Different functions of digestive enzymes

Proteases digest proteins that are typically found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products (cheese) and legumes (beans). Protein is a long chain of amino acids that needs to be broken down into smaller and smaller chains until the free amino acids, which is what your body wants, are finally released.

Supplements containing four different proteases acid protease, alkaline protease, neutral protease and peptidase - break the protein down to free amino acids faster and more completely. Most enzyme supplements only have one protease to digest protein, meaning your body is given very little help so the process is seldom completed. Incomplete protein digestion results in bloating and indigestion within an hour of eating high protein food. Undigested protein is also one of the most common causes of food allergies and constipation.

A blend of acid, alkaline and neutral proteases like those found in many products from Enzymes, Inc. - ensures digestion of proteins continues throughout the varying conditions of the GI tract, from the upper stomach through the small intestine. Proteins are large molecules that require another protease, peptidase, to help break them down into even smaller, more usable proteins and amino acids.

There are several enzymes that break down the carbohydrates in food into glucose, the body's main source of energy. Three enzymes break down the sugar carbohydrates into glucose: lactase, invertase, and alpha-galactosidase. Lactase digests lactose, which is found in most dairy products. Invertase (Sucrase) works on sucrose (table sugar), which is found in baked goods, ice cream, candy, soda and many convenience foods. alpha-galactosidase specifically breaks down the sugar that is found in beans and other vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. Improper digestion of these vegetables can result in bloating and gas.

Three other enzymes digest the starch carbohydrates found predominantly in foods like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes: amylase, malt distase, and glucoamylase. Amylase and malt diastase break down the large, complex starch molecules into smaller pieces; then glucoamylase continues their digestion into glucose. If your body doesn't get enough glucose from your food, you will crave foods high in carbohydrates, especially sugar and starch, leading to overeating and weight gain. Incomplete carbohydrate digestion often produces bloating and gas a few hours after eating.

[Please note: maltase, the enzyme that digests malt sugar, is not commercially available. malt diastase is often erroneously labeled maltase although they have completely different functions.]

Lipase digests fats, which are found in oils, butter, salad dressings, dairy products (cheese, cream, whole milk), nuts, olives, avocados and meats. Fats are less complicated than proteins so only one type of lipase is needed for their proper digestion to free fatty acids. Although it may look good in the marketing literature, there is no digestive benefit to using a blend of lipases from different strains when one lipase from one strain can do the job. Although fats are surprisingly easy to digest, you need enough lipase to complete the process. If you don't digest the fat in your food properly, you can become deficient in fatty acids. Since your body needs a certain amount of fatty acids to stay healthy, you will crave fatty foods in an effort to get them from your diet — a huge reason why people overeat and become overweight.

There are six enzymes needed to break down the indigestible, fibrous portion of fruits, vegetables and grains into smaller fibers and to release essential minerals and other nutrients bound in the fiber. Cellulase acts on the cellulose found in all foods of plant origin, xylanase digests the xylan found predominantly in grains, and pectinase breaks down the pectin present in large amounts in most fruits. Our bodies don't produce enzymes to digest fiber at all so whatever digestion takes place must be done by food enzymes or supplemental enzymes.

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