Digestive enzymes are the essential part of your anatomy you probably never knew you had. These compounds are found everywhere, especially in your mouth and digestive tract. That’s because they break down food particles into smaller pieces, letting us begin to glean the nutritional benefits of our food. Doctors now think that a range of conditions from Crohn’s disease to chronic fatigue pain could be due to an imbalance in your digestive enzymes. These enzymes may solve a range of problems from autoimmune disease to memory problems to digestive anomalies. Let’s look at some other digestive enzyme health benefits and see what else they can do for us.
Digestive Enzymes Health Benefits
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Amylase can reduce your risk of diabetes
Amylase is a digestive enzyme that is secreted by your pancreas and salivary glands. Its job is to break apart the bonds that hold starch molecules together, turning them into simple sugars we can use for fuel . Not only can deficiencies cause this process to go haywire, but low amylase levels have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disease .
These problems are all tied together. If your body cannot process sugars correctly, you’re at risk of developing diabetes or a metabolic problem.
Lipase is a therapy for cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and atherosclerosis
Lipases are another greatly underestimated digestive enzyme. This enzyme works to break down the triglycerides from your food into free fatty acids and glycerol (your fat digestion and metabolism). Pancreatitis, high cholesterol, and vascular problems are just a few problems caused by lipase abnormalities .
Lipases have been used experimentally to improve cystic fibrosis symptoms, Alzheimer’s disease, and atherosclerosis, although how they work remains a mystery for now. This enzyme is also a candidate for cancer prevention and therapies, but little is known about how it works .
Proteases can fight disease, reduce inflammation, and safeguard cellular health
Proteases are a group of enzymes, rather than a single enzyme. They regulate cellular motility, division, and death, which are essential for proper body functioning (this keeps all cells in our body in peak condition and the right place, and ensures that unhealthy cells are recycled into new ones) .
Proteases have also been associated with several disorders, including neurodegenerative diseases, inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases, and cancer . We don’t understand these processes yet, but that research is now well underway.
Recent studies have shown a whopping 641 protease genes in our genome, and they are involved in a wide range of diseases and modulation of a healthy body state. As a fun fact, proteases are even used to clarify beer and wine and prepare leather. It’s certainly a multifunctional group of enzymes .
Pepsin and Pepsinogen are needed for protein digestion
Pepsinogen is a substance secreted by your stomach wall to help you digest and break down those tough fibers that make up many proteins . When you chew up your steak, amylase and other salivary enzymes break it down into smaller pieces (aiding the chewing process). After you swallow that partially broken up steak, pepsinogen is released from the stomach walls, further breaking it down into the amino acids we need to build our organs, muscles, and body .
The active form of pepsinogen is pepsin, which works with stomach acid to break down our protein. While there have been suggestions of health problems such as indigestion and an inability to tolerate meat related to pepsin and pepsinogen, there is much work left to be done in this field, and very little known so far.
Trypsin could boost your immune system and improve tissue repair
Like amylase, Trypsin is an oral enzyme that helps us begin to break down foods into nutrients. The fascinating thing about this enzyme is its dual nature of breaking down our food and interacting with our immune system. We’ve known for some time that trypsin is involved with tissue repair and can promote this process leading to faster recovery of tissue .
Recent studies have suggested further interactions with immune cells, particularly those of our innate immune system, which protects us against immediate danger from infiltrating pathogens, always on the move looking for these dangerous invaders .
Some Other Digestive Enzymes Health Benefits
This long list of digestive enzymes’ health benefits illustrates the importance of getting enough of them in your diet (through food or supplements when you run a bit short). Digestive enzymes can improve gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease, improve indigestion, and even regulate your intestinal microbiome (we now know that imbalances of gut microbes can lead to a long list of health problems and diseases) [12, 13, 14, 15].
So ensure that you’re taking a supplement if you and your medical team have concerns about your digestive enzymes. Remember to always consult your doctor when you change medications, even when they’re over the counter, to make sure you are getting the right balance of enzymes for you.
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