Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Dr. Aaron Wiegmann
Dr. Wiegmann earned his medical degree (M.D.) from Rush Medical College and completed his General Surgery residency at Rush University Medical Center and Cook County Hospital. He has a Master's Degree (M.S.) in clinical research and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles.
April 12, 2021
Digestive enzymes are produced by your body to accelerate the rate of breaking down food so that nutrients can be absorbed. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Research, enzymes are “a substance that speeds up chemical reactions in your body.” The body secretes these chemical substances that act as a catalyst to digestion.
So digestive enzymes speed up the process of breaking food into small parts so that nutrients can be used in the body. We need the nutrients in food to provide energy.
Read on to learn more about digestive enzymes, including different types, how they’re produced, and what would happen if we didn’t have them.
Digestive enzymes are secreted in different glands or organs in the body and pass through ducts to other sites where they act on food and help it to digest. The sites that produce digestive enzymes are called exocrine glands.
There are many sites where enzymes are being produced. Among the major glands that produce digestive enzymes are:
There are different types of digestive enzymes, and each enzyme is specific in action. Being specific in action means there are enzymes that break down each macromolecule class, and do not have any effect on others. So, an enzyme that breaks down one kind will be neutral to another.
Digestive enzymes are usually classified based on the class of food they act on. There are three major classes of food that need to be broken down before the body can absorb them:
The major digestive enzymes in the body are:
Enzymes that break down proteins are called proteases (pronounced pro-tee-ACE-is). Here’s a quick reference of the most common ones:
Digestive enzymes are biological substances, and they promote biological and chemical changes to food substances until the food has been turned to a soluble form. Different digestive enzymes take a turn to act on food and break them down as digestion takes place in stages.
As food moves down the digestive tract, different enzymes act on it. There are digestive enzymes in the mouth, stomach, and small intestine.
The major digestive enzyme that acts in the mouth is the amylase in the saliva. The amylase converts carbohydrates to maltose, a simpler form of starch. The saliva also contains lipase that breaks down lipids.
The major stomach enzymes come from the gastric mucosal lining in the stomach. The mucosa produces a fluid called gastric acid secretion. Pepsin is the main enzyme working to digest protein in the stomach and is made by stomach cells called “chief cells.”
As the partially digested food leaves the stomach for the small intestine, the pancreas will secrete some enzymes, which will be released into the small intestine. These enzymes are trypsin, which completes protein digestion, lipase that completes lipids digestion, and amylase that converts starch to glucose. The small intestine itself also secretes maltase, lactase, and sucrase, all of them being amylases.
Without digestion, the food we eat can never be absorbed by our body cells, and without digestive enzymes, digestion cannot occur. Hence we need digestive enzymes to get food to the stage it will become useful to our body. Digestive enzyme deficiencies most commonly occur in people with pancreatic insufficiency, often from long-term organ damage called chronic pancreatitis.
Without the nutrients from our daily meals, we will suffer food deficiency, and without digestion, we will experience discomfort. Certainly, humans cannot do without digestive enzymes.
If you have concerns about your stomach or if you are worried that you may have a digestive enzyme deficiency, you can visit our sister site, PlushCare. PlushCare has qualified and experienced doctors available to speak with you about whatever your concern is.
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