Digestion—who’s the real rock star?
When you think of digestive health, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it probiotics? They’re definitely important, but here’s an analogy to consider. Everyone has heard of probiotics…they have been the stars of the show for many years. And while they are essential, digestive enzymes are the real rock stars of digestive health. Since the primary role of enzymes is to break down the food we eat into manageable pieces the body can use for nutrients, it’s hard to imagine a world without them. That world would probably be filled with many uncomfortable people facing multiple digestive issues including gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea to name a few….ouch.
The human body is known to produce at least 22 different digestive enzymes, with salivary amylase beginning the digestive process as soon as you start chewing. Other enzymes secreted by the pancreas and intestinal brush border membrane, help to complete the digestion process. Lipases secreted in the mouth and stomach start the digestion of fats and oils. Fat digestion is finished in the small intestine by additional lipases and esterases. Protein digestion begins in the stomach with the action of pepsin and is completed in the small intestine by pancreatic proteases and brush border aminopeptidases.
And while under normal circumstances, the body is capable of producing the digestive enzymes it needs, digestive enzyme shortages can and do occur in the body. Lactase deficiency is the best-known example, occurring in as much as 70 percent of the world’s adult population. Aging also impacts the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes, some estimating as high as a 50 percent loss of digestive activity. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can help support digestion, nutrient assimilation and help reduce occasional digestive discomfort caused by incomplete digestion.
How efficiently your body digests food can affect almost every component of your health including nutrient absorption and elimination. Basically, every component of your health can be somehow attributed to proper digestion, and even an occasional disruption to the digestive process is hard to miss and even harder to ignore, as digestive discomfort can disrupt your quality of life, throwing a serious kink into your day.
Although probiotics can help maintain a healthy bacterial balance, often leading to healthier digestion and immunity, if your body has trouble breaking down your food into useable components, you have bigger problems to address such as nutrient shortfalls and occasional digestive discomfort. Surprisingly, probiotics have been viewed the lead singer for digestive health for many years, while digestive enzymes were viewed as just part of the band—a misconception. To this credit, digestive enzymes play one of the biggest roles in health and nutrition, and are, in fact, the true rock stars.