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Digestive Enzymes: A Smooth Passage

Digestive enzymes help by breaking down food into its chemical parts, which are then absorbed by the digestive system. They help with the breaking down of various foodstuffs, and facilitate many essential chemical reactions.  Enzymes are essentially proteins present in the various parts of the digestive tracts of people and animals.  Humans however, produce different types of enzymes in different locations of the digestive system than our animal friends. Each part of the digestive system has its own unique type of enzyme, be it the mouth, the stomach, or the small intestines. Each enzyme our body produces has a unique and specialized purpose. Each is used for a single, broad based action.

Unlike cattle and other herbivores, humans lack the particular enzyme that helps digest plant and vegetable material. The particular element lacking is the one that breaks down cellulose, which causes the fiber of the plants and vegetables to be kept intact throughout the digestive process. Although it passes essentially intact, cellulose is highly absorbent, so it has the added advantage of acting like a mop to help clean up the digestive tract. When it finally ends up in the colon, resident bacteria can finally act on it.

Enzyme supplements can support and strengthen this process where needed in the digestive system when normal enzymes are low or their synthesis is impaired. This often happens when someone is ill or is convalescing.  This is when the supplementary enzymes can help strengthen the digestive system to help bring you back to normal health.

Another common reason enzyme supplements are needed are due to a poorly functioning pancreas. Since the pancreas produces so many essential enzymes, if weakened, it may be necessary to take in dietary enzyme supplements. The second most common cause of having to use enzyme supplements is in the case of a lactose intolerance. This is frequently seen in children and toddlers, who may have a diminished capacity to digest milk, due to an insufficiency in a particular enzyme in their systems. In this case, supplementary enzymes can help ensure the good health of the child by allowing them access to those essential proteins.

Enzyme supplements can also benefit those on vegetarian diets. Due to our reduced capacity to process fiber, large amounts of raw vegetables can cause considerable indigestion for some. This is can be alleviated by the regular use of supplementary enzymes. Whenever the body's capacity to perform normally is compromised, enzyme supplements are often a great solution.

Photo by Helga Weber