Enzymes help keep metabolic pathways flowing
Enzymes are proteins produced in the body, created to regulate and speed up the chemical reactions that keep our metabolic pathways flowing and support life (1). The enzymes in our body help do things like break down food particles during digestion, build muscle, and destroy toxins.
Proper functioning of the digestive system requires certain enzymes, which are produced mainly in the pancreas, stomach, and small intestine, but even our salivary glands produce digestive enzymes that help break down food while we chew (1).
Three main digestive enzymes
The three main types of digestive enzymes are amylase which breaks down the carbohydrates that we eat into simple sugars, lipase which breaks down fats and oils into glycerol and fatty acids, and protease which breaks down the proteins into their smaller parts, the amino acids.
The body can have trouble producing the needed enzymes if the organ that produces them is damaged. For example, inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) can cause insufficient enzymes to be produced, like amylase which is needed to break down the starch molecules into sugars that the body uses for energy (2). Body pH can alter enzyme activity too – if the body becomes too acidic or basic (alkaline) these proteins (enzymes) can be damaged and not function properly.
Foods contain digestive enzymes
Many foods contain digestive enzymes that can help fill the need if the body is unable to produce the enzyme. For example, bananas contain amylase which helps to digest carbohydrates into simple sugars that the body can then use to produce energy to do its work. So, consuming enzyme-rich foods like bananas, mangos, avocados, coconut, oats, ginger, and raw honey can boost enzyme activity in the body to help support the digestive process and gut health (3) (4) (5).
You can read more about enzyme supplementation for digestive and absorption disorders in this review article.