Enzymes are protein molecules that act like chemical reactors in the body to break down larger molecules. They’re manufactured in your cells, but lifestyle factors, stress, and aging can lower enzyme levels, leaving you with poor digestion and low energy. Besides breaking down food and aiding digestion, digestive enzymes can also help with various digestive diseases, acid reflux, GERD, liver disease, heart health, and inflammatory conditions. They also boost metabolism and benefit weight loss efforts . While raw foods contain enzymes, you can significantly boost your intake of enzymes by taking supplements and reap several health benefits by doing so.
1. Correct Enzyme Deficiency
There are many potential causes of enzyme insufficiency, and enzyme levels seem to decline with age naturally. Certain diseases can cause enzyme deficiency, including pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Chronic stress can lower enzyme production as well . As you age, an increased rate of digestive ailments tends to occur because of enzyme deficiency, such as acid reflux and poor nutrient absorption . Digestive enzyme supplements are a great way to counteract the effects of enzyme deficiency by giving your body a hand when enzyme production is low.
2. Improve Digestion and Increase Nutrient Absorption
Boosting enzyme levels in your digestive tract lessen the burden of digestion on your stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and small intestine, all of which are responsible for breaking down carbs, fat, and protein from food. By reducing the amount of work required by these organs, they get the chance to heal and function more optimally. This greatly benefits anyone who frequently deals with digestive ailments like bloating, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or more serious digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis . Diverticulitis is a painful colon disease that can be treated through diet and lifestyle changes, as well as with the help of digestive enzymes, which can facilitate digestion and allow nutrients to assimilate while the colon heals .
Digestive enzymes improve the assimilation of micronutrients even in healthy individuals, which can elevate energy levels and help prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Improved breakdown of food reduces any inflammatory response or production of gas in the stomach and intestines, streamlining the digestive process and saving you additional energy .
3. Alleviate Acid Reflux and GERD
Acid reflux is the backward flow of digestive acid from the stomach up to the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more severe form of reflux, involving heartburn, regurgitation of food, coughing and chest pain caused by corrosive acid damage. By breaking down undigested food and allowing the stomach to be fully emptied more quickly and efficiently, digestive enzymes can prevent and reduce acid reflux and symptoms of GERD.
A build-up of undigested food in the gut allows bad bacteria and Candida to flourish, which worsen acid reflux. Digestive enzymes prevent the buildup of pathogenic bacteria by eliminating their food sources and keeping the digestive tract clean. Another way enzymes can help counteract acid reflux, and GERD is by deactivating pepsin–an enzyme found in the stomach that assists in digestion but also contributes to acid reflux .
4. Reduce Inflammation
Poor digestion causes inflammation of the stomach, which in turn worsens indigestion and can lead to diarrhea or constipation. Digestive enzymes reduce stomach inflammation, which may improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease . In one study, long-term supplementation with pineapple juice containing active bromelain enzymes lowered inflammation and inflammation-associated neoplasia in rats with inflammatory bowel disease . Digestive enzymes can even help with inflammation in other parts of the body. The enzyme protease is shown to reduce joint inflammation and pain, according to studies .
5. Boost Metabolism and Lose Weight
Digestive enzymes boost your metabolism, which represents the rate and efficiency at which your body converts food into fuel. When your metabolism is low, fewer calories get burned, and it’s easier to put on weight. The enzyme lipase, in particular, helps you digest fats and prevent the body from storing them. Not only does this help with weight management, but also keeping energy levels high .
6. Protect Your Heart
By improving the digestion of fats, the enzyme lipase also promotes cardiovascular health. Lipase breaks down fats so that they’re used for energy instead of building up in the blood, where they end up clogging arteries and blood vessels. Therefore, lipase supplements may help reduce your risk of atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”), heart attack and stroke .
Where to Get Enzymes
Nutrient deficiencies, particularly insufficient levels of iron and vitamins A, B12, and D, can be an indication of low enzyme levels. Frequent gastrointestinal complaints, like diarrhea, gas, indigestion and bloating, can also be signs you’re deficient in enzymes. There are many types of digestive enzyme products you can find to boost your enzyme levels. You can supplement with one enzyme, such as bromelain or lipase, or get a full-spectrum blend of enzymes that each play different roles in the breakdown and assimilation of food, nutrients, and waste. Enzymes can be derived from fruits, the pancreases of certain animals and from probiotics, yeast, and fungi. All of these sources are considered to be effective and cause no side effects .
To aid digestion, enzymes are best taken with food. However, they can also be taken on an empty stomach, which allows them to easily enter the bloodstream and break down fats, cholesterol deposits, pathogens, toxins and uric acid crystals in the body .
Digestive enzymes not only improve digestion but also detoxify the body and help you lose weight. While stress, aging and disease cause enzyme levels to decline, digestive enzyme supplements can give you a boost, lending you more energy and improving your absorption of nutrients. They’re particularly helpful in remedying common digestive ailments and managing more serious digestive disorders. Enzymes are found in raw foods but can be taken as supplements to improve your health without side effects.