Making sure you have good gut health is essential, even if you don’t have any digestive symptoms. When gut health becomes compromised, it usually means your body isn’t digesting food properly or fully. Improper digestion can create a chain-reaction of imbalances in the body, resulting in many unrelated health issues. Digestive enzymes can give your body the support it needs to come back into balance.
How Is Our Food Digested?
Think of your intestines as tubes running through your body. In order for nutrients to get absorbed, food must be fully digested. This includes amino acids from protein, lipids from fat, glucose from carbohydrates, and other nutrients.
Beginning in our mouths, food is partially digested by enzymes. When this partially digested food reaches the stomach and small intestines, it is further digested in different ways. Proteins get digested by stomach acid and fats are digested by bile made by the liver. The carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are then further digested by pancreatic enzymes.
When your digestion is impaired, you may need support in some of these areas listed above. Including a digestive enzyme in your diet does not inhibit your body’s natural production of enzymes. Instead, they help to ensure that everything you are eating get digested.
There are three main types of digestive enzymes:
Proteases: Break down protein into small peptides and amino acids
Lipases: Break down fat into three fatty acids plus a glycerol molecule
Amylases: Break down carbs like starch into simple sugars
Enzymes are also made in the small intestine, including lactase, maltase and sucrase. If the body is unable to make enough digestive enzymes, food molecules cannot be digested properly. This can lead to digestive disorders like lactose intolerance.
What Can Digestive Enzymes Help With?
Many health issues can be affected by, and affect, your digestion. These health areas can respond positively when including a digestive enzyme in your routine.
When stress becomes too much or too constant for your body to handle, your digestion will become impaired. Your body slows down and decreases the production of digestive enzymes when you are stressed, and instead triggers hormones like cortisol to deal with it, putting your digestive needs on hold until the stress has been resolved. If stress signals continue every day, your digestion becomes increasingly impaired. Takin a digestive enzyme when you are going through any kind of prolonged stress can help make up for reduced enzyme production, and provide your body with the support it needs.
When your food is not getting digested completely, instead of nourishing you, your foods end up nourishing the bacteria in your gut. This causes a big imbalance in your gut microbiome. Overgrowing bacteria produces gas, bloating, diarrhea, and cramping – which are all classic symptoms of IBS. Taking a digestive enzyme can help you to fully absorb the nutrients from your food.
Few people realize that most of our neurotransmitters come from the gut. All neurotransmitters, are made from amino acids, which come from protein. If you are not digesting your protein properly, your body will not have enough amino acids to create the neurotransmitters you need to stay alert, happy, and relaxed. To improve your mood and mind, you need to increase the production of neurotransmitters. Digestive enzymes can help you with this.
Foods With Natural Digestive Enzymes
Pineapple are a delicious tropical fruit rich in digestive enzymes. Pineapples contain a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain. These enzymes are proteases, which break down protein into its building blocks, including amino acids. This aids the digestion and absorption of proteins.
Papayas also contain proteases that help digest proteins. However, they contain a different group of proteases known as papain. If you want to eat papayas, just make sure to eat them ripe and uncooked, as heat exposure can destroy their digestive enzymes.
Mangos contain the digestive enzymes amylases — a group of enzymes that break down carbs from starch (a complex carb) into sugars like glucose and maltose. Amylase enzymes are also made by the pancreas and salivary glands. They help break down carbs so that they are easily absorbed by the body.
The following are enzymes found in honey, particularly raw honey: Diastases, which helps to break down starch into maltose. Amylases, which helps to break down starch into sugars like glucose and maltose. Invertase, which break down sucrose into glucose and fructose. Proteases, which break down proteins into amino acids.
Bananas are another fruit that contain natural digestive enzymes. They contain amylases and glucosidases, two groups of enzymes that break down complex carbs like starch into smaller and more easily absorbed sugars.
Avocados contain the digestive enzyme lipase. This enzyme helps digest fat molecules into smaller molecules, such as fatty acids and glycerol, which are easier for the body to absorb.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that is popular in the natural health community. Kefir contains many digestive enzymes, including lipase, proteases and lactase.
Kiwis are a great source of digestive enzymes, particularly a protease called actinidain. This enzyme helps digest proteins and is commercially used to tenderize tough meats.
Ginger contains the protease zingibain, which digests proteins into their building blocks
Make Your Gut Health Your Priority
Gut health and proper digestion is essential for your health, and a digestive enzyme can help support any digestive issue you are experiencing. Without sufficient digestive enzymes, the body is unable to digest food particles properly, which may lead to food intolerances.