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Digestive Enzymes and Your Health

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Proper nutrition is a key component of optimal health. Our office is a Community Partner with the USDA Choose My Plate program and recommends its Dietary Guidelines for our patients.  Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important for nutritional content and fiber intake.  Bad eating habits can lead to many health problems affecting the digestive, cardiovascular as well as the neuro-muscular systems.  This is email is to educate on some of the benefits of enzymes that are found naturally in some common foods you can find in your local supermarket.Digestive enzymes are necessary to break down molecules like fats, proteins and carbs into even smaller molecules that can be easily absorbed. There are three main types of digestive enzymes:

Proteases: Break down protein into small peptides and amino acids

Lipases: Break down fat into three fatty acids plus a glycerol molecule

Amylases: Break down carbs like starch into simple sugars

Enzymes are also made in the small intestine, including lactase, maltase and sucrase. If the body is unable to make enough digestive enzymes, food molecules cannot be digested properly. This can lead to digestive disorders like lactose intolerance.Thus, eating foods that are high in natural digestive enzymes can help improve digestion.

  1. Papaya is another tropical fruit that is rich in digestive enzymes.Like pineapples, papayas also contain proteases that help digest proteins. However, they contain a different group of proteases known as papain. Papain is also available as a meat tenderizer and digestive supplement.Studies have shown that taking a papaya-based formula may help ease digestive symptoms of IBS, such as constipation and bloating.

  2. Mangos contain the digestive enzymes amylases — a group of enzymes that break down carbs from starch (a complex carb) into sugars like glucose and maltose.The amylase enzymes in mangoes become more active as the fruit ripens. This is why mangoes become sweeter as they start to ripen.Amylase enzymes are also made by the pancreas and salivary glands. They help break down carbs so that they are easily absorbed by the body.

  3. Avocados, unlike other fruits, are unique in that they are high in healthy fats and low in sugar. They contain the digestive enzyme lipase. This enzyme helps digest fat molecules into smaller molecules, such as fatty acids and glycerol, which are easier for the body to absorb. Lipase is also made by your pancreas, so you don’t need to get it from your diet. However, taking a lipase supplement can help ease digestion, especially after a high-fat meal.

  4. Kiwifruit contains the digestive enzyme actinidain, which helps digest proteins. Moreover, consuming kiwifruit may ease digestive symptoms like bloating and constipation.

  5. Bananas are another fruit that contains natural digestive enzymes.They contain amylases and glucosidases, two groups of enzymes that break down complex carbs like starch into smaller and more easily absorbed sugars. Like mangoes, these enzymes break down starch into sugars as bananas start to ripen. That’s why ripe yellow bananas are much sweeter than unripe green bananas. On top of their enzyme content, bananas are a great source of dietary fiber, which may aid digestive health.

You can download the latest USDA Dietary Guidelines here.*The content of this newsletter is not medical advice and is not intended as treatment for any medical condition.

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