I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.” I often clarify by saying, “you are what you digest and absorb.” Without proper absorption of the nutrients in your food, whatever you eat is just passing through your body. Digestion is a four-step process that relies on digestive enzymes to break down what you eat into amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Digestive enzyme benefits are plentiful and so crucial to the digestive process.
I will tell you about the many digestive enzyme benefits, why your body’s production of digestive enzymes declines as you age, and how you can ensure you get the most out of what you eat. Before I get into the benefits of digestive enzymes, let’s go over the digestive process.
Digestion Is A Four-Step Process
The digestive system consists of the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), the liver, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract begins at your mouth and ends at the anus, with stops along the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Along this trail, your food comes into contact with digestive enzymes and acids to break down your food. Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Ingestion
A common misconception is that the digestive process begins with ingesting food or putting it in your mouth, and it actually starts before that. Next time you smell or think about food, notice how watery your mouth is. That’s because your saliva glands produce saliva in preparation for encountering that first bite of food.
Once you’ve taken a bite, your saliva helps lubricate and break down food. One way your saliva breaks down food is with the digestive enzyme amylase, which breaks down gluten and carbohydrates. Those of you with a gluten intolerance have stopped producing the amylase enzyme.1 I’ll talk more about that in just a moment.
Step 2: Digestion
The next step is digestion, which begins in your mouth as your food breaks down and continues when you swallow. This propels food down your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. Your food gets met with more digestive enzymes and stomach acids upon arrival.
There are multiple enzymes in your stomach. Protease and hydrochloric acid break down proteins, including whey and casein, and are found in gastric juices. The pancreas ends more protease and amylase to break down proteins, fats, and gluten. Your gut produces peptidases, sucrase, lactase, and lactase, which help the breakdown of peptides, sucrose, lactose, and maltase.
Gluten and dairy are two foods I recommend everyone remove from their diet. The gluten protein, along with whey and casein proteins found in cow’s dairy, are the biggest culprits behind the skyrocketing rates of chronic illness and autoimmune disease.
Step 3: Absorption
Once the bile from your liver that helps break down fats, pancreatic enzymes, and stomach juices mix together, they move into your small intestine. This is where the nutrients in your food are delivered to your bloodstream so they can be carried to the cells in your body.
If you have a leaky gut, more than nutrients make their way into your bloodstream. Picture your gut as a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to let teeny-tiny boats (micronutrients) pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. External factors, including certain foods, infections, toxins, and stress, can break apart the tight junctions in your intestinal wall, leaving the drawbridge open. Once this happens, you have a leaky gut.
When your gut is leaky, much larger boats never meant to get through (toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles) can escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these foreign invaders as pathogens and attacks them. The good news is that you can repair a leaky gut. The 4R approach is a proven approach that I recommend to all of my patients to begin repairing their gut.
Step 4: Elimination
What remains after your body removes the nutrients and proteins in your food is a combination of water, electrolytes, and waste products, such as plant fiber and dead cells from the digestive tract. This excess solid waste material gets transported to the large intestine, where the water is absorbed. The remaining products get transformed into stool, which gets pushed out of the anus.
Digestive enzymes play a prominent role in the digestive process. Let’s look more at the benefits of digestive enzymes.
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
Several types of digestive enzymes exist, and each has a distinctive role. All digestive enzymes are hydrolases, meaning they use water molecules to break food down into its basic building blocks, such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.2
I briefly discussed different digestive enzymes and their roles earlier. These enzymes come in many forms. There are protein-digesting enzymes, enzymes that digest starch and carbohydrates, and enzymes that digest fat. The primary digestive enzymes include:
- Amylase: Found in saliva, pancreatic and stomach juices, it breaks down carbs and starches into simple sugars
- Lactase: Breaks down lactose, a natural sugar in milk, into the simple sugars glucose and galactose
- Lipase: A digestive enzyme in the stomach and pancreas that breaks down lipids (fats) into fatty acids and glycerol
- Protease: Found in the stomach, pancreas, and intestine, it breaks down protein into amino acids
- Maltase: Breaks down malt sugar into glucose
- Sucrase: Breaks down sugar into glucose and fructose3
Dietary fiber cannot be broken down during the digestive process. Fiber has no nutritional value, yet it is very beneficial to the digestive process. That’s because fiber provides food for the good bacteria, contributes to fecal bulk, and helps move waste out.4
What are Digestive Enzyme Benefits?
Because you are what you digest and absorb, you need a full range of nutrient-dense foods and digestive enzymes to process your food into what your body can use for energy, cell production, and development. Digestive enzymes support optimal weight, promote a healthy immune system, and facilitate a healthy inflammatory response.
Digestive enzymes also can help your body break down gluten and lactose in so many people with gluten and lactose intolerances. However, that’s not the only way your body receives digestive enzyme benefits.
A lack of other enzymes can disrupt the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. For example, if you have diabetes, a lack of digestive enzymes can contribute to blood glucose spikes. Diabetes can cause an impairment in the metabolism of sugars, which is associated with the abnormal metabolism of fats and proteins.5
As you age, your body’s natural ability to produce digestive enzymes weakens. While a decline in digestive enzyme production is part of the natural aging process, other factors, such as food high in processed sugar, can cause this decline much faster. Let’s look more at digestive enzymes and aging.
Digestive Enzymes And Aging
Have you ever heard someone jokingly say, “I’ve lost the enzyme that helps me digest Taco Bell?” While no specific enzyme helps you digest that Crunchwrap Supreme, your body does “lose” digestive enzymes. Let me explain.
Natural enzyme production weakens as you age for various reasons. It could be because of your diet, stress, chronic illness, or a sedentary lifestyle. It could also be due to you getting older. Once enzyme production slows down, it impacts the health of your entire digestive tract, and it becomes a limiting factor regarding the nutrients you can absorb and utilize.
Adding broad-spectrum digestive enzymes to your diet can support the digestive process and help ensure you don’t experience gastric distress from the food you eat. Digestive enzymes can also promote optimal absorption of valuable vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients these foods contain.
Here are some signs that indicate you’re not digesting food properly:
- Bulky, foul-smelling stools
- Feeling full, even if you haven’t overeaten
- Gas, bloating, or flatulence
- Heartburn or burping
- Lack of energy
- Undigested food in stool
- Weight loss even while eating an optimal diet
The empowering part is that you can provide your body with a complete spectrum of digestive enzymes to facilitate proper digestion and absorption. Let me tell you how!
Reap Digestive Enzyme Benefits
Aside from a poor diet, exposure to toxins, and excess alcohol consumption, your body naturally spots producing certain enzymes as you age. The good news is there is a solution.
I formulated Complete Enzymes to support optimal protein digestion and nutrient absorption using a broad spectrum of digestive enzymes. When taken before a meal, this physician-formulated supplement breaks down peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, disaccharides, sugars, lipids/fats, and vegetable fiber. I take Complete Enzymes every day!
Additionally, I included DPP-IV in Complete Enzymes to help break down gluten in the cases of being glutened. Gluten is one food I recommend everyone eliminate from their diet. However, gluten is hiding everywhere!
In fact, Complete Enzymes do more than help you digest. They also support a healthy inflammatory response and benefit undesirable microorganism levels that opportunistically inhabit the digestive tract. Additionally, they assist with tackling GI tract issues as well. The broad-spectrum blend of proteolytic enzymes helps break down inflammatory foods.
The Final Word
While you can’t stop Mother Nature, you can slow her down. Digestive enzymes are crucial to the digestive process to ensure you get the most out of the nutritious food you eat. If you notice digestive issues such as bloating, gas, foul-smelling stool, or a lack of energy after you eat, chances are you’re missing digestive enzymes. I recommend adding Complete Enzymes before each meal to ensure optimal digestion and absorption. I never leave home without a bottle of Complete Enzymes!
- Amylase - blood. David C. Dugdale, III, MD. Mount Sinai. 2021.
- Will digestive enzymes help IBS?. Danielle Dresden. Medical News Today. 2022.
- Enzyme Therapy for Diabetes: Who Really Needs It?. Danielle Dresden. Live Strong. 2021.
- Should You Take a Digestive Enzyme Supplement?. Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN. U.S. News & World Report. 2020.
- Digestive Enzymes: An Unexpected Diabetes Game Changer. Diabetes.co.uk. 2016.