What are digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are naturally present enzymes found in the stomach and digestive tract of humans. They break down foods making them ready for absorption in the intestines. Enzymes are: carbohydrate specific such as amylase and glucoamylase; sugar specific such as lactase, maltase and sucrose; fibre specific such as cellulose and beta-glucoronidase; protein specific such as peptase; and fat specific such as lipase.
What do they do in the body?
Enzymes are excreted in response to the sight, smell, taste, thought of food, presence of food in the stomach and the action of chewing. They start to be excreted in the mouth by salivary glands. More are secreted in the stomach such as hydrochloric acid and then even more are produced by the liver, stored in the gall bladder which they are then secreted response to stimulus. Adequate enzymes are essential for the proper digestion and breakdown of food. Some people lack some enzymes making some types of food hard for them to tolerate, which is the case with lactase in lactose intolerant individuals. Once the enzymes have done their job; they are then reabsorbed by the body and are recycles for next time.
Why do I need digestive enzymes?
There are many indicators that you may be lacking in digestive enzymes. The most obvious one is indigestion. Other signs are acid reflux, which is actually normally food moving back up the food passage due to not being broken down properly. Bloating, burping and wind are all signs of poor food breakdown in the gut, as well as diarrhoea and constipation. The famous saying is ‘you are what you eat’. However nutritionists prefer to use the saying ‘you are what you absorb. We may be consuming all of these wonderful nutrient dense foods, however unless we digest them properly, we will not be utilising them effectively. Good digestion is key to good health.
How do I take digestive enzymes?
Supplemental enzymes come from plants and animals. Enzyme blends are usually found in capsules which can be swallowed or sprinkled on foods. These can also be taken on an empty stomach for reasons other than food digestion, under the supervision of a natural medicine practitioner. Digestive enzymes are also available individually in liquids such as lactose which can be added to milk or water and enzymes for digesting gluten.