Digestive enzymes are proteins that break down foods in your digestive tract into smaller units that can be absorbed into your bloodstream.
These enzymes are produced by your salivary glands, the secretory cells in the stomach and small intestines, and the pancreas. If the enzymes are produced outside of the gut, it’s in the pro-enzyme forms that become activated once it reaches inside the gut. For example, pepsins, a protein-digesting enzyme, are produced and secreted as pepsinogens before the stomach acid activates it.
Enzymes can also come along with your foods, such as cellulase in fermented foods, bromelain in pineapple, and papain in papaya. The enzymes in raw foods is why fruits can be used in marinades to tenderize meat.
Digestive enzymes can be broken down into groups based on what they digest, including:
- Proteases, which digest proteins into short snippets (peptides)
- Peptidases, which digest peptides into amino acids
- Amylase and diastase, which digest starch
- Invertase, which breaks down sucrose (table sugar) into glucose and fructose
- Lactase, which breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose
- Lipase, which breaks down fats into fatty acids and glycerol
- Alpha-galactosidase can break down the gas-inducing sugars from legumes and some vegetables without creating the gas
- Phytase, which breaks down phytic acid and improves the absorption of minerals
- Cell wall-digesting enzymes, such as hemicellulase, beta-glucanase, and pectinase. Beta-glucanase specifically helps break down the cell walls of yeasts and bacteria, and their biofilms.
- Systemic enzymes, such as bromelain and the enzymes in AstraZymeTM, which are special proteases that can get absorbed into the bloodstream
Proteases can help you digest proteins, so your body can use the amino acids. Incompletely digested proteins can cause food allergies or sensitivity. High-quality proteases also improve the quality or availability of amino acids from plant-based proteins, which is why Wade relied on MassZymes for his plant-based bodybuilding career. Other bodybuilders also find that they need less protein for the same results once they take MassZymes.
Some proteases, like bromelain and the enzymes in Astrazyme, can get absorbed into the bloodstream. These enzymes promote healthy tissue healing and balanced immune responses. One study showed that systemic enzymes improved strength in people who were less strength-trained. It also improved the inflammatory, metabolic, and immune responses to training, which aids in recovery.
To optimize your digestion and reduce bloating, it is important to:
- Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew your food well and don’t eat distracted.
- You may find certain foods to be a trigger for indigestion and other digestive symptoms. You want to avoid these foods.
- Manage stress.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Eat enough fiber and good fats
MassZymes can help you optimize your enzyme levels in a meal, whereas HCl Breakthrough can ensure that you have enough stomach acid. P3OM and Leaky Gut Guardian are designed to help optimize digestion and gut barrier health by ensuring a healthy microbiome. Gluten Guardian can also help break down proteins that are difficult to digest and tend to trigger inflammation, such as gluten and casein.
If you have a digestive condition, first consult your physician for medical advice.
Common digestive disorders include:
- Bloating, belching, and gas, which often arise from poor digestion and an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine
- Acid reflux or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), caused by low stomach acid and an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that produce gas in the gut
- Irritable bowel syndrome, such as constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of both. It can be caused by food allergies, stress, reduced gut movement, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
- Food allergies and sensitivities may result in non-digestive symptoms, but these start from poor digestion, leaky gut, and immune imbalance.
- Post-meal fatigue, which is also caused by poor digestion and sometimes inflammation from food sensitivities
- Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the immune system confuses gluten with an invader, causing the immune system to attack the small intestine.
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases are a group of autoimmune disorders where the gut immune system confuses food or the gut bacteria for pathogens.
Many factors can cause or trigger a digestive disorder, including:
- Food allergy, insensitivities, or intolerances
- Unhealthy eating habits, such as eating distracted or in a hurry
- Unhealthy diet lacking fiber, micronutrients, omega-3, and antioxidants
- Autoimmunity, an imbalance in your immune system that causes your body to attack itself, such as Celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
- Nutrient deficiencies, such as zinc and vitamin D
- Infections, such as Helicobacter pylori and parasites
- Imbalances in gut bacteria (dysbiosis) caused by stress, unhealthy diet, infections, and chronic inflammation. Dysbiosis can cause digestive symptoms and negative effects on all other aspects of health.
- Leaky and inflamed gut lining, reducing digestive enzymes and protective mucus
Your gut is the interface where all your nutrients come into your body. Also it is where 80% of your immune system and much of your nervous system reside. If your goal is to optimize health, aesthetic, and performance, then you should always keep your digestion optimized.
Symptoms of poor digestion are not normal and should always be addressed. If your digestion is optimal, food will simply take away hunger; you will not feel a heavy stomach, bloating, pain, or fatigue after meals.