There’s a lot of talk out there about enzymes, digestion, taking digestive enzymes, etc etc… so let’s dive right in!
To start, let’s discuss what enzymes actually are and what their role is within our bodies. An enzyme is a type of protein found within a cell that creates chemical reactions in the body. They actually speed up the rate of a chemical reaction to help support and sustain life. The various enzymes in our bodies help to build muscle, destroy toxins, and break down food particles during digestion. Digestive enzymes assist in the chemical breakdown of food into smaller components that are easier to absorb. They have also been shown to support gastrointestinal health, a healthy gut microflora and a healthy immune system.
Digestive enzymes 101
There are three main types of digestive enzymes, categorized by the reactions that they help to break down
- Amylase: breaks down starches and carbohydrates into sugars.
- Protease: breaks down proteins into amino acids.
- Lipase: breaks down lipids, which are fats and oils, into glycerol and fatty acids.
Digestive enzymes are mostly produced in the pancreas, stomach, small intestine, and even your salivary glands (mouth) where they start breaking down food molecules while you’re chewing. So what happens when we don’t have enough digestive enzymes? Many people may have a reduced natural production of digestive enzymes for a variety of different reasons. This can inhibit your body’s ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in your food efficiently, leading to several negative effects. This can affect certain areas or functions in the body, including bowel transit time, gut discomfort, digestion of fats, weight, gas, bloating, and more.
What affects our enzymes? A few things that have an influence over enzyme production
- Body Temperature: Enzymes work best at your normal body temperature, so if you’re running a fever and your temperature increases too much, the structure of enzymes breaks down and they no longer function properly. Returning to normal body temperature will help restore them
- Health Conditions: Pancreatitis for example, which is inflammation of the pancreas, hurts your pancreas and can also reduce the number and effectiveness of certain digestive enzymes. Other health conditions affected include Celiac Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Disease.
- pH Level: A low pH level in your stomach or intestines means something is very acidic. A high pH means it’s basic, also known as alkaline. Enzymes work best in a balanced pH range. If the environment surrounding an enzyme becomes too acidic or too basic, the enzyme’s shape and function will suffer.
- Inhibitors: Chemicals called inhibitors can also interfere with an enzyme’s ability to cause a chemical reaction. Inhibitors can occur naturally or they can be manufactured and produced as medications, antibiotics being a great example. They inhibit or prevent certain enzymes from helping bacterial infections spread.
- Diet: There are tons of foods that contain digestive enzymes. For example, bananas contain amylase. So even though a banana has a high carbohydrate count, it also comes with amylase to help you digest it so you can use those carbs for energy later. Eating enzyme-rich foods can boost enzyme activity in your body.
What about digestive enzyme supplements?
I am often asked about supplemental digestive enzymes and if I think they are beneficial. As always, let’s remember that everyone’s body is different and just because it works or doesn’t work for one, doesn’t mean it will have the same effect on you. However, I do believe that they can help and be extremely in many cases, and especially when we feel like we need a little boost ( or have something going on that equates to poor digestion).Some of the major benefits of taking digestive enzymes include optimal nutrient absorption, support for overall GI health, assisting the body in breaking down difficult-to-digest protein and sugars, and decreasing gas and bloating. If taking a digestive enzyme, the best time to take it is right before, or right as you start eating. Usually anywhere from 30 minutes to right before you eat is ideal!
As with any type of supplement, there are a ton of options on the market and it can be tricky trying to decide which one might be best for you. One of our favorite NEW products is FRISKA – a digestive enzyme/ probiotic/nutrient blend- with a variety of different formulations. We love the Carb Ease for basic digestion, but we also love the Dairy Ease, Gluten Ease (and frankly all of them). Check them all out here!
A little more on Friska! Each of the formulations include a digestive enzyme blend to help your body break down food and transform into energy. Within each formulation, there is a clinically proven probiotic to support digestive balance and includes botanicals to support overall wellness.
Looking for additional info on digestive enzymes and if they might be right for you? Please reach out! I’m happy to work individually with you and see how we can ease some of your symptoms!