Incomplete digestion may be a contributing factor in the development of many ailments including flatulence, bloating, belching, food allergies, nausea, bad breath, bowel problems and stomach disorders. From here, things can get much worse. Disease can continue to develop when food is left undigested and begins to putrefy and ferment in the digestive tract. When this happens, finding the solutions that can help bring your belly back into balance should become a priority.
Digestive enzymes are primarily responsible for the chemical breakdown of food and constitute a large portion of digestive secretions. The human body makes different enzymes that are involved in this process.
The Digestion Process
It begins in the mouth when we chew to break down our foods. Saliva is produced and contains the enzyme amylase which is stimulated by chewing and breaks starches down into smaller molecules.
The stomach is a bit of a holding pouch. Chewed food hangs out here for just a while and is mixed with gastric acids. The parietal cells of the stomach secrete hydrochloric acid (gastric acid). Hydrochloric acid, along with pepsin, breaks down proteins to amino acids. The breakdown process continues and food is now called chyme, which is the semifluid mass of partly digested food that is passed from the stomach to the duodenum.
Hydrochloric acid secretion (hypochlorhydria) is very important and a deficiency can cause malabsorption and may result in a number of signs and symptoms including those mentioned above. An important fact is that Folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron will not be absorbed if there is too little acid. There are a number of diseases have been linked with low gastric acidity. They include asthma, celiac disease, eczema, osteoporosis and pernicious anemia.
On the other hand, an excess of hydrochloric acid (hypochlorhydria) can cause heartburn, gas and may lead to ulcers.
The small intestine is divided into three segments and secretes a variety of digestive substances. The small intestine also receives secretions and enzymes from the pancreas, liver and the gallbladder.
- The duodenum, is primarily responsible for the absorption of minerals.
- The jejunum, absorbs water-soluble vitamins, protein and carbohydrates.
- The ileum is the final section of the small intestine and absorbs fat-soluble vitamins, fat, cholesterol and bile salts.
The pancreas is your enzyme powerhouse. It produces digestive enzymes that are released into the small intestine and play a major role in digestion. There is about one and a half liters of pancreatic juice produced each day.
Pancreatic Enzymes Include:
- Lipases – Lipases function in the digestion of fats, oils and fat-soluble vitamins.
- Amylases – These break down starch molecules into smaller sugars. Amylases also break down carbohydrates into maltose.
- Proteases – are responsible for breaking down protein into smaller amino acids. Proteases include trypsin, chymotrypsin and carboxypeptidase. Proteases are also responsible for keeping the small intestine free from parasites (intestinal worms, yeast
overgrowth and bacteria). A lack of proteases can cause incomplete digestion that can lead to allergies and the formation of toxins.
The liver produces bile that is either stored by the gallbladder or secreted into the small intestine. Bile emulsifies fats and fat-soluble vitamins. It also helps keep the small intestine free from parasites. There are over 500 functions of the liver and in addition to the many jobs it has, it also metabolizes proteins, carbohydrates and cholesterol and is responsible for the detoxification of toxins, drugs and hormones.
The large intestine absorbs water, electrolytes and some of the final products of digestion. It is the ‘end’ process of waste that leaves the body.
It feels great when you’ve eaten well and your body has been energized with nutrients. But with your busy schedule, you might not always be able to eat well and your body might not have the time or energy to properly digest your meals. Additionally, food intolerance is becoming more prevalent in American society.
To reclaim the energy from your nutrients, digestive enzymes can help to stimulate optimal digestion.
For nutrient releasing power, plant enzymes also act in the stomach. They occur naturally in food or are taken as a supplement. They are essential for pre-digesting food and working with the body’s own enzymes.
Depending on the amount and effeciency of naturally occuring enzymes, digestive enzyme supplements may contain any combination of the following digestive enzymes. Each serves a different purpose and performs in different stages of digestion to help increase nutrient absorption.
- Bromelain – a protein-digesting enzyme found in pineapples, primarily the core. Bromelain is called a proteolytic enzyme. This means it can prevent and help tissue damage, inflammation and swelling.*
- Papain – a protein-digesting enzyme extracted from pawpaw fruit (pawpaw). Papain may also decrease inflammation and tissue damage.*
- Amylase – Breaks down starches (carbs) into smaller sugars.
