body. Some enzymes are essential and may not be available in the body so are taken orally, such as lactase to help break down milk sugar. Foods that are good sources of natural digestive enzymes may help to improve the digestive process such as fresh pineapple, papaya, bananas and mango and also honey. 

Valuable enzymes and their functions are below: 

  • Amylase breaks down complex carbohydrates into smaller compounds
  • Invertase helps to break down sucrose, which is table sugar into simple sugars glucose and fructose. 
  • Lactase breaks down lactose, which is milk sugar 
  • Lipase breaks down large fat compounds into smaller fatty acids and glycerol
  • Cellulase breaks down cellulose which is found in plant’s cell walls. Some of the foods containing cellulose are found in a plant based diet such as peas, nuts, legumes, bran, cabbage and apple skins. 
  • Hemicellulase breaks down hemicellulose, which is found in nuts, legumes, whole grains and bran products. 
  • Xylanase also breaks down hemicellulose found in plants 
  • Proteases (proteolytic enzymes) break down protein to amino acids. They include enzymes such as bromelain and papain. 

Individuals who follow a low-carb diet include rich sources of protein and fat. Therefore, proteases, lipase and peptidase are necessary to help break down and digest these energy sources. 

Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme found in fresh pineapple and papain is also a proteolytic enzyme from papaya. Research has shown that a papaya concentrate helped to ease digestive problems (Muss C et al, 2013).

Enzymes are useful for many different reasons……….. 

For example, there is a condition where some individuals are not able to consume gluten because it has a negative effect on the immune system and small intestines. Research has demonstrated that digestive enzymes help this type of condition (Ianiro G et al, 2016). 

Fiber, another helper to the digestive system 

Another important compound for digestion is fiber. The digestive tract has muscles which move food down in a process called peristalsis. Fiber is instrumental in this bodily function. One particular product called Fibersol is a soluble prebiotic fiber, which has a number of published studies demonstrating it helps to provide intestinal regularity, healthy blood sugar levels and satiety. 

In summary, digestion is extremely important to one’s health and if the gastrointestinal system is not functioning properly, nutrients will not break down, digest and get absorbed to be used for their valuable functions. Digestive enzymes play an important role in digestion of nutrients and they are useful to breakdown many different types of food components. Fiber is also necessary to exercise the gastrointestinal tract.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. 

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