While digestive enzymes do not provide a magic bullet for weight loss, they can help you maintain a healthy weight in several ways.
First, some context:
Your digestive system is made up of multiple organs that break down food and drink into carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins.
The nutrients taken from these foods are then transported through the small intestine to the bloodstream, to provide your body with energy.
Digestive enzymes play an essential role in this process. Their job is to break down carbs, protein, and fats into molecules which are small enough to be easily absorbed.
Absorption of Nutrients
To get it out of the way, here's our product recommendation: Dr. Tobias Digestive Enzymes. Read on to learn the science behind enzymes, so you understand which to choose.
Because digestive enzymes play a crucial role in healthy digestion, they are vital for optimal nutrient absorption.
The processes your body goes through to obtain nutrients from food is a complex one. If your digestion is sluggish and your body isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs, this creates an unhealthy cycle. Before you know it, your cells and tissues will be malnourished, and you will experience water retention and waste build-up.
Poor dietary habits such as eating the following foods can trigger an unhealthy cycle:
- Processed food
- Foods containing additives and preservatives
- Refined sugars
- Fast food
Adding digestive enzymes to your diet can help your body optimize nutrition absorption particularly if you are experiencing gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
Incomplete digestion can lead to weight gain. It also causes widespread inflammation, constipation, gas, and bloating — all of which can slow down the metabolism.
Your colon can carry up to ten pounds of impacted stool. Adding digestive enzymes to your diet can help your body regulate the passage of waste and help you maintain a healthy weight.
A poor diet can harm the delicate balance of microorganisms living in your digestive tract. When your microbiome is compromised, your immune system can be weakened, potentially leaving you vulnerable to illness and disease.
Adding digestive enzymes to your diet — along with probiotics — can help to restore a balanced microbiome.
Categories of Digestive Enzymes
These digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates, such as starch, into simple sugars.
An amylase deficiency can result in undigested carbohydrate molecules passing into the colon. As they are broken down there by intestinal organisms, they begin to ferment and produce water and carbon which leads to gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Taking an amylase supplement assists with the complete digestion of starches and carbs.
This enzyme is responsible for breaking down protein into amino acids and small peptides.
As you age, fewer protease enzymes are produced in the pancreas. This deficiency can leave fragments of protein undigested. These molecules are toxic and have been linked to colon cancer. (Koch, Anthonsen, Skovbjerg & Sjöström 2003)
Taking a digestive enzyme supplement can increase your body’s level of protease and reduce the stress on your pancreas of having to produce them by itself. Protease supplementation has also been shown to reduce meat’s allergenic potential. (Koch, Anthonsen, Skovbjerg & Sjöström 2003)
These enzymes break down fat into fatty acids and glycerol. They also help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K and essential fatty acids.
If you have insufficient lipase, undigested fats can pass through your gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to abdominal cramping and fatty stools. Over time, a lipase deficiency can cause malnutrition.
Taking a lipase supplement can ensure that fats are adequately digested.
If your body is unable to make sufficient digestive enzymes, you will be unable to digest food properly. This can lead to disorders such as leaky gut syndrome and lactose intolerance.
Foods with Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes act as catalysts for your metabolism, increasing the rate at which your body breaks down food and eliminates fat. Foods that contain natural digestive enzymes include:
- Kefir: Similar to yogurt but not as thick, Kefir is a drink made from milk, yeast, and fermented enzymes. As well as digestive enzymes, it also contains gut-friendly bacteria.
- Bananas: This fruit contains the enzymes maltase and amylase. Maltase breaks down malt sugars. Amylase breaks down carbohydrates.
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce contains enzymes, which help break down carbs and proteins.
- Avocados: Avocados contain lipase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down fat and can help to reduce indigestion. Avocados can also reduce widespread inflammation.
- Sauerkraut: This fermented food enhances digestive functionality. Sauerkraut also contains probiotics.
- Papayas: This fruit contains the enzyme papain, which is similar to bromelain. Papain aids with the digestion of meat and other proteins.
- Kiwi: This small fruit is packed with powerful health benefits. Kiwi contains the enzyme actinidin. Actinidin helps to break down proteins.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a quality digestive enzyme supplement.
Types of Enzymes
Look for supplements that contain — at a minimum — protease, amylase, and lipase. Other common enzymes to consider include:
- Cellulase, hemicellulose, and xylanase — help with the digestion of fiber.
- Sucrase and invertase — help with the digestion of sugar.
- Beta-glucanase — helps with the digestion of yeast.
- Alpha-galactosidase — helps with the digestion of legumes.
- Lactase — helps with the digestion of sugars found in dairy.
- Phytase — helps with the digestion of phytic acid.
Choose a supplement that lists units of activity. This shows you the potency and how much food each enzyme can break down.
- Lipase is measured in FCCIP
- Amylase is measure in DU
- Protease is measured in HUT
It's recommended to avoid supplements with unnecessary fillers such as rice bran, silica, and magnesium stearate.
Are digestive enzymes or probiotics right for you? Learn more here.