Digestive Enzyme Supplements are widely available in the market place, and an appealing “fix” for some people who are suffering from digestive distress. However, are digestive enzyme supplements right for everyone?
What are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive Enzymes occur naturally in our bodies and aid in our digestion of food, and so, are extremely important. There are several different types of Digestive Enzymes, they include:
- Amylase – secreted by the salivary glands and the pancreas and digests carbohydrates, breaking down starch into sugar
- Maltase- released from the small intestine, maltase breaks down Maltose (Malt Sugars) into Glucose (simple sugar) which our bodies use for energy.
- Lactase – is produced by cells known as enterocytes that line the intestinal tract, Lactase breaks down Lactose (the sugar in dairy products) turning Lactose into the simple sugars glucose and galactose.
- Lipase – is produced in a small amount in the mouth in saliva, and in much larger amounts by the pancreas. Lipase breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol.
- Proteases – produced in the stomach and pancreas, Proteases are also called peptidases, or proteinases. These enzymes break down proteins into amino acids. These enzymes also play an important role in cell division, blood clotting and immunity.
- Sucrase – secreted in the small intestine, Sucrase digests Sucrose into Glucose and Fructose.
Food Sources of Digestive Enzymes
Fortunately for many people eating a healthful, varied diet will provide supplemental enzymes to enhance your bodies natural production of enzymes. Some great food choices of enzymes are:
- Pineapple – contains Bromelain a Protease enzyme which helps break proteins into amino acids.
- Papaya – contains a Protease enzyme called papain which also helps digest proteins. To get the benefit of the enzyme, eat ripe, uncooked papaya as cooking the papaya will destroy the enzymes.
- Mangoes – contain Amylase, which breaks carbohydrates down into Glucose and Maltose.
- Green vegetables – contain Cellulase, which is necessary to break down Cellulose, the fiber in the cell wall of plants into beta glucose an important form of energy in the body.
Causes of Low Digestive Enzyme Production
Certain conditions may make you more likely to not produce digestive enzymes, these include:
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Pancreatic Cancer
- multiple Gastrointestinal surgeries
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Celiac Disease
Specific Digestive Enzyme Supplementation
Patients who are lactose intolerant may benefit from taking a Lactase supplement when eating dairy products. Additionally, patients who have a known sensitivity to cruciferous vegetable benefit from taking a supplement to assist in the breakdown of galactose.
What Else May Cause a Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency?
Eating a diet of highly processed food, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and having a sedentary lifestyle can have a negative impact on your pancreas and the enzymes it produces.
Are Enzyme Supplements Necessary?
For patients with the above noted conditions, individually prescribed enzyme supplementation at every meal would be necessary. If you are suffering from less serious digestive issues such as:
- acid reflux
- irregular bowel movements
- undigested food in your stool
- skin issues
- chronic illness
Some short term enzyme supplementation may be called for. In this instance it is important to speak to a knowledgable medical professional to get the best information about whether digestive enzymes or perhaps pre-biotics and/or probiotics would be most helpful.
You do not have to suffer with digestive issues.