Have you ever heard of digestive enzymes? Do you know what they do?
Heads up, they’re different from probiotics.
In this article, we’ll explain what digestive enzymes are and what they do. We’ll also explain how you could benefit from consuming more of them as well as how they’re different from probiotics.
Enzymes are substances that are produced by living organisms. These substances act as a catalyst for different chemical reactions that need to happen in the body. Most of these chemical reactions are used to transform substances your body can’t use, into substances that it can.
For example, nucleases is a type of enzyme which splits nucleic acids into different nucleotides. Nucleotides are the basic building blocks of DNA. So if your cells are going to multiply, say for protein synthesis, they’re going to need nucleases in order to create more genetic material for your new muscle cells.
Digestive enzymes help your body refine raw materials by turning them into something more useful.
In the case of digestive enzymes, these substances help aid the body in digestion. Digestive enzymes are able to help your body break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins into smaller, usable substances. They break down larger proteins into amino acids that your body can then use into protein synthesis. They can also strip down complex carbs until it’s just glucose which can then be put in the bloodstream.
Without the proper digestive enzymes, your body can’t efficiently process and use the food you’re giving it. Your protein shakes are less effective. So are your healthy, balanced meals. Without digestive enzymes, your body becomes significantly less effective at recovering and building itself up after a strenuous workout.
There are three main types of digestive enzymes.
Lipase – Lipase is an ingredient made by your pancreas. This enzyme is designed to break down fats into fatty acids, glycerol, and other alcohols.
Fatty acids are your omega-3s and Omega-6s. Fatty acids are used by the body to help deal with inflammation issues. Fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body and you have to get them from your diet.
Glycerol is a naturally-occurring carbohydrate that your body produces from the fatty foods you eat. Glycerol is used as a fuel source for your body. It’s also a way for your body to hold onto fatty acids that it’ll need in the future. Fatty acids get “stuck” to glycerol, forming triglycerides, which the body can then use later if necessary.
Amylase – Amylase is found both in your saliva and pancreatic fluid. Amylase is used to break down the carbohydrates you eat. More specifically, Amylase is used to convert starches and glycogen into simple sugars. These simple sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream. The amount of simple sugars in your bloodstream are also regulated by a hormone created by your pancreas called insulin. These simple sugars are primarily used to give your body’s cells the energy they need to do their job.
Proteases and Peptides – Proteases and peptides have complementary roles.
Proteases are a group of three enzymes that break down protein resources into variousamino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks that your body uses to make its own proteins. Pepsin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin are all types of proteases.
Peptides are chemical compounds that consist of two or more amino acids that are connected together in a chain. Peptides are an essential element in the process ofprotein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process your body uses to build the protein chains it needs to function.
Protein synthesis cannot happen without these two enzymes breaking down and rebuilding proteins.
Now that you know what digestive enzymes do, the way they benefit your body might be pretty obvious. But there are still additional benefits to having a healthy number of digestive enzymes in your system.
Here are some of the additional benefits you get out of digestive enzymes:
Less stressful for the digestive system – When you eat, your digestive system starts going to work. Think of it as the stomach and intestine equivalent to a good workout. However, the less efficient your digestive system is at breaking down your foods and supplements, the more stress it’s going to experience doing its job. A stressed digestive tract is an inefficient digestive tract.
Increases nutrient absorption – Not only are your digestive enzymes breaking down fat, carbs, and proteins, but they’re also delivering vitamins and minerals to different parts of the body. If your body contains a healthy amount of digestive enzymes then it can better utilize these micronutrients. This makes biological processes like calcium and vitamin D absorption easier.
Supports good gut health – Everyone’s heard of gut health by this point. Your digestive tract is a microbiome that needs to be taken care of so it can take care of you. That means that you need to make sure that the good bacteria can thrive while the bad bacteria cannot. Digestive enzymes such as lipase, amylase, proteases, and peptides can help keep that microbiome healthy and happy. Good gut health will lend itself to a variety of other health benefits from improved immune function to heart health to an improved mood.
