5 Big Health Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
Enzymes are vital for energy and life, acting as catalysts to speed up countless chemical reactions in the body. Digestive enzymes play an essential role in converting food into the smaller substances that nourish cells. While the body makes its own digestive enzymes, you can also benefit from eating foods rich in enzymes to give your digestive system and gut health a boost.
Types of Digestive Enzymes
There are three primary types of digestive enzymes categorized based on which macronutrients break down and several specialized enzymes that work on a specific food, such as lactase, to digest dairy.
- Amylases: Break down carbohydrates and starchy foods into simple, digestible sugars.
- Lipases: Breaks fats down into fatty acids and glycerol—important compounds that provide energy throughout the body.
- Proteases: Digest or break down protein into smaller molecules, including peptides and amino acids.
Why You May Need More Digestive Enzymes
Since cooking kills enzymes, much of the food we eat is devoid of beneficial enzymes, which means your body has to provide even more enzymes from its reserves to digest your food.
As we age, our enzyme levels also decrease, which is why our gut health can deteriorate as we get older. And for various reasons, the body sometimes doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes on its own, leading to an enzyme deficiency.
Enzyme deficiencies can cause a wide range of digestive issues, cripple your ability to absorb nutrients, and even contribute to food intolerances. As a result, people tend to experience 5 main improvements when they increase their digestive enzymes’ intake.
1. Eases Digestive Discomfort
At some point in time, everyone has struggled with bloating, belly aches, or constipation. It’s why over-the-counter drug remedies for digestion have soared even though they just cover up the symptoms.
The reality is that many of these digestive issues are caused by a simple enzyme deficiency. This is why supplementing enzymes can provide substantial relief from digestive discomfort.
In one study, people who took a combination with soluble fiber experienced a significant reduction in stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating (1).
Another double-blind study found that when people with IBS took a pancreatic lipase supplement, they experienced less cramping, bloating, stomach pain, and fewer loose stools (2).
2. Could Provide Heartburn Relief
Heartburn, or acid reflux, is a common condition people often experience after eating fried, fatty, acidic, or spicy foods and creates an uncomfortable burning or painful sensation.
According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, many cases of heartburn are actually caused by a lack of stomach acid, rather than too much acid like many people believe (3). In fact, over 30 years of research suggests that most acid reflux and heartburn cases are the result of low stomach acid (4).
Stomach acid is required for the activation of pepsin. Without stomach acid and pepsin, your food doesn’t get digested properly.
When this happens, microbes in the stomach and small intestine ferment the undigested food which results in the production of gas (5). This gas then pushes your stomach acid up into the esophagus, causing what most people recognize as heartburn. Getting enough digestive enzymes can help break down food that would otherwise cause heartburn.