Digestive enzymes play an essential role in breaking down the food you eat and keeping your digestive system working efficiently. Although your body does produce some natural enzymes, the majority of digestive enzymes are introduced into the body through your diet in foods such as fruits and vegetables.
The Importance of Digestive Enzymes
Related: Healing the Body with Enzymes
With the standard American diet lacking in whole foods, fruits, and vegetables, a deficiency of enzymes results can create an environment for several health issues to occur. By eating a healthy diet with a wide variety of raw fruits and vegetables, you can get your daily dose of enzymes. There are a number of symptoms your body may experience that if left to continue, could negatively affect your overall health.
Eight signs you might have an enzyme deficiency:
- Food intolerances
- Digestive issues
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Weight gain and obesity
- Weaker immune system
- Anxiety and depression
- Skin problems
What are Enzymes?
Enzymes are a type of protein that’s involved with practically every process in the body. These proteins speed up the chemical processes in the body that convert nutrients into substances in your digestive tract. There are different types of enzymes, all of which serve a different purpose.
- Amylase - breaks down starches and carbohydrates
- Protease - deals with proteins
- Lipase - takes care of fat
As you can see, enzymes are heavily involved with the digestive system Your saliva contains some digestive enzymes and so do your organs like the pancreas and liver. A big chunk of your enzymes are released from the pancreas and are involved with a whole host of processes like your hormones, energy production, fighting off infection, and transporting nutrients.
Although your body produces enzymes, eating foods naturally high in enzymes is the best way to ensure you have enough for an optimal digestive system. Many foods naturally contain digestive enzymes that support your digestion and can improve your overall health. While an enzyme supplement can be a good addition to your routine, it’s a good idea to focus on integrating more natural enzymes into your diet to reap the most benefits.
Foods That Are High In Enzymes Include:
The majority of foods are best consumed raw to maximize the enzymes. Enzymes can be very fragile and disrupted with changing temperatures and pH levels. This is why it’s important to eat certain foods raw such as avocado to get the most enzyme benefits out of them.
Related: What Foods Have The Most Enzymes
Why do You Need Enzymes?
Enzymes play a massive role in the bioavailability of nutrients. This means they help your body absorb nutrients so that your body can use them properly for different roles. Without digestive enzymes, your body cannot break down food efficiently or absorb nutrients the way you need to. Enzymes breakdown protein, carbs, and fats for assimilation of the nutrients from the macros as well as their synthesis, which link amino acids in a proper sequence.
If you didn’t have these enzymes, your food would go to waste and you wouldn’t be able to extract the nutrients from your diet. Enzymes turn molecules into fuel when your body metabolizes food into energy to grow and develop.
As digestive enzymes are closely linked with your digestive system, it’s not surprising that a lack of enzymes often leads to gastrointestinal issues. It can even leave you feeling malnourished, despite eating a healthy diet.
What Causes an Enzyme Deficiency?
Enzymes allow your body to break down food and access the nutrients efficiently. So, what causes an enzyme deficiency? There are several reasons why your body can’t produce enough enzymes on its own such as certain conditions like chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and diabetes.
Aging and lifestyle choices can gradually reduce your body’s ability to produce a sufficient amount of enzymes in the body. On top of certain chronic conditions that impact your body’s ability to produce enzymes, lifestyle factors also have a part to play. Things that can cause an enzyme deficiency include:
- Diet high in sugar and processed foods
- Repeated antibiotic use
- Physical, psychological and emotional stress
Considering the massive role enzymes play in the body and your ability to absorb nutrients, there are many symptoms that can arise when you don’t have an adequate amount of enzymes in the body. Let’s face it, if you’re struggling to absorb nutrients from your food, there could be a huge impact on your health.
8 Signs You Might Have an Enzyme Deficiency
A food allergy involves an immune response while a food intolerance does not. When your body can’t create enough enzymes alone combined with a diet lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables, it may lead to food intolerances. Often, a person with a food intolerance can’t digest certain foods or nutrients properly because of an enzyme deficiency.
A food intolerance tends to be a symptom of an enzyme deficiency. The type of food in question depends on the type of enzyme that is missing from the body. Although there can be various other reasons for a food intolerance, it’s important to know that a food intolerance can be a major sign of enzyme deficiency.
2. Digestive Issues
Symptoms of enzyme deficiency tend to first show up in the gut. That’s why you typically see digestive issues with insufficient enzyme levels like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and undigested food in stools. If your body doesn’t have enough digestive enzymes, it’s unable to break down foods properly. This means that your digestive system and gut may experience a lot of issues with an enzyme deficiency.
Related: 5 ways to improve your digestion
3. Poor Nutrient Absorption
Another symptom of an enzyme deficiency is poor nutrient absorption. Enzymes help to break down food and increase the bioavailability of nutrients. Without a sufficient amount of enzymes in the body, your ability to absorb nutrients may suffer.
Your health begins internally in the digestive tract. If your digestive tract is void of enzymes or is colonized with bad bacteria, you could suffer from digestive issues like heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating and constipation.
4. Weight Gain and Obesity
When you’ve cut out sugary drinks and are eating more whole, plant-based foods, but you’re not seeing the weight loss results you hoped, an enzyme deficiency may be at the core of your problem. One study looked at one specific enzyme TBK1 and the effects it has on weight gain. TBK1 plays a large role in how much fat you convert to fuel. So, without this enzyme, you’re storing more fat instead of converting it into raw energy, which may lead to unwanted weight gain.
5. Weaker Immune System
Your gut wall houses about 70% of your immune system cells. When your gut is functioning at full power, it acts as a barrier to viruses, bacteria, and pathogens. Poor digestion and absorption of nutrients can impact the health of your gut, and therefore your immune system.
Even though the body does make its own enzymes, it may not be enough to break down a steady diet of processed and cooked foods entirely. This is why it’s so important to consciously eat raw foods that are high in enzymes.
Fatigue is often a blanket symptom for a range of conditions. But poor digestion may cause chronic fatigue. Digestive issues can wreak havoc on the rest of your body. Having a healthy gut is central to your overall health and well-being. Enzymes help your digestive system run smoothly, so it makes sense that your gut is usually the first place to see an issue.
Related: 16 Great Strategies to Heal Your Gut
7. Anxiety and Depression
When your digestion is compromised, it can result in a range of issues like bloating and constipation. If left untreated, more complex problems may develop like anxiety and depression. Different enzymes break down different nutrients. When you’re deficient in enzymes, your food can’t break down properly. Research shows that the gut-brain connection is powerful. Changes in the gut may trigger mood changes.
8. Skin Problems
So, you might be wondering how enzymes can affect your skin? Well, your body needs to absorb skin-boosting nutrients from your food before you can benefit from them. Things like vitamin C, E, A, all support glowing skin. But if your body can’t break down food into nutrients, it could lead to skin issues.
You've likely heard, "You are what you eat". Although eating healthy foods is the first step to proper nutrition, you can only get the value of the nutrients if your body is able to absorb them. Watch this video from Fully Raw Kristina to learn more about the advantages of digestive enzymes.
Enzymes unlock the nutrients within your food. Plant foods contain enzymes that support healthy digestion and help to break down your food to fuel your body with energy. The modern diet tends to be missing these important nutrients. As enzymes are extremely sensitive to their environment, it’s important to eat certain foods in their natural raw state.
If you have regular digestive complaints or struggle to lose weight while eating healthy, you may have an enzyme deficiency. When it comes to your gut health, it’s important to look out for telltale signs so that you can take the right steps to encourage a healthy digestive system and overall well-being.