Digestive health is highly important, as with digestion disturbances often come pain and discomfort. Being able to take in the correct amount of nutrients from food and expelling the substances which are of little use or even toxic to the body are essential for overall health. Fortunately, it is possible to support digestion through diet. Read on to discover some enzymes that play an important role in digestive health and from which foods you can get them.
Papain is an excellent enzyme for breaking down proteins, which it does with the assistance of water. The latex hidden inside papaya fruit (Papaya carica) is one of the best sources of this enzyme, so including plenty of papaya in your diet to optimize digestive health and keep your digestive system running smoothly. Alternatively, papain supplements are also a common form of intake.
Bromelain is in fact a mixture of enzymes that, just like papain, make protein digestion easier. It is commonly found in pineapple (Ananas comosus), and it has a long history in Central and South America as a natural remedy for treating indigestion. It is derived specifically from the stem and the juice of the pineapple fruit.
Alliinase is an enzyme in garlic (Allium sativum) that catalyzes the reaction that produces allicin when the garlic plant is damaged. This is what is responsible for the strong smell that comes out after chopping the bulb. Allicin carries many different benefits, and it is mostly known as an antibiotic and immune system booster. Although not often associated with digestion