What Kind of Digestive Enzymes Do I Need?
The body requires an array of digestive enzymes within the gastrointestinal tract for the proper digestion and absorption of foods. Digestive enzymes are responsible for catalyzing the reactions necessary to break down complex molecules into simple molecules. The body can readily absorb and utilize simple molecules. Typically, digestive enzymes can be divided into three categories, based on the location of enzymatic production.
The mouth utilizes the substance known as saliva. Saliva contains the digestive enzyme amylase. The amylase within saliva is responsible for the beginning of fat and starch digestion.
The stomach is also responsible for the production and secretion of certain enzymes. The following is a list of enzymes produced by the stomach in addition to a small explanation of their function.
- Pepsin: Produced by chief cells within the stomach, pepsin is responsible for the degradation of ingested proteins into peptides.
- Gastric Amylase: There exist many types of amylase, however, all are responsible for the break down of starch into maltose.
- Gastric Lipase: Secreted by the stomach for the break down of lipid substances (fats).
- Gelatinase: This is a type of enzyme known as a pepsin, responsible for the break down of gelatin through a chemical reaction known as hydrolysis.
The pancreas is responsible for the production of the following enzymes. However, the pancreas secretes these enzymes to the first portion of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. The duodenum is the location where the majority of digestion occurs within the gastrointestinal tract.
- Elastases: Available in a variety of forms, is responsible specifically for the break down of elastin, in addition to other proteins.
- Nucleases: A nuclease degrades nucleic acids.
- Trypsin & Chymotrypsin: Peptidase enzymes that degrade peptides.
- Carboxypeptidase: A protease that degrades peptides into amino acids.
- Steapsin: Creates glycerol and fatty acids from triglycerides.
- Pancreatic Amylase: Degrades many carbohydrates.
- Bile: Responsible for the emulsification of fats.
The small intestine is actually divided into three portions, the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. The jejunum and ileum are responsible for the majority of absorption within the gastrointestinal tract.
- Maltase: Degrades maltose into glucose.
- Isomaltase: Degrades maltose into isomaltose.
- Lactase: Degrades lactose into galactose and glucose.
- Intestinal Lipase: Degrades fatty acids.
- Sucrase: Degrades sucrose into fructose and glucose.
Digestive Enzymes: An Overview
Specific organs and biological systems within the body are responsible for the production and secretion of adequate amounts of digestive enzymes. All of the digestive enzymes are necessary for the proper degradation and use of ingested food substances. Digestive enzymes accelerate the reaction mechanisms required for the degradation of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. It is important to note that many enzymes can not function alone, but must be supplemented with co-enzymes or co-factors to ensure proper function. Many of these required co-enzymes/factors are nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. The body must be supplied with adequate amounts of not only enzymes, but the required cofactors and coenzymes to ensure proper metabolic function.