The Role of Digestive Enzymes in Gut Health and Overall Health

Proper digestion is one of the body’s most important physiological functions in maintaining overall health. The digestive system transforms food into energy for the body’s use by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into smaller, simpler, and more usable forms. Without this transformation, digestion and assimilation of nutrients is difficult if not impossible.

Digestive enzymes are extremely important in everyone’s diet, since they are responsible for the proper breakdown of major food groups, and eventually the absorption of vital nutrients through the intestinal wall. Fresh fruits such as pineapple and papaya are particularly rich in these enzymes. Pineapples provide the body with bromelain which helps in the digestion of proteins, and papayas contain papain, another enzyme involved in breaking down proteins.

Every day the pancreas secretes about 1.5 litres of pancreatic juice in the small intestine. This juice contains digestive enzymes which are essential for the proper digestion and absorption of food. These digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas include lipases which help in the digestion of fats, proteases which digest proteins, and amylases which help in the digestion of starch molecules.

While healthy foods provide the foundation for optimal health and vitality, even the healthiest foods are of little use if they are not properly digested. When the pancreas is not producing enough digestive enzymes, the essential nutrients from food are not properly digested and absorbed leading to nutrient deficiencies and symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort. For instance, insufficient amounts of lipase (responsible to break down fats) may cause diarrhea, fatty/floating stools or fat-soluble vitamin deficiency. Incomplete breakdown of carbohydrates can exhibit as gas, bloating, diarrhea and cramps. Other problems with incomplete digestion of food include the development of food allergies. In simple terms, an allergy is a hyperactive response of the immune system to certain substances which are foreign to our bodies. These substances are called allergens. Incomplete/partially digested protein particles may be considered by the body as allergens and thus can trigger some type of immune response. This is one of the reasons why supplementation with digestive enzymes can reduce and improve the allergy symptoms in patients with food sensitivities. Digestive enzymes can help with food allergies by improving digestion. Digestive enzymes taken with meals will supplement the body’s digestive enzymes to ensure a more complete breakdown of the foods.

If the body cannot extract all the nutrients from food, the overall health is at risk, and this can result in a wide range of diseases. That is why proper digestion is so important for the proper functioning of the body, and digestive enzymes become vital for overall health.

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