Digestive enzymes are an essential part of gut health for their role in chemical reactions throughout the body. But sometimes they can get off balance. But how do you know? And what do you do in those cases? Let’s find out!
What are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are the naturally occurring proteins your body makes to help break down food and aid in digestion.
Types of Digestive Enzymes
Some examples of digestive enzymes are amylase, lipase, protease, lactase and sucrase. Amylase is a digestive enzyme secreted by the pancreas and salivary glands. It assists with processing complex carbohydrates and breaking them down into sugars. If amylase levels are off, it can mean there’s a blockage in the pancreas. Symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, or belly pain.
Protease is a digestive enzyme made by the pancreas that helps break down proteins. These enzymes can also be obtained from plants, animals, and microorganisms. It helps by breaking down proteins into amino acids as well as keeping bacteria and yeast out of the intestines. A shortage of protease can lead to allergies or toxicity in the intestines.
Lipase is another digestive juice that is mostly made in the pancreas. Lipase is an enzyme that helps break down fats. Symptoms of a lipase imbalance include weight loss, lack of appetite, back pain, rapid pulse, fatty stools, and nausea.
Digestive Enzymes vs. Probiotics: What’s the difference?
Probiotics are another way to assist digestion. They have similar benefits compared with digestive enzymes but are different in how they affect gut health. Digestive enzymes improve digestion while probiotics work by keeping the digestive environment healthy through living microorganisms. In essence these two work together, but perform different jobs. Probiotics can help digestive enzymes do the work they need to do, making them both a very important part of gut health.
Symptoms of Inefficiencies
One issue with Digestive enzymes is some people don’t have enough digestive enzymes to perform essential functions. Some examples of digestive enzyme insufficiency are congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and lactose intolerance. With congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency the issue is there is not enough sucrase available to digest certain sugars properly. Exocrine pancreatic deficiency or EPI occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough enzymes to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats properly. Lactose intolerance is by far the most common and occurs when the body does not produce enough lactase, making it difficult to digest the sugars naturally found in milk and dairy products. Symptoms of these insufficiencies can include belly pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, oily stools and unexplained weight loss. Some insufficiencies are genetic. However, in some cases these conditions can reflect an underlying condition as well.
How do temperature and pH affect enzymes?
Another factor that can affect enzymatic function is temperature and ph levels. Extreme changes in temperature and ph can affect molecular bonds that hold these proteins together. Low ph impacts the enzymatic reaction and can render the enzymes no longer effective. Raising the temperature can speed up the enzymatic reaction, while lowering the temperature can slow the reaction. Extremely high temperatures can even cause an enzyme to lose its shape and stop working. This is known as denature.