Types of Digestive Enzymes & How Each One Works to Improve Digestion
Digestive enzymes are small proteins that act on food molecules to break down what you eat into micro and macronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, simple sugars and cholesterol. The presence of enzymes allows for thousands of physiological reactions in the human body.
While food is highly associated with pleasure and tradition, it’s also necessary for survival. In other words, the food you eat should provide high nutritive value – and breaking down this healthy food and absorbing its nutrition requires enzymes.
When you actually utilize the food you eat (assuming it’s healthy food) you’re bound to experience:
✓ Improved energy
✓ Weight control
✓ Less inflammation
✓ Mood stability (via the gut-brain connection)
✓ Low disease risk
It’s clear that a lack of digestive enzymes is linked to malabsorption and that proper digestion is the foundation to a healthy body and mind!
The problem is that not everyone has enough naturally occurring digestive enzymes to enable proper digestion. Western diets in particular are low in enzymes and high in foods that require enzymes to digest, like excessive carbohydrates and too much protein. This is why following an anti-inflammatory diet and supplementing with digestive enzymes is so important.
Click here to reveal my Top 5 Ways to Improve Digestion and Gut Health.
Poor enzyme production can also be the result of a damaged digestive system (usually caused by a bad diet) or simply due to the aging process. After the age of 30, your natural enzyme production drops dramatically. Health and longevity rely on proper digestion!
Key Digestive Enzymes That Help You Stay Healthy
There are approximately 22 different kinds of digestive enzymes that break down food particles into smaller compounds for your body to use. Without getting too technical, I’ll help you get familiar with the four main digestive enzymes that your body needs.
Helps you digest carbohydrates and starches into glucose (most people’s main energy source, although not the preferred one). Amylase allows you to obtain fuel from high starch foods like breads, pastas and potatoes.
Amylase is concentrated in the salivary glands where digestion kicks off in the mouth with the process of chewing. When you chew your food thoroughly, amylase has more time to do its job. This lessens the burden on the rest of your body and promotes greater and quicker digestion.
You can increase your intake of amylase by taking it in supplement form and consuming plenty of raw vegetables and fruit, sprouted seeds, nuts and royal jelly (a honeybee secretion).
As you might have guessed, lactase helps you digest dairy products. It is produced in your small intestine and specifically helps break down lactose (the natural sugar found in milk) into simple sugars for energy called glucose and galactose. What’s interesting is that your production of lactase is highest during the first year of life, since breast milk is intended to be the main source of nutrition. Babies need and typically have sufficient lactase to allow them to absorb the nutrients from the milk. As we age, our lactase production declines. This makes sense because the human body is really not designed to consume milk past infancy.
If you don’t produce enough lactase, you will have difficulty digesting dairy products. It’s estimated that an overwhelming 70% of the population is lactose intolerant. When lactose is not broken down and absorbed, it ferments in the colon and leads to bloating, gas, bowel trouble and overall intestinal distress.
Regardless of your tolerance, I highly recommend steering clear of milk products (excluding breast milk for babies of course), especially from conventional farms that use antibiotics and pasteurize the milk from grain fed cows.
NOTE: Taking a lactase supplement such as “lactaid” may not make symptoms go away completely, especially if you have more of a dairy allergy versus intolerance. Lactase pills are certainly not a cure for dairy intolerance and I would advise avoiding dairy as a solution. Don’t stress over losing calcium if you eliminate dairy because there are much better sources of calcium like leafy greens, broccoli, sardines and salmon.
Perhaps the most vital digestive enzyme, lipase does a whole lot more than just help your body process and absorb fats. It is released from the pancreas into the small intestine where it goes to work hydrolyzing fats into fatty acids and other molecules your body needs for energy. People who lack lipase tend to have high levels of unhealthy fat and cholesterol in their blood.
Proper fat digestion influences so many bodily functions and health conditions. When lipase does its job, it can naturally relieve serious health conditions and digestive disorders like celiac disease.
To get more lipase, include foods like avocados, walnuts, pinenuts and coconuts in your diet regularly.
Protease or proteolytic enzymes are responsible for breaking down proteins in your body. This is a vital process for your overall health. In fact, proteolytic enzymes have become a major focus in health care and research. They’ve been used to handle inflammation and treat diseases that affect the heart, eyes, skin, and digestive system.
These complex enzymes begin working in your stomach to cut down the long chains of protein molecules into smaller fragments called peptides and amino acids. Your body requires constant amino acids to grow, repair, and stay healthy.
Proteases are critical to our health by aiding:
✓ Organ function – kidney, liver, spleen, pancreas, bloodstream
✓ Healthy immune responses
✓ Absorption of amino acids
✓ Elimination of toxins
✓ Tissue repair
✓ Blood clot prevention
Protease is the name given to any enzyme that breaks down protein but there are several key proteolitc enzymes to recognize:
1. Bromelain – sourced from pineapple, this enzyme can improve everything from injury recovery time to sinus infections and joint pain.
