Types of Natural Enzymes for Digestion and Their Health Benefits

Looking to shift those few pounds you gained this Thanksgiving? You’re not alone. Nine in ten adults in the U.S. have tried to lose weight in the last five years alone.

Weight management and weight loss is a problem that plagues everybody. And our diets and our gut health are at the center of it all.

This article breaks down the jargon and explores how natural enzymes for digestion keep you energized, happy, and healthy. Keep reading to learn what your body needs to have a fighting chance.

What’s an Enzyme?

Let’s start by understanding what digestive enzymes actually are - and why they’re the building blocks of good digestive health.

In technical terms, enzymes are microscopic “chemical catalysts”, or proteins that facilitate the breakdown of complex molecules into simpler ones. In plain English, enzymes act like keys. They unlock the nutrients within the foods you eat.

Digestive enzymes make it easier for your body to absorb the good stuff. 

Without them, you’d struggle to digest food properly, leading to a whole range of deficiencies. We need a lot more than sugar to function - fats get a bad rap (but shouldn’t) and proteins and carbs are things we can’t really do without.

Our bodies produce enzymes naturally. However, modern lifestyles and less-than-optimal dietary habits can throw a wrench into the works. Most people have some kind of nutritional deficiency, and a lack of enzymes is a common, hidden factor that can lead to a range of broader health concerns.

Fortunately, natural digestive enzymes can be obtained from external sources like food and supplements.

How Enzymes Help Your Body Break Down Food

Each enzyme breaks down a specific type of nutrient. The three most important natural digestive enzymes break down the three macronutrients: Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. They are:

  • Amylases

  • Lipases

  • Proteases

Amylases break down carbohydrates. They’re the reason you get energy from a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of bread. Lipases break down fats, which the body needs for a range of functions like maintaining blood pressure and helping our muscles respond to insulin. Proteases break down proteins, which your body needs to repair damaged tissue and keep cells healthy.

Does the Body Make Its Own Natural Enzymes for Digestion?

Yes, our bodies produce enzymes-mostly in the pancreas.

Yet, as we age, our body’s ability to produce enzymes naturally declines. Over time, this can lead to digestive issues that further affect our health in negative ways. Unhealthy lifestyle factors like medications, a lack of exercise, poor diet, and work stress can further drain our enzyme levels, leaving us feeling washed out and lethargic.

Full-Bodied Benefits of Natural Enzymes

In addition to helping us digest the foods we eat, natural digestive enzymes are crucial for our colon health. A happy, well-oiled digestive system reduces bloating and discomfort and keeps our energy levels high. Plus, natural enzymes are known to support weight loss by boosting our metabolism and helping us to break down fats more easily.

Now, there’s a reason that doctors recommend regular exercise and a balanced diet for weight loss. It’s tried and true and it works. Yet without gut bacteria and natural enzymes to break down our diets and support our metabolisms, we’re losing out.

Interestingly enough, having a healthy amount of natural enzymes can also alleviate symptoms associated with digestive disorders and acid reflux - so if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for instance, it may be time to look into digestive enzyme supplements.

Sources of Amylases

Amylases turn “complex” carbohydrates into sugar. That’s why we say foods like oatmeal are “slow-burning”-compared with the instantaneous sugar hit of things like candy, our bodies can’t use the energy contained in carbs until it’s broken down in our gut.

The best sources of amylases are found in fruits and vegetables. Getting your five-a-day isn’t just about vitamins and minerals; it also improves your digestive health!

Apart from raw fruits and vegetables, amylases can also be found in fermented foods like sauerkraut and sourdough bread. These foods undergo a fermentation process that enhances the natural enzyme content, making them even more beneficial for digestion.

Sources of Lipases

Lipases turn fats into fatty acids, playing a vital role in their absorption. They’re a little harder to source than amylases but are common in various kinds of fatty fish, including salmon and mackerel. These fish are not only a great source of omega-3 fatty acids but also provide natural lipases that promote healthy digestion.

For the vegans out there, you can also source lipases from olives, nuts, and avocados (the avocado toast does come in handy…).

Sources of Proteases

Proteases are essential for muscle repair. They break proteins down into simpler amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and peptides. The best sources are also common sources of protein-lean meats, beef, and turkey. Dairy products are a close second, and if you’re following a plant-based diet, then you should reach for the legumes.

Lentils and chickpeas, in particular, contain adequate amounts of proteases to promote good gut health.

Comprehensive Sources of Natural Enzymes

Obtaining natural enzymes from your food is ideal. But, if you’re on a strict diet or weight loss program, there’s a good chance you’re missing out. In such cases, natural enzyme supplements can pick up the slack.

Typically derived from natural sources (fruits, vegetables, and microbial fermentation), these supplements provide a concentrated dose of enzymes. They support your digestion and, by doing so, improve your overall health. When choosing a natural supplement, you should look for one that contains the whole nine yards-amylases, proteases, and lipases.

That way, you’re supporting your entire digestive system in one go.

Love Your Body With Enzyme-Rich Foods

You’ll need enough natural enzymes for digestion to help you digest foods and manage your energy levels. By enhancing your body’s natural enzyme production with supplements, you absorb nutrients better and ensure your gut stays happy and healthy.