- Xylanase – Breaks down soluble fiber.
- Protease – Breaks down protein.
- Alpha Galactosidase – Breaks down the carbs in raw vegetables and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).
- Glucoamylase – Works with amylase to break down carbohydrates into glucose units.
- Lactase – Breaks down the milk sugar, lactose.
- Lipase – Breaks down fats (such as those in oils, animal products, avocado, and nuts).
- Maltase – Breaks down carbohydrates, malt, and grain sugars.
- Cellulase – Breaks down cellulose to help free nutrients in fruits and vegetables.
- Invertase – Breaks down sucrose into simple sugars (glucose and fructose).
- Pectinase (w/Phytase) – Breaks down pectin found in fruit.
- Hemicellulase – Helps break down hemicellulose (carbohydrates into glucose).
In addition, when you want digestive stimulation, Betaine HCl (hydrochloric acid) supports the environment needed to digest food in the stomach. Bitter herbs stimulate the appetite and gastric juices needed for digestion.
Digestive Health Supplements to Bring Your Belly Back into Balance
DigestActiv™ is a blend of specialized and highly purified food enzymes plus bromelain, papain, and selective herbs for added digestive support. Contains no yeast, dairy, egg, gluten, soy, wheat, sugar, starch, salt, preservatives, or artificial color, flavor or fragrance.
Digestive Health contains therapeutic dosages of a full spectrum of digestive enzymes that help to stimulate the body’s natural enzyme systems, and breakdown all food stuffs including gluten, dairy and beans.*
Vitalzym Digest is a blend of powerful enzymes specifically formulated to assist the body’s normal metabolic processes in improving both digestive function and nutrient absorption. Contains no animal derivatives, artificial flavors or colors, yeast, gluten, talc, or lactose.
Vitalzym Original Hybrid Formula made to be taken between meals support digestion and promote health throughout all the systems of the body. Contains a proprietary blend of protease, serrapeptase, papain, bromelain, amylase, lipase, rutin and amla.
Digest Basic essential digestive enzymes are perfect as an introductory enzyme supplement with a gentle enzyme formula and small capsules which are easy to swallow and perfect for the whole family.
Digest Gold with ATPro most advanced enzyme formula with potent levels of amylase, lipase, cellulase and protease Thera-blend enzymes which assist in breaking down carbohydrates, fats, fiber, and protein.
Digestive Enzymes for Food Intolerance Support
Digest Spectrum multiple food intolerance formula* includes amylase Thera-blend for starch and other carbohydrate break down, lipase Thera-blend, cellulase Thera-blend, protease Thera-blend, and DPP-IV to help with gluten and casein protein digestion.
GlutenEase provides enzyme support for gluten-free and casein-free diets and includes DPP-IV for breaking down gluten and casein proteins.† Contains amylase and protease Thera-blends for total digestive enzyme support. Not to replace a gluten-free diet for individuals with Celiac Disease.
Lacto formula includes lactase, amylase Thera-blend, protease Thera-blend, and additional enzymes to help with the break down of carbohydrates, starch, sugars, proteins, and fats.
PhenolGest provides support for digesting the phenolic compounds in fruits, nuts, vegetable, grains and food additives with an enzyme formula containing Thera-blend enzymes plus Xylanase.
Gastro Guardian is the only digestive formula with FLAV™ M15 extract made of pure standardized flavonoids of premium Brazilian propolis combined in a proprietary blend of Licorice DGL and Fenugreek seed extract.
AllerFree contains enzymes and herbs which promote healthy digestion as well as respiratory health. An ideal addition for those seeking complete digestive health in order to strengthen immune system function and minimize seasonal symptoms.*
Triphala is a potent, yet gentle three-fruit (amla, behada, and harada) herbal complex that uniquely supports GI tract wellness as it cleanses, tonifies, and revitalizes tissues, setting the stage for better digestion and regular elimination to help you feel better.*
Acid Soothe offers relief for occasional Heartburn and indigestion* with papaya leaf, marshmallow root, and zinc to help optimize digestion and support mucus membranes and stomach lining.