2. Trypsin – produced in the pancreas and mixes with bile and other enzymes to ensure digestion
3. Chymotrypsin – breaks down proteins into peptides
4. Pepsin – occurs naturally in gastric juice to aid protein breakdown
5. Papain – stimulates digestion for better nutrient absorption – found in papaya.
Become an Enzyme Expert & Learn a Few More….
Well, that was digestive enzymes 101, and if you’re not “ased” out, let’s discuss some others. While these enzymes may be less heard of, they complete the digestion puzzle.
Cellulase - breaks down sturdy plant fiber (cellulose) into useable glucose to be absorbed by the intestines. This chemical process is called cellulolysis. Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate and is part of the cellular structure of all green plants. The plant cellulose fiber that is not digested acts as a bulking agent to help eliminate stool. Now, that’s a lot of cell talk!
Fun fact - cows have unique stomachs that are engineered with special cellulose digesting microbes to handle all the grass and hay they consume. Humans, on the other hand, cannot produce cellulase and need some help to reap the nutritional benefits of plant food.
Cellulase may further improve your health by:
✓ Encouraging the antioxidant release in fruits and vegetables
✓ Breaking down harmful microbial colonies
✓ Increasing the benefits of fermented foods
Maltase – This carbohydrate-digesting enzyme breaks down the disaccharide maltose into two sugar molecules. In simpler terms, our bodies use maltase to break down starches and sugars in the plant-based foods we eat.
Maltase is produced in the small intestine but begins its work in your mouth via saliva. It is a key enzyme that helps to lift the burden of digestion on the pancreas and small intestine. This enzyme helps lower gut irritation and supports a smoother digestion, which translates to numerous further health benefits.
Invertase – splits sucrose (think table sugar) into fructose and glucose. In other words, this enzyme helps digestion by breaking down complex sugars for your body to use as an immediate fuel source.
It’s no surprise that bees produce huge amounts of invertase to hydrolyze the sugars in raw nectar and make the honey that humans consume.
Pectinase – As you might have guessed, pectinase acts on pectin, which is a type of fiber found in the cellular parts of fruits and vegetables. You may recognize pectin as a common thickening agent used in jams and jellies.
Plants use pectinase during the ripening process to weaken cell walls which makes the fruit more edible. If you’ve ever given fruit a squeeze test to check its ripeness, you’re really checking pectinase activity.
Since pectinase improves the digestion of plant-based foods, you’re bound to receive more of its nutritional value.
Alpha-galactosidase – produced in saliva and the pancreas, this enzyme aids the breakdown of hard to digest foods including:
➔ Cruciferous vegetables – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts
For this reason, the presence of alpha-galactosidase can greatly reduce symptoms of gas and bloating. When this enzyme is lacking, food may only be partially digested at best. This can lead to harmful bacterial overgrowth (candida), indigestion, and abdominal pain.
Hemicellulase – Remember cellulose? Well, hemicellulase breaks down a specific type of cellulose that makes up plant cell walls - called hemicellulose.
This enzyme acts on the real tough stuff in plants that slows digestion and nutrient absorption. Without enough hemicellulase, you’ll miss out on getting the full prebiotic potential from what you’re eating. This means less fuel for the good bacteria to flourish within the digestive tract.
Learn why an unhealthy gut lays the groundwork for poor physical and mental health in my discussion of The Link Between Gut Health and Overall Health.
How to Supply Your Body With Digestive Enzymes
An enzyme rich diet includes raw, uncooked, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods. Unfortunately, almost all enzymes are destroyed in any cooking process. Your body can make some of these lost enzymes, but this ability decreases with age. Therefore, as your body becomes less efficient with enzyme production, it requires enzyme supplementation – especially if you eat a diet of processed, refined and overly cooked foods. Enzyme content is also affected by preservatives, additives, pollution, and storage methods. High sugar and caffeine consumption further depletes your body of coenzymes and vitamins.
I have formulated BodyManual’s Digestive Enzymes to include the full spectrum of digestive enzymes your body needs for great health. This formula not only provides amylase, lactase, lipase, and protease, but also EIGHT additional key enzymes required for proper digestion and full body support. I encourage you to experience the far-reaching health benefits of digestive enzymes for yourself!
You can get more education by visiting my informational video and blog, “Should you be Taking Digestive Enzymes?” If you’re seeking relief from joint pain, join me as I explain the link between digestive enzymes and joint health here.
"When I was 15/16, I started going to the doctor as I couldn't keep food down - I lacked an enzyme to digest food. No doctor ever took the time to tell me what enzyme I needed. I could only eat one meal a day, I always felt so uncomfortable and I would bloat like I was 9 months pregnant. My clothing and pants would never fit. I wear a medium but was always wearing a large so I could bloat. Been taking your product in the morning and before dinner. Now I can wear my size and don't have that problem!
Your product has been amazing! I am taking it 2x a day, but even when I started with 1 a day it helped. I didn't bloat and didn't feel overly full. It's been a lifesaver for me. To the doctor that created this product - hallelujah!
Going to continue using this!"
Carmen Vega | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sharing is Caring
Know Your Body - Know Your Health