Improves skin and tissue health – When people talk about nutrition they’re usually thinking about bone and muscle health, but there is so much more to nutrition than that. For example, there are many vitamins and nutrients that are absolutely essential to you having healthy skin. Protein and fats also help create healthy, clear skin and hair. Every kind of body tissue needs macronutrients and micronutrients to look and feel healthy. Digestive enzymes play a major role in improving every kind of body tissue, including skin and hair.
Boosts the immune system – As your body is better able to digest its own vitamins and nutrients, all while working less to do so, you’re bound to see an improvement in your own immunity. Vitamin C, Zinc, and other micronutrients are all necessary for a proper immune system. The better your body can absorb these vitamins, the more efficient your immune system will be at combating diseases.
Oftentimes, digestive enzymes and probiotics are marketed towards people with similar nutritional needs, but they’re not the same. True, digestive enzymes and probiotics can have a synergistic effect on the body, but they’re still slightly different.
The differences between digestive enzymes and probiotics include the following:
One is alive – Probiotics are living bacteria. More specifically, they’re good bacteria that your stomach needs for good gut health. Enzymes are not alive. Enzymes are substances that different living organisms produce to help aid your body in digestion. The hope is that you can create a healthy enough environment where the probiotics you consume can keep on living and benefiting your digestive system. Since enzymes are not alive, they have to be constantly replaced because, once they’re used up, there’s nothing left.
They do different things – The purposes of digestive enzymes and probiotics are similar, but they’re still different. For example, probiotics live exclusively in your stomach. They’ve created a microbiome and everything they do happens in that space. Digestive enzymes, on the other hand, can be found in your stomach, saliva, and pancreas. They’re found in different places because they do different things.
Probiotics help with vitamin and mineral absorption. They help alleviate symptoms in people who are lactose intolerant. They help produce Vitamin K. A probiotic bacteria’s role will change significantly depending on the type of bacteria it is.
No matter what strain of probiotic bacteria we’re talking about, none of them digest your food.
That’s what digestive enzymes do. It’s also why digestive enzymes are found throughout the body. You need some form of enzyme at every stage of the digestion process. While your probiotics might help some with vitamin and mineral management, they’re not breaking down proteins into amino acids.
You get them from different places – Your body doesn’t produce probiotics. These are bacteria that have to be ingested. We have a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria where we provide them with a food source and they provide us with vitamin byproducts and other services in return. Most of your probiotics come from food. You get them from eating foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, miso, and pickled foods.
Enzymes are produced by the body. Your pancreas and other organs create them. You can get additional enzymes from certain foods, but those only act to supplement the enzymes your body is producing on its own. Even though your body can benefit greatly from digestive enzyme supplementation, it still needs to be able to produce its own enzymes to be completely effective.
There are some foods that naturally contain digestive enzymes.
These foods include:
All of these foods have been found to be beneficial for supplementing your body’s digestive enzyme production efforts. But they are not as beneficial as the higher doses of digestive enzymes that you can get from a nutritional supplement.
Digestive enzyme supplements are excellent because they offer you enzymes in more effective doses. This is the ideal way to supplement your body’s own enzyme production. It’s also healthier for your waistline. Most of the foods that are naturally rich in digestive enzymes have lots of sugar and calories. An enzyme supplement gives you the benefit of digestive enzymes without all of those added calories.
Not only are supplements more convenient for you, but they come in controlled doses, so you don’t consume too many by accident. Which could lead to some stomach discomfort.
Supplements will help make sure you’re taking the right amount of enzymes.
1st Phorm is proud to announce that we have made our own digestive enzyme nutritional supplement, so you can get the most out of your food and other supplements.
We’re really excited to help our customers make their bodies even more efficient.
Come and check out our digestive enzyme supplements today!
*This post was written by Will Grumke. He is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
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