OVERVIEW

In our body systems, the digestive system is one of the most important systems. Our body continually needs to digest the nutrients embedded in the food we consume for healthy growth. Despite its importance, it is very susceptible to certain dysfunctional conditions. What Is Digestive Enzyme: Enzymes digest food

The digestive system is the first contact for all foods or supplements taken into the body. Quite a number of digestion issues like bloating, inflammation, constipation, etc causes a lot of pain and discomfort. Hence, it is crucial that the digestive enzymes are active in the body to aid proper digestion. We’ll be looking at how the digestive system works and why it is necessary for the digestive enzymes to be readily present.

THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

The digestive system like every other system in the body works as a network. It connects different organs together to perform the necessary task of digestion. Digestion starts already in the mouth when we chew our food. There are certain enzymes present in the saliva that are responsible for breaking down carbohydrates and fats.

After, the food exits through the oral cavity of the mouth into the esophagus. The esophagus is the gut, and it acts as the linking tube between the mouth and the stomach. It has designed muscles around it that act upon the food substance; they make sure pressure is exerted upon it and it’s been pushed down successfully into the stomach.

The pressure exerted by the muscles depends on the substance being swallowed. That’s the reason we feel some discomfort in our throat when we don’t chew properly and swallow big chunks of food.

There is also a special kind of these muscles at the junction between the esophagus and stomach. It’s called the ‘Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)’ and it’s circular in shape. It’s important for food taken in already not to return back to the mouth that’s why there’s presence of the LES in the digestive tract; it helps prevent food in the stomach moving back into the esophagus. Also, there are cells in the stomach that line up its walls to shield it from the corrosive actions of stomach acids and the digestive juices present. However, the esophagus lacks these cells and is unprotected.

When the food reaches the stomach it would combine with the necessary enzymes and acids required to continue the process of digestion. When the stomach finishes its actions on the substances, it’s then passed down into the small intestine, where the final digestion process will take place and the nutrients absorbed into the bloodstream.

ENZYMES

Enzymes are not in any way new to us. They have always been present naturally in the body. Likewise, we can find them in supplements due to their power for altering reactions.

Enzymes are also a form of protein. They act as biological catalysts to aid metabolism reactions in the body. They have several uses and benefits. While many enzymes are produced naturally, some are synthesized artificially and are used as supplements.

Examples of enzymes are ptyalin, amylase, trypsin, lipase, protease, lactase, etc.

WHAT ARE DIGESTIVE ENZYMES?

Digestion is a type of metabolic reaction with a tendency for using enzymes extensively. The classes of enzymes that aid digestion is known as the digestive enzymes. These enzymes help break down the food into smaller bits to allow easy absorption of nutrients. The small intestine is unable to absorb large particles into the bloodstream.

Often times, enzymes are very particular, they only react with certain substrates. An enzyme only reacts with a part of the substance which is known as the substrate. Those that react with carbohydrate substrates are different from that of the proteins as well as those that act on fats. Examples of digestive enzymes that react with the different foods are:

  • Carbohydrates: Amylase, maltase.

  • Proteins: Proteases, chymotrypsin.

  • Fats and Lipids: Lipase, etc.

Digestive Enzymes can either be present naturally or ingested as part of a supplement making up for the lack of adequate enzymes in the body. In the event of incomplete digestion, a number of complications can arise. So, digestive enzymes supplements are recommended to ensure the enhancement of the digestion process.

TYPES OF DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

There are different types of digestive enzymes present in the body and below are a few of the common enzymes in the body.

  • Protease: Protease is found in the stomach and it breaks down protein mainly into polypeptides of amino acids.

  • Amylase: Amylase is found in saliva in the mouth. It mainly breaks down carbohydrates into maltose.

  • Lipase: The lipase is an enzyme present in the mouth and secreted in the pancreas. It basically helps break down fats into smaller units.

  • Lactase: Lactase aids the digestion of lactose by breaking it down into simpler sugars like glucose and galactose.

