What Are Enzymes?
Many people are becoming aware of the importance of enzymes for health, but not as many people are clear on exactly what enzymes are. An enzyme is a type of protein found within a cell. Enzymes create chemical reactions in the body, and actually speed up the rate of a chemical reaction to help support life. The enzymes in your body help to perform very important tasks—including building muscle, destroying toxins, and breaking down food particles during digestion.
An enzyme’s shape is tied to its function, and heat, disease, or harsh chemical conditions can damage enzymes and change their shape. When this happens, an enzyme doesn’t function anymore, which affects the body processes the enzyme helped support. Because of this, it is important to take care to preserve the health of enzymes in your food so that they can function properly in the body once consumed.
Enzymes are required for proper digestive system function. Many enzymes come from the food that we consume, but the body also produces enzymes naturally. Digestive enzymes are mostly produced in the pancreas, stomach, and small intestine, though even your salivary glands produce digestive enzymes to start breaking down food molecules while you’re still chewing. You can also take enzyme supplements to aid with certain digestive problems or to assist the digestion and absorption of your food.
Types of Enzymes
There are three main types of digestive enzymes, categorized based on the reactions they help catalyze:
Amylase—breaks down starches and carbohydrates into sugars.
Protease—breaks down proteins into amino acids.
Lipase—breaks down lipids, which are fats and oils, into glycerol and fatty acids.
Enzymes are essential for healthy digestion and a healthy body. They work with other chemicals in the body, such as stomach acid and bile, to help break down food into molecules for a wide range of bodily functions. Carbohydrates, for instance, are needed for energy, while protein is necessary to build and repair muscle, among other functions. But they must be converted into forms that can be absorbed and utilized by your body.
Amylase is produced in the salivary glands, pancreas, and small intestine. One type of amylase, called ptyalin, is made in the salivary glands and starts to act on starches while food is still in your mouth. It remains active even after you swallow. Pancreatic amylase is made in the pancreas and delivered to the small intestine. Here it continues to break down starch molecules to sugars, which are ultimately digested into glucose by other enzymes. This is then absorbed into the body’s blood circulation through the wall of the small intestine.
Protease is produced in the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. Most of the chemical reactions occur in the stomach and small intestine. In the stomach, pepsin is the main digestive enzyme attacking proteins. Several other pancreatic enzymes go to work when protein molecules reach the small intestine.
Lipase is produced in the pancreas and small intestine. A type of lipase is also found in breast milk to help a baby more easily digest fat molecules when nursing. Lipids play many roles, including long-term energy storage and supporting cellular health.
What Affects Enzymes?
The average body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), but normal body temperatures can range from 97°F to 99°F (36.1°C to 37.2°C). It is within this range of temperature that enzymes work best. If you run a fever and your temperature increases too much, the structure of enzymes begins to break down, and they no longer function properly. Restoring your body temperature to its optimal range helps to restore enzyme health.
Certain health conditions, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) hurts your pancreas and can also reduce the number and effectiveness of certain digestive enzymes.
The pH level of your stomach or intestines can also affect enzyme activity. A low pH means something is very acidic. A high pH means it’s alkaline, or basic. Enzymes work best in a fairly narrow pH range. If the environment surrounding an enzyme becomes too acidic or too alkaline, the enzyme’s shape and function will suffer.
Chemicals called inhibitors can also interfere with an enzyme’s ability to cause a chemical reaction. These chemicals can occur naturally, and are found in certain plants, though they can also be manufactured and produced as medications. Antibiotics, for example, inhibit or prevent certain enzymes from helping bacterial infections spread.
Your diet can also influence your body’s enzyme activity. This is because many foods contain digestive enzymes that help share the burden of the naturally occurring enzymes in your body.
For example, bananas contain amylase. So even though a banana is packed with carbs, it also comes with amylase to help you digest it so you can use those carbs for energy later. Eating enzyme-rich foods can boost enzyme activity in the body.
In addition to dietary habits, your body’s overall state of health will also affect how well it produces, stores, and releases enzymes and how efficiently its enzymes function. This will vary from one person to the next. Eating a nutritious diet in moderation on a regular basis and staying in good health will help your body’s enzyme activity to stay more regular. Otherwise, for example, if you intermittently binge on a large meal here or there, you may have untoward effects like indigestion, nausea, or even diarrhea if you don’t have enough enzymes readily available to aid in digestion.
When Are Enzyme Supplements Needed?
Problems with your pancreas, such as pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, or pancreatic cancer, can reduce the number of important enzymes your body produces. As a result, you may not get enough enzymes to thoroughly digest your food and obtain all the nutritional value from what you eat. If you have these conditions—or others in which your enzyme levels are below a normal or healthy range—then supplementing with enzymes can be a great way to maintain healthy levels of digestive enzymes. You may also need enzyme supplementation if you’re exposed to various chemicals or pesticides, or if your foods are always cooked at high temperatures. Heating foods can destroy any naturally occurring enzymes in them. In fact, most enzymes become denatured once reaching 118°F (47°C).
Enzymes are crucial for good health. Your body produces them naturally, and they are also found in fruits, vegetables, and other foods, and are also available in the form of supplements.
Eating a diet that is lacking in enzymes such as the standard American diet, over time, can lead to enzyme deficiency. Through supplementing with our Zuma Nutrition Digestive Enzyme Formula one can recover from this enzyme deficiency and experience major benefits. These benefits include but are not limited to improved digestive health, better nutrient absorption from food and supplements, detoxification benefits and gas & bloating relief. The Zuma Nutrition digestive enzyme formula is best taken with a meal that requires digestion.