Natural digestive enzymes are important for processing food. They work in your mouth and stomach, breaking down the food you eat. This helps you get the nutrition you need, so your body can work as it should.
You’ll find natural digestive enzymes in fruits and other types of foods that may already be a part of your diet. If you don’t get enough of these enzymes, you might have problems properly digesting your food. That could lead to digestive issues, such as bloating.
Let’s take a look at why enzymes are so important, and whether your diet is giving you everything you need for proper digestion.
What are Natural Digestive Enzymes?
An enzyme is a type of protein. It breaks down large, complex molecules into smaller ones your body can use as energy. Digestive enzymes break down substances such as fats, starch, and sugar. That makes it easier for your digestive system to absorb these substances.
If you don’t have a good supply of enzymes, that could lead to issues with protein digestion. As a result, you might experience a food intolerance.1
For example, people who don’t have enough of an enzyme known as lactase can’t digest lactose. This is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.2
Three Important Enzymes
Now, three enzymes are particularly important to digestion and nutrient absorption. They are known as amylase, protease, and lipase. Here’s a brief look at each.
This enzyme, found in saliva, breaks down the chemical bonds in starches and carbohydrates. When you eat food, amylase starts the process of digestion. Amylase continues to break down starches and carbs as they move through your gastrointestinal tract.
Protease breaks down protein in food, including the proteins casein and gluten. Casein is a protein found in dairy products; gluten is found in certain grains. Protein digestion occurs when protease mixes with protein in the stomach. This protein breakdown creates amino acids.
Lipase breaks down fats and oils. It turns fats into fatty acids.3 Fatty acids perform many important functions throughout your body.4
Health Benefits of Proteolytic Enzymes
You already know that digestive enzymes help you get the nutrients you need from each meal you eat. Digestive enzymes primarily work in the gastrointestinal tract. Other enzymes, known as proteolytic enzymes, are produced in the stomach. But they also work in other areas of the body.
Proteolytic enzymes are also known as systemic enzymes. They not only work as a digestive aid, they also perform other important functions. For example, they help blood clot properly and help cells divide. They also help to make sure your immune system works as it should.5
Research suggests these enzymes also help speed the healing of wounds. In one study, people who took proteolytic enzymes after dental surgery saw fewer symptoms, such as swelling and pain.6
Getting Enzymes Naturally Through Food
Many supplemental enzymes can help aid digestion, but you can also get them from fruits and vegetables. Here are just a few to consider adding to your diet.
Pineapples – Pineapples contain an enzyme known as bromelain. It helps to break down protein into amino acids.7
Papayas – Papayas contain an enzyme known as papain. Papayas may help reduce symptoms of digestive issues, such as bloating.8 Eating papaya raw will help you get the full benefits of the fruit’s enzymes. Eating raw foods preserves enzymes. Heating foods destroys them.9
Bananas – Bananas contain amylase to break down carbs.10 You’ll also find good bacteria, known as probiotics, in bananas. These bacteria may help reduce gas and bloating.11Bananas are also a good source of fiber, which can help maintain proper digestion and may even help with weight loss.12
Sauerkraut – Fermented foods like sauerkraut also contain enzymes and probiotics.13 Beneficial bacteria can help reduce symptoms of digestive problems. These include gas, bloating, and constipation.14,15
Are You Getting Enough Enzymes Through the Food You Eat?
You want to make sure you’re eating enough foods that naturally provide the enzymes you need for good digestion. If you aren’t sure you’re getting enough, talk to your doctor. They may recommend changes to your diet to ensure your body is digesting enzymes properly.
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