What are the Benefits of Enzymes?
Enzymes are large protein molecules that are naturally produced by the body and participate in most of the metabolic processes involved in sustaining life.These highly selective catalysts help accelerate both the specificity and rate of metabolic reactions, such as digestion of food and other functions, including the production of DNA.
Enzymatic reactions involve the conversion of various substances, called substrates, into different products. Most cellular processes and chemical reactions in the body need enzymes to reduce the energy required in converting molecules into products needed to sustain life.
Digestion is a dynamic process that begins when the food we ingest is broken down in the mouth, and is processed and absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. Digestive enzymes help break down the large molecules in food into smaller molecules that can be readily absorbed into the cells. They also help the body utilize the small molecules within the cells for various processes such as producing energy to facilitate growth and development.
Digestive enzymes are found throughout the digestive system, starting from the saliva, the stomach, the pancreatic juice, and in the small and large intestines. They are classified according to their target substrates:
- proteins are broken down into peptide and amino acids by enzymes called proteases and peptidases
- fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol molecules by lipases
- carbohydrates are split into simple sugars by carbohydrases, such as amylase and lactase
- nucleic acids are broken into nucleotides by nucleases
- plant fibers are broken down by cellulase
Aside from the enzymes that are naturally produced by the body, good bacteria (probiotics) that are present in the intestines also produce enzymes, which aid in normal digestion. However, as we age, the amount of enzymes in our bodies decline. As a result, some foods are not completely digested, leading to symptoms like bloating, gas, inflammation, and various forms of vitamin deficiency. These may also contribute to reduced immunity and development of diseases, which are common in the elderly. Raw foods also naturally contain enzymes; however, these may be destroyed during processing or cooking of foods.
Fortunately, formulations containing digestive enzymes may be taken as supplements to help improve digestion and reduce symptoms of indigestion. These digestive enzyme supplements may be taken orally with meals as directed by the doctor. Supplements may also be used as replacement therapy,
especially in people who have chronic pancreatitis, cancer of the pancreas, or other conditions where they cannot produce enough digestive enzymes.
Aside from aiding in digestion, digestive enzymes can also improve malnutrition that is associated with poor digestion and absorption. Studies suggest that they may also help reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Possible side effects from digestive enzyme supplements include nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Consult your doctor if you experience these or if allergic reactions occur after taking the supplements.
Besides aiding digestion, enzymes can also benefit the rest of the body. These systemic enzymes are also called proteolytic enzymes, and includeenzymes such as trypsin, chymotrypsin, bromelain, nattokinase, and serratiopeptidase or serrapeptase. In general, systemic enzymes have been found to help support the immune system and regulate inflammatory processes. They reduce inflammation and pain, so that some experts believe that they can be a great alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which have many side effects.
Systemic enzyme supplements have been found to reduce pain and inflammation associated with intense sports activities. They have also been shown to facilitate muscle healing and help restore contractile function of muscles after intense exercise.
Systemic enzymes can also help increase protein absorption, which helps build lean muscle, support muscle recovery, and promote weight management.
Studies suggest that supplemental systemic enzymes such as bromelain and nattokinase can exert a protective action on the cardiovascular system. These enzymes reduce blood clotting, which is associated with cardiovascular disease, and reduce high blood pressure.
Some systemic enzymes may act as antioxidants and reduce free radical damage. Studies show that compared to vitamin C, enzymes showed significant increases antioxidative function, as well as improved detoxification function by the liver. Animal studies also suggest that systemic enzyme supplements can reduce tumor growth, improve the quality of life, and prolong the survival of mice with cancer.
Other benefits of systemic enzymes include:
- Breakdown of fibrin, a sticky protein, that causes fibrosis
- Reduction of scars, which also consist of fibrin
- Support of liver function, by cleaning the blood of toxins and waste products
- Promote immune system function by improving efficiency of white blood cells
- Reduction of yeast overgrowth
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
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Article Base. Systemic Enzyme Therapy: Study Shows Serrapeptase is Stronger than Trypsin, Chymotrypsin and Aspirin.
WebMD. Digestive Enzymes.