  • Hemicellulase: Hemicellulase is an enzyme produced by the bacteria in our esophagus. It helps break down hemicellulose commonly found in foods that are high in fiber.

  • Bromelain: Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme that can be gotten from pineapples.

  • Pectinase: Pectinase is an enzyme that helps break down the pectin in plant foods.

  • Beta-Glucanase: Beta Glucanase mainly breaks down the food that contains beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are a kind of fiber commonly found in yeasts, wheat, oats, and barley.

Other types are phytase, invertase, malt diastase, glucoamylase, peptidase, etc.

NATURAL SOURCES OF DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

Besides supplements, there are more natural sources for getting digestive enzymes. Natural sources are those substances that aren’t synthesized by humans as they can be readily found in nature. The most common natural sources are fruits. Other diets can also be a natural supplying source for these enzymes. Examples of these natural sources and the digestive enzymes they contain include;

  • Mango – Amylase

  • Banana – Amylase

  • Honey – Protease and Amylase

  • Pawpaw – Protease

  • Avocado – Lipase

  • Pineapple – Bromelain

  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbages) – several digestive enzymes

  • Kiwi – Actinidin protease

  • Ginger – Zingibain protease, etc.

OVER THE COUNTER DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

Over the counter, supplements are drugs you can purchase without having a doctor’s prescription. You can easily walk into a pharmaceutical store and request them without presenting any prescription slip. Examples of common over the counter drugs are cough and cold medicines, pain relievers, antacids, different body supplements, etc.

OTC supplements are relatively safe to use if you accurately follow the prescription written in the drug labels or the advice of your doctor.

Most times, over the counter digestive enzymes supplements, are in three classes based on the food they help digest; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

These OTC supplements can be in the form of capsules or chewable tablets. Some of them even combine two or more variants of digestive enzymes. Examples are probiotics, MassZymes, pancreatin, pancrelipase, etc.

SIDE EFFECTS OF DIGESTIVE ENZYMES SUPPLEMENTS

When taking digestive enzymes supplements, there are little to no chances of developing any form of side effects. But in some rare cases, some of the following side effects can affect some people;

  • Itching

  • Difficult breathing

  • Stomach ache

  • Headache

  • Cough

  • Constipation

  • Bloating

  • Diarrhea

  • Sore throat

  • Redness of the skin

  • Heartburn

  • Neck pain

  • Vomiting, etc.

When any of the above conditions are observed during the use of digestive enzymes supplements, it’s advisable to immediately stop the intake and see a doctor.

FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE INSUFFICIENT DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

There are certain digestive disorders that can affect the body and cause it not to produce enough digestive enzymes. Some of these disorders include:

  • Lactose Intolerance: This is a situation where there’s a lack of the lactase enzyme in the small intestine. Lactase is responsible for breaking lactose in milk. With the absence of the enzyme, lactose moves straight into the colon without getting digested and reacts with certain bacteria. This reaction in turn causes discomfort in the stomach. There are three types of lactose intolerance: Primary, secondary, and congenital.

  1. Primary Lactose Intolerance: It is the most common type of lactose intolerance. It is a situation whereby you’re born with the genes where your body gradually reduces lactase production. So your intolerance to lactose grows gradually with age.

  2. Secondary lactose intolerance: It is a type of lactose intolerance that occurs as a result of an illness that affects the small intestines like Crohn’s disease.

  3. Congenital Lactose Intolerance: It is very rare and it also has to do with genes. In this case, your body doesn’t produce any lactase right from birth. The genes must have been inherited from parents.

  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: It’s also known as EPI. It is another digestive disorder that relates to pancreas damage. The pancreas produces a number of digestive enzymes, and when it’s damaged, it won’t be able to produce as needed. Some of the causes of EPI are inflammation in the pancreas, pancreatic cancer, and cystic fibrosis. It’s important to treat these digestive disorders in order for the body to produce more digestive enzymes as needed in the body.

CONCLUSION.

Digestive enzymes are the peddlers of your digestive system, you will always need them. Getting digestive enzymes supplements shouldn’t be seen as a big deal because the better our digestion, the better our health.

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