Digestion becomes harder with age. Why is that?
The human body reduces the production of the enzymes used for digestion starting by the age of 30. Less enzymes equals longer digestion time. Once this happens we often experience a list of unpleasant symptoms after we eat such as constipation, bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea.
This is our bodies red flag that something is wrong. Once our digestion is off and we start experiencing symptoms its only a matter of time before a more chronic condition becomes present in our every day lives. These conditions are inflammation of the gut like Irritable Bowel Disease, Colitis and Crohn’s.
Not only do we produce less enzymes as we age but we also have less enzymes in the food we eat if we don’t consume a healthy diet. That’s right, enzymes do occur naturally in foods, however, once they are cooked or processed the enzymes are greatly depleted.
Lets take a look at the different enzymes and the role they have in our digestion.
The Digestion Process
It takes about 45 minutes for foods to reach the first part of the small intestine. This lengthy process requires a healthy working system to break down foods. This is when a decrease in our digestive enzymes can turn digestion into a painful experience. Once we eat the pancreas begins releasing enzymes. Each of the enzymes released have a role in breaking down particular nutrients. These enzymes are protease, lipase and amylase.
What is the Function of Protease Enzymes?
Protein is required by all people in adequate amounts daily for proper growth, function and maintenance of the body. The enzyme which is responsible for its digestion is Protease.
Proteins are one of the most difficult nutrients for our body to break down. They are made up of amino acids which contain nitrogen. When a protein molecule is digested with the help of hydrochloric acid and proteolytic enzymes, the amino acids are released.
These molecules are then absorbed into the blood stream through the walls of intestine. It’s necessary for these protein molecules to be broken down properly. If this doesn’t happen the nutrients will not get absorbed. This is why protease enzyme holds immense importance.
The protease enzyme works by breaking down complex protein chains into smaller ones. Protease hydrolyze these larger chains into smaller polypeptides, peptides and eventually amino acids. The protease enzymes break down almost all types of protein.
In addition to foods we eat, microorganisms such as bacteria, parasites, virus and fungus are all formed by or contain some element of proteins in them. Therefore, apart from the digestion of proteins that we eat, these enzymes are also responsible to clear cellular debris and toxins in blood.
What is the function of Amylase Enzymes?
Carbohydrate is a main component in our diet for quick energy. There are different forms of carbohydrates. One of them is starch which is found in the cell walls of plants.The vegetables and fruits that we eat have an abundant supply of starch, which needs to be broken down by the body into sugar and glucose molecules.
The digestive enzyme amylase is responsible for the breakdown of this complex molecule. Amylase hydrolyzes these sugars into smaller ones in order for them to be digested.
What is the Function of Lipase Enzymes?
Fats are broken down by the enzyme lipase. Fat is formed by the bond between 3 fatty acids and one glycerol molecule. This bond is called ester bond. Lipase acts on these ester bonds by breaking them and liberating fatty acids. Just as other food groups, fat has its own importance. Fat is required by cells in order to form and maintain their cell membranes.
The proper balance of fat intake and its digestion in the body is of utmost importance. The daily required amount should not exceed the normal limit and the amount consumed should be properly broken down for healthy bodily functions. It is suggested by health care professionals not to exceed the daily intake of fat by more than 30% in our daily diet.
If the fat is not digested properly, it can hinder the digestion of protein and carbohydrate digestion. One other key component to breaking down fat other than lipase is bile. Bile is produced by liver and stored in gallbladder from where it is released whenever required. Bile serves the function of emulsification of fats so that lipase can act on it.
Importance of Bile
Fats are not soluble in water therefore they have to go through a special mechanism in order to be carried in blood through the body.
Fat is digested in the stomach only in little amounts and cannot be digested without emulsification. Emulsification of fats is the integral step to carry out the breakdown of large insoluble fat molecules into smaller soluble particles.
Bile, which Is produced by liver is necessary to break down the larger fat particles into small droplets. This is where the lipase comes in to break down these small fat droplets.
This process takes place in the small intestine.
Why Do We Need to Supplement Enzymes?
1. Breaks down food quicker and more efficiently so our body can absorb nutrients
2. Prepares food to be utilized more effectively by our systems and by the friendly bacteria in our gut.
3. Provides a break for our overworked digestive system. This allows the gut to provide some energy for healing and reducing inflammation.
4. Bolsters weakened digestion to counter the modern lifestyle of snacking and eating convenience foods which are processed and lacking in natural enzymes.
5. Aids with the decline of enzyme stress from aging. This naturally occurring reduction in enzymes is happening sooner than it used to. Thirty years ago, health science researchers said that digestive strength drops to 50% by age 50. Now they are saying that it’s happening by age 30.
6. Helps the immune system control unwanted pathogens.