As you chew, swallow and digest your food, your body uses chemicals to break down specific nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fiber. These chemicals are known as digestive enzymes, and if you’re low on one or more of these substances, digestion can be tough!
Let’s explore several important digestive enzymes and what each of them does for your body:
- Protease: Protease is the name for a group of enzymes responsible for digesting proteins, one of the most complex nutrients consumed in our daily diets. Protease enzymes make it possible for your body to utilize essential amino acids as well as other nutrients found in proteins. Commonly known protease enzymes include bromelain, pepsin and papain.
- Amylase: This crucial enzyme has the task of helping your body break down carbohydrates (including sugars and starches) to provide energy. Amylase enzymes are present in both the saliva and the pancreas. Without proper levels of amylase digestive enzymes, your body cannot properly digest carbohydrates, which can negatively impact your health.
- Lipase: Found in the mouth, stomach and pancreas, lipase is an important digestive enzyme that helps your body break down, digest and transport fats found in food. Most types of lipase enzymes are found in the pancreas.
- Cellulase: This enzyme plays a crucial role in the digestion of fiber. Cellulase is especially important because it helps to break down soluble fiber, allowing it to easily bind to waste material (including toxins) and eliminate it from the body.
- Others: Other important digestive enzymes include lactase, which helps digest dairy and sucrase, an enzyme involved in digesting sugars.
Get the most out of your body’s digestive enzymes by making their job easier: eat frequent small meals with plenty of fruits and veggies, chew your food slowly and thoroughly and refrain from engaging in physical activity immediately after eating.