There's no question about it: no one can live without enzymes. Why is this true? How much do we know about them? What exactly are enzymes and why do we need them so much?
Here's a brief down-and-dirty on enzymes and the reasons why they play such a critical role in your life—for your life.
What are enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins produced by the body for the purpose of breaking down large molecules into smaller ones. More specifically, enzymes initiate and speed up biochemical responses. Enzymes are very specialized, which means an enzyme designed to perform one certain task does not multitask—it does one job only.
When it comes to digestive enzymes, for example, the three main types of enzymes are:
- Those that break down carbohydrates from starch into sugar. These are known as carbohydrases, and one example is amylase.
- Those that break down proteins into amino acids. They are known as proteases, and two examples are trypsin and chymotrypsin.
- Those that break down fats and oils (lipids) into fatty acids and glycerol. These are known as lipases.
Without digestive enzymes, the body would be unable to utilize the nutrients in the food you eat. Digestive enzymes work with other chemicals in the body to break down food to provide energy and support many other bodily functions.
Vitamins, minerals, and water do not need to be broken down by enzymes because they are already small enough to be absorbed by the body. In the case of fiber, however, digestive enzymes are unable to metabolize dietary fiber, which is why it is not absorbed by the body.
Enzymes and food
How do enzymes work on food? Basically, there are four steps:
- An enzyme and the molecule it is going to work on (break down), such as a protein or fat, meet.
- The enzyme attaches itself to the target molecule at an area called the active site.
- A process called catalysis occurs, which means the enzyme causes the molecule to change in some way. During the digestive process, the molecule is broken down so the body can better utilize it
- The enzyme releases the changed molecule. At that point, the enzyme returns to its original shape and is ready to go to work on another molecule.
Enzymes and aging
As we get older, the body creates fewer and fewer enzymes. Lower enzyme levels can translate into digestive problems, such as bloating, feelings of fullness, constipation, diarrhea, gas, indigestion, and heartburn. It also means your body is not absorbing the necessary nutrients from your food the way it should to nourish your cells properly.
To help prevent or reduce these symptoms and to support optimal nutrition at any time during your lifespan, young and older, you can take digestive enzymes in supplement form.
Why take them as supplements
It's important for your body to have the digestive enzymes it needs to metabolize your food properly, and enzyme supplements can help. However, because people's eating habits and food choices vary greatly, the best scenario is to choose enzyme supplements that match a person's dietary style.
For example, the digestive enzymes needed by someone who follows the Keto diet will differ from those needed by a vegan or someone who is eating a Mediterranean diet. Matching an enzyme supplement to your individual dietary habits can result in a much more efficient digestive experience—and better health overall.
Although the preferred way to get nutrients and enzymes is through whole, natural foods, the reality is that the level of nutrients in our food supply is not always sufficient. That can leave us deficient in the enzymes we need to better digest our food. When enzyme supplements correspond with a person's dietary habits, they can improve how well food and nutrients are absorbed and as a result, contribute to better health.
Another feature you need to consider when choosing an enzyme supplement is how it responds to pH levels. Enzymes are affected by changes in your body's pH. Therefore, select a product that has an ability to respond to a wide range of levels, because the optimal pH level differs greatly among different digestive enzymes.
How is your digestion? Do you experience symptoms of insufficient enzymes? How do you manage them? It may be time to help your digestive process with enzyme supplements. We welcome your comments.
[Editor's Note: We like Pure Essence's Real-Zymes which won the esteemed NEXTY award for 2019 as the Best New Supplement.]
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