- Discover what enzymes are.
- Learn about their role in metabolism and digestion.
- Determine the three main types of digestive enzymes.
- Understand the difference between digestion and metabolism.
Enzymes make life possible. They are catalysts, which means they increase the rate of chemical reactions. Without these chemical reactions, life couldn’t exist. Where those chemical reactions could take thousands of years to occur naturally, enzymes make them instant.
To do their job, enzymes bind to the specific molecules they are made for. Think of enzymes like a key – each one only works with certain molecules or groups of molecules.
Except, enzymes are flexible proteins. They act on particular compounds called substrates. They do this by changing shape when they encounter the right molecule. Once they bind at what’s called an active site, a cascade of chemical reactions occurs.
Every single one of your cells contains around 1300 enzymes. Your body relies on tens of thousands to run all the chemical reactions needed for you to live.
An almost unbelievable number of chemical reactions take place in your body every second. Enzymes can be divided into those used for metabolism and those related to digestion and nutrient absorption. They are called systemic (also known as metabolic) enzymes, and digestive enzymes.
What are metabolic enzymes?
Metabolic enzymes – not surprisingly – are those enzymes your body produces to keep your metabolism going. Many different metabolic enzymes work together to create a series of chemical reactions, break down molecules, and maintain balance in your system. Any interference with these reactions may lead to health problems such as:
- Hormonal disorders
What is the role of enzymes in metabolism?
Simply put, metabolism is any biological process involving a chemical reaction. Metabolic enzymes enable the chemical reactions taking place in your body related to energy production, immune response, cellular function, hormone levels, and even thinking and mood. All of your cells use metabolic enzymes all of the time to create energy, clear out toxins, regulate inflammation and healing, and make use of the vitamins and minerals you consume.
Without metabolic enzymes, you simply could not live.
Now, as we mentioned before, you might see metabolic go by another name – systemic enzymes. They are the same type of enzyme; systemic is just another name for them.
The majority of metabolic enzymes fall in the category of proteases, or protein enzymes. There is a simple reason for this. Most of the molecules related to metabolism are proteins.
What are digestive enzymes?
As you might guess, digestive enzymes are involved in digestion. They are stored in your saliva, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver. There are three main types of digestive enzyme:
- Amylase breaks down the carbohydrates you consume into simple sugars. Supplementing with amylase may ease digestion if you follow a high-carb diet.
- Protease digests the proteins you eat into amino acids and peptides. Protease supplementation could help regulate inflammation.
- Lipase breaks down fats into three different fatty acids and a glycerol molecule. Research shows that supplementing with lipase after a large, high-fat meal can aid digestion.
What is the role of enzymes in digestion?
Digestive enzymes break down food particles into nutrients that your body can turn into energy. They start working as you chew your food via your saliva. They continue through your stomach and small intestine, where your gall bladder and liver release more to break your food down.
How to keep your enzyme levels balanced
While your body makes metabolic and digestive enzymes itself, you don’t always make sufficient amounts to keep up with its daily challenges – especially today. The modern diet, with its processed foods and artificial ingredients, requires a lot of enzymes.
And then, as you age, your body produces fewer enzymes. And if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive disorders, a digestive enzyme boost might help you.
You can give your digestion a hand by eating certain foods or taking digestive enzyme supplements. Raw foods naturally have higher enzyme levels, but some are better enzyme sources than others. The best foods for natural digestive enzymes include:
- Avocados: Avocados are excellent sources of lipase and polyphenol oxidase. Consuming them with a high-fat meal could ease digestion.
- Oats: Oats are packed with lipase. In fact, science suggests that oats are a good source of lipase for those whose pancreas does not work sufficiently.
- Bananas: Bananas are high in glucosidases and amylases. Consuming them helps your body turn complex carbohydrates into more manageable molecules. And banana consumption is linked to less bloating
- Ginger: Eat ginger, and you might find you go to the bathroom more regularly. That’s because it stimulates contractions in your bowel. As a known digestive stimulant, ginger makes an excellent tea or addition to soups and curries.
- Kiwi: Kiwis are high in digestive enzymes, particularly proteases, which help digest and tenderize meat. Kiwis may also help prevent gas and bloating.
When it comes to enzymes in food, here a few important factors to consider:
- A food’s enzyme contents are destroyed by cooking.
- Fruits that have undergone gas ripening or irradiation have little or no enzyme activity left.
- Raw food enzymes in fruits and vegetables typically only contain sufficient enzymes for your body to digest that particular food.
This means that despite following a healthy diet, you can experience a lack of enzymes. This can lead to undigested foods irritating your intestines, leading to bloating, swelling, and fatigue.
Another way to boost your enzyme levels is through supplementation. By supplementing, you take the stress off your body’s natural enzyme production, especially the pancreas. You might find this leads to more regular bowel movements, more energy, and fewer digestive complaints.
What to look for in an enzyme supplement
Good enzyme supplements contain amylase, protease, and lipase. These molecules bind to the food you eat, causing the chemical reaction necessary to kickstart digestion. Before your buy, you will want to read the label on your enzyme supplement bottle to determine whether it contains each of the three.
Additionally, some other ingredients are useful when it comes to easing digestion. Blue-green algae consumption, for example, has detoxifying properties, helping your body rid itself of heavy metals and other dietary toxins.
Always speak to your doctor before trying a new regime. And if you have pancreatic insufficiency, make especially sure you talk to your doctor before trying any over-the-counter-enzymes.
The role of enzymes in metabolism and digestion cannot be understated!
When young, your body creates an adequate supply of enzymes. As you age, however, you may find your digestion suffering as enzyme production diminishes. Couple the decrease with eating a bit of junk food now and then, and you could begin to suffer digestive problems.
If that sounds like you, consider supplementing your diet with more raw fruit and vegetables, particularly ones that are naturally high in enzymes. Another simple way to increase enzymes in your diet is to take an enzyme supplement like Digest Infused. If you struggle with swelling or inflammation, you might consider taking Metabolic Infused.
As always, if you choose to take a supplement, read the label thoroughly, and ensure you are buying a quality product.