Optimizing Digestion: What You Should Know About Enzymes
Written by: Vida Joy Ordonez, PharmD (candidate)
What are digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are the proteins produced by the organs involved in the digestive system, including the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. They play an essential role in the chemical breakdown of the foods we consume, transforming them into nutrients that our bodies can utilize for energy and to perform crucial functions.
Enzymes by location in the digestive tract:
- Mouth: Amylase → breaks down food
- Stomach: Pepsin → breaks down proteins
- Pancreas: Amylase, lipase, and protease → breaks down carbohydrate, fats, and proteins
- Small intestine: peptidases and specialized enzymes → finalize protein and sugar digestion.
While the term "pancreatic enzymes" is often used, it's important to recognize that digestive enzymes encompass a broader spectrum of enzymes beyond those originating solely from the pancreas. These enzymes are strategically released along the digestive tract in response to hormonal signals triggered by the presence of food.
These digestive enzymes act as the body's biochemical machinery, breaking down complex food molecules into simpler forms that can be absorbed through the intestinal lining and transported via the bloodstream to nourish cells, provide energy, and support the various physiological processes that keep us healthy.
How do digestive enzyme supplements work?
When an individual's natural production of digestive enzymes is insufficient, a supplement can bridge this gap. These supplements mimic the actions of the body's own enzymes and should ideally be ingested around the time of a meal. Your healthcare provider might recommend taking the supplement prior to, during, or following your meal. Opting to take the supplement before eating enables the body to initiate the digestion process as food enters the digestive tract. Choosing to ingest it during a meal ensures that the enzymes mix in with the ingested food, a particularly useful approach for larger or nutritionally dense meals. Conversely, those who encounter delayed digestion or discomfort after eating might favor taking the supplement after the meal, as this allows the enzymes to persist in breaking down the food post-consumption. It's crucial to consult your healthcare practitioner before adjusting your supplement routine to ensure alignment with your unique health profile and needs.
Who should take digestive enzymes?
Individuals who do not produce enough digestive enzymes would benefit from supplementation. This recommendation is particularly pertinent in cases where medical conditions stem from the deficiency of digestive enzymes. These conditions include:
- Congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Lactose intolerance
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Pancreatic cancer
- Cystic fibrosis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Additionally, medical interventions like gastrointestinal surgeries can also result in less pancreatic enzyme production.
For those who experience gastrointestinal discomfort, including symptoms such as bloating, gas/flatulence, and indigestion, digestive enzyme supplements could offer valuable relief.
If you have any of the medical conditions stemming from digestive enzyme deficiency or are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, then an easy solution is to take our KC Pro-Nutrients DigestZyme. This well-formulated, vegan-friendly supplement encapsulates a comprehensive spectrum of essential digestive enzymes such as lipase, proteases, alpha-galactosidase, hemicellulase, papain, lactase, which can alleviate the indigestion symptoms you might be experiencing. DigestZyme works in a wide pH range—unlike porcine pancreatin, which works in a narrow pH range.
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