In the previous article of this “Looking after your Gut Health series”, we briefly touched on your pancreas and its role in creating digestive enzymes. In this article, we’re going to explore what each of these enzymes is and what it does in more depth.
First though, a little background on enzymes in general…
An enzyme is a type of protein with a very specific purpose – to transform one type of molecule in your body into a different one. When it comes to digestion, this involves breaking down the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) in your food into smaller molecules that your body can immediately use.
Almost all of your digestive organs produce some kinds of digestive enzymes, each of which breaks down a different type of molecule. Your stomach and pancreas produce most of the digestive enzymes in your body, but the saliva in your mouth also contains some – as do secretions in your small intestine. And regardless of where in your digestive tract any particular macronutrient gets broken down, an enzyme will finally transform it into something your body can use.
That means that good levels of each enzyme are a must to get the most from the food you eat.
Your body produces a vast number of different individual enzymes, each of which is most often named for the molecule it breaks down, plus an “-ase” on the end. To keep things simple, these enzymes are generally grouped together into three overarching categories:
Other specific enzymes you may hear nutritionists talk about include:
In a perfect world, your body would produce all the digestive enzymes it needs. However, sometimes, in reality, our digestive systems can use a little enzyme support. This can be for a variety of reasons, including:
So if any of these situations are true for you, you might benefit from topping up your digestive enzymes.
If you’d like an enzyme top-up, there are a couple of ways to do this. One, is to include foods in your diet that will give certain enzymes a top up. Commons foods that contain enzymes are pineapple, papaya, mango, honey, bananas, avocado, kefir, sauerkraut, miso & ginger. The other is by supplementing.
We recommend talking to a pharmacist, nutritionist or naturopath about any particular symptoms you might be having and they can advise the best option for you.
Congratulations on making it to the end of part three! Part 4 is up next to round out our series and we’re talking probiotics…