The Health Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
Enzyme Supplements Aid Digestion and Food Allergies
Animal or fungal, proteolytic or pancreatic enzymes? Enzymes are produced within the body, however digestive enzyme supplements may be needed for human health benefit.
Our bodies contain naturally derived enzymes made from protein. Without enzymes, human health would be impossible; every metabolic function in the body requires them. Every time a morsel of food enters the mouth, digestive enzymes are on the job. Inadequate production of digestive enzymes, due to illness or genetic factors, negatively affects the breakdown of foods into the nutrients the body requires. Enzymes are catalysts; they cause reactions to occur. In the case of digestive enzymes, their role is to catalyse or cause long chained substances such as carbohydrate, protein and fat to break into smaller fragments. Enzymes work on a lock and key mechanism: the key (enzyme) must fit the lock (product) to release a new product.
Specific Enzymes Produced by the Body to Aid Digestion
Our bodies produce numerous digestive enzymes. The following are enzymes and their actions:
*Amylase for carbohydrate digestion or breakdown into simple sugars.
* Protease for large chain protein molecules to make smaller protein molecules
* Peptidase for small protein molecules to make amino acids
* Lipase for fat (triglycerides) breakdown
* Lactase for milk sugar (lactose) breakdown
* Cellulase for breaking down the fibrous plant matter cellulose
* Maltase for the breakdown of malt sugar
* Invertase for the breakdown of sucrose (table sugar)
* Chymotrypsin for large protein chains
* Trypsin for large protein chains
* Pancreatin for the breakdown of protein, carbohydrate, and fats
* The enzymes that have affect protein molecules are proteolytic enzymes.
Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Digestive enzymes are sourced commercially from animal or plants/fungi. The fermentation of various fungi produces the enzymes amylase, protease, peptidase, lipase, lactase, and cellulase. During production of digestive enzymes, microbial filtration ensures there is no fungal residue. Chymotrypsin, trypsin, and pancreatin are pancreatic enzymes, which are from animal products.
Plant based supplements are more stable and able to survive a greater pH than animal based or pancreatic enzymes. Gastric acid tends to destroy animal derived enzymes more easily than plant based enzymes. Some manufacturers, with the use of enteric-coated enzyme supplements, have overcome this problem. Enteric coating is a coating which inhibits the product from dissolving in the stomach. It dissolves in the intestine where there is less stomach acid. This may affect the clinical use of the product; however, as the enzyme supplement will not be effective for the stomach or upper small intestine. Additionally, plant-based digestive enzymes have a broader range of digestive enzyme activity.
Digestive Enzymes Health Benefits: Aid Digestion and Reduce Food Allergies
The main health benefit of general digestive enzyme supplements is in the support of the digestive process. A human and animal study found both fungal and pancreatic enzymes improved malabsorption and malnutrition, while producing a healthier stool weight and fat excretion. Theoretically, digestive enzymes can also work by breaking down dietary proteins that enter the bloodstream due to inflammatory conditions or a breakdown in the gut mucosa barrier. When these proteins travel from the gut to the bloodstream inappropriately, they can cause an immune reaction such as food allergies. Digestive enzymes may reduce this allergic reaction by breaking down these proteins and reducing an immune response.
Fungal digestive enzymes may also help with lactose intolerance, vascular disease, and celiac disease.
* Enzyme Therapy
* The Health Benefits of Papaya
* Digestive Enzymes
Dr Michael Murray states proteolytic enzymes may be beneficial for the following conditions:
* Digestion support
* Fibrocystic breast disease
* Food allergies
* Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
* Hepatitis C
* Herpes zoster (shingles)
* Inflammation, sports injuries and trauma
* Pancreatic insufficiency
* Multiple sclerosis
* Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders
* Sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Rachman B. (1997) Unique Features and Application of Non-Animal Derived Enzymes. Clinical Nutrition Insights. Vol 5 No 10.
Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (Eds.). (2005). Textbook of Natural Medicine, 3rd ed. Churchill Livingstone.