Know the Types of Digestive Enzymes and Their Functions

Know the Types of Digestive Enzymes and Their Functions – Know the Types of Digestive Enzymes and Their Functions. Digestive enzymes are substances that help our bodies digest food. They are secreted (released) by the salivary glands and the cells lining the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine.

Secretion is done by breaking down large and complex molecules that make up proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into smaller ones. This allows nutrients from food to be easily absorbed into the blood and carried throughout the body.

There are several digestive enzymes, including amylase, maltase, lactase, lipase, sucrase, and protease. Come on, identify the types of digestive enzymes and their functions!

1. What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are released when we:

  • Anticipating food.
  • Smell and taste food.
  • Digest food.

Some foods require certain digestive enzymes to break down the specific nutrients they contain.

Various health conditions, especially those that affect the pancreas, can cause digestive enzyme deficiencies. This is because the pancreas secretes several key enzymes.

Often a deficiency in digestive enzymes can be corrected by changing your diet. Avoid certain foods or foods that contain natural digestive enzymes. Prescription or over-the-counter enzyme supplements can also be used.

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Summarized from Verywell Health, each of the many different digestive enzymes targets specific nutrients and breaks them down into forms that can eventually be absorbed. The most important digestive enzymes are:

1. Amylase

Amylase is essential for digesting carbohydrates. This enzyme breaks down starch into sugar. Amylase is secreted by the salivary glands and pancreas. Measurement of amylase levels in the blood is usually used as an aid in diagnosing various diseases of the pancreas or other digestive tract.

High levels of amylase in the blood can signal the following conditions:

  • Blockage or injury to the pancreatic duct.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas.

Meanwhile, low amylase levels may indicate chronic pancreatitis or liver disease.

2. Maltase

The small intestine releases maltase, which is responsible for breaking down maltose (malt sugar) into glucose (simple sugar). The body uses glucose for energy.

During digestion, starch is partially converted to maltose by amylase. The enzyme maltase then converts maltose into glucose. This sugar is then used immediately by the body or stored in the liver as glycogen for future use.

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3. Lactase

Lactase, also called lactase-phlorizin hydrolase, is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. It converts lactose into glucose and galactose.

Lactase is produced by cells known as enterocytes that line the intestinal tract. Unabsorbed lactose is fermented by bacteria in the intestines. This can cause gas and stomach pain.

4. Lipase

Lipase is responsible for the breakdown of fats into fatty acids and glycerol (simple sugar alcohol). It is produced in small amounts by the mouth and stomach, and in larger amounts by the pancreas.

5. Protease

Proteases (also called peptidases, proteolytic enzymes, or proteinases) are digestive enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids. Proteases also play a role in various body processes, such as:

  • Cell division.
  • Blood clotting.
  • Immune function.

Proteases are produced in the stomach and pancreas. The main types of proteases are:

  • Pepsin: Pepsin is secreted by the stomach to break down proteins into peptides, or smaller groups of amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed or further broken down in the small intestine.
  • Trypsin: Trypsin is formed when the enzymes secreted by the pancreas are activated by enzymes in the small intestine. Trypsin then activates additional pancreatic enzymes, such as carboxypeptidase and chymotrypsin, to help break down the peptide.
  • Chymotrypsin: This enzyme breaks down peptides into free amino acids that can be absorbed by the intestinal wall.
  • Carboxypeptidase A: Secreted by the pancreas, this enzyme splits peptides into individual amino acids.
  • Carboxypeptidase B: Secreted by the pancreas, this enzyme breaks down basic amino acids.

6. Sucrase

Sucrase is secreted by the small intestine, where it breaks down sucrose (the sugar in table sugar) into fructose and glucose. These are simple sugars that the body can absorb.

Sucrase is found along the intestinal villi. These are tiny hair-like structures that line the intestines and absorb nutrients into the bloodstream.

3. Digestive enzyme deficiency

Several health conditions can interfere with the secretion of digestive enzymes in digesting food. Some are genetic conditions that are passed down, while others develop over time.

1. Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance means the body is unable to digest lactose due to insufficient production of lactase by the small intestine. When consuming dairy products, people with lactose intolerance will experience flatulence, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas.

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There are several types of lactose intolerance, namely:

  • Congenital lactase deficiency (congenital alactasia): A rare form of congenital lactose intolerance. This occurs when a newborn is unable to break down the lactose in breast milk or formula. Babies will have severe diarrhea if they are not given a lactose-free alternative milk. Congenital lactase deficiency is caused by a mutation in the LCT gene that provides instructions for making the enzyme lactase.
  • Non-persistent lactase: A common type of lactose intolerance that some people develop as adults. It affects about 65% of people, and it is caused by decreased expression (activity) of the LCT gene, as reported by MedlinePlus. Symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking milk. Most people with non-persistent lactase maintain some level of lactase activity and can continue to include small amounts of lactose in their diet. This may be in the form of cheese or yogurt as both tend to be tolerated better than fresh milk.
  • Secondary lactose intolerance: This develops when lactase production is reduced due to a disease that can damage the small intestine. These diseases include celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, as well as other diseases or injuries that affect the intestinal wall.

2. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

The pancreas produces the main digestive enzymes amylase, protease, and lipase. People with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) have a deficiency of these enzymes. As a result, they cannot digest food properly, especially fat.

Health conditions that affect the pancreas and are associated with EPI are:

  • Chronic pancreatitis.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Pancreatic cancer.

Adding from Johns Hopkins Medicine, deficiency symptoms can lead to malnutrition and gastrointestinal irritation. Common symptoms can include:

  • Stomach pain or stomach cramps.
  • bloating.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Gas.
  • Oily stools.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

4. Food sources of digestive enzymes

Many foods, especially tropical fruits and fermented vegetables, are naturally high in digestive enzymes that can help speed up the digestion of certain nutrients.

Some examples of foods high in digestive enzymes (which are best eaten fresh) include:

  • Pineapple (protease, i.e. bromelain).
  • Papaya (protease, i.e. papain).
  • Kiwi (proteases, namely actinidain)
  • Mango (amylase).
  • Bananas (amylase, glucosidase).
  • Raw honey (amylase, diastase, invertase, protease).
  • Avocado (lipase).
  • Kefir (lipase, lactase, protease).
  • Fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut (lipase, protease).
  • Miso (lactase, lipase, protease, amylase).
  • Ginger (protease, namely zingibain).
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5. Digestive enzyme supplements

People who do not have sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes or who wish to support healthy digestion should consider supplementing with digestive enzymes. This can be done by adopting a balanced nutritious healthy diet, or you can also take nutritional supplements under the supervision of a doctor.

Digestive enzyme supplements can be taken in pill, powder, and liquid forms of animal, plant, or microbial origin. There are prescription digestive enzyme supplements, some are over-the-counter.

Prescription enzyme supplements are recommended for conditions that affect pancreatic function, such as chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. The most common enzyme replacement therapy and the only one regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT). PERT is a doctor-prescribed drug that includes amylase, lipase, and protease. It helps break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Meanwhile, over-the-counter enzyme supplements are generally not regulated by food and drug regulatory agencies. There has been no high-quality research on over-the-counter enzyme supplements, so it can be difficult to know their effectiveness.

Here are some additional enzymes that don’t require a prescription:

  • A lactase supplement that can help people with lactose intolerance to absorb dairy products. Usually these are available in the form of tablets or drops.
  • Bromelain is a powerful protease enzyme from pineapple fruit or stems that is available in capsule, tablet, or powder form and can aid protein digestion.
  • Papain from papaya can help digest protein, and the powder form can be used as a meat tenderizer.

As with other supplements, you should first consult with your doctor before starting to take them, even though supplements are sold over the counter without a prescription. This is important to ensure its safety.

Digestive enzymes are substances that help our bodies digest food. They are secreted by the salivary glands and the cells that line the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine.

Some people can develop digestive enzyme deficiencies, and this is associated with a variety of health conditions. Many of these health conditions are related to the pancreas.

You can treat digestive enzyme deficiencies by changing your diet and/or taking prescription or over-the-counter enzyme supplements. Before deciding to take enzyme supplements, or any supplements, first consult with your doctor to ensure safety.

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