You might have heard about digestive enzymes, or read them on the label of your favourite supplement. You might be wondering what they are, what they do, and if you should take them. Read on for more information!
What are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are found in the digestive systems of animals (such as humans) and facilitate the breakdown of molecules in food so that they can be absorbed into the body. There are different digestive enzymes produced by different parts of the body that help to break down specific components of food, such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
What Types of Digestive Enzymes are There?
There are 22 different digestive enzymes within the human body, each with a specific task of breaking down certain foods. Deficiency in some enzymes (such as lactase) can lead to digestive issues (such as lactose intolerance).
Some of the main digestive enzymes, and their tasks, are:
- Lipase - breaks down fats
- Lactase - breaks down lactose (found in dairy)
- Amylase - breaks down carbohydrates
- Proteases - break down proteins
Where do Digestive Enzymes Come From?
Digestive enzymes are produced naturally within the human body, and are mainly created in the salivary glands, the stomach and the small intestine. The body begins to secrete digestive enzymes when we smell and look at foods.
Should I Supplement with Digestive Enzymes?
Depending on a number of factors, you might benefit from supplementing with digestive enzymes. If you are lactose intolerant, for example, you might find that supplementing with lactase will help you avoid or limit stomach issues such as bloating or cramping. For anyone who takes in high amounts of protein, such as bodybuilders, supplementing with proteases can help break down proteins so that maximum amounts of vital nutrients are absorbed. For anyone that experiences heartburn, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, and fatigue after eating, they might be deficient in one or more digestive enzymes and could benefit from additional supplements.
You might find that your protein powder supplement already contains added digestive enzymes. Supplement manufacturers are conscious of the stomach issues caused by some protein powders (particularly due to the lactose and fats that occur naturally in certain protein sources), and often add enzymes such as lactase and bromelain to assist with digestion.
Keep digestive enzymes in mind if you're experiencing any intestinal issues from supplementation and foods, or if you want to maximise nutrient absorption!
If your looking for a protein powder that already contains digestive enzymes, take a look at Optimum Nutrition's 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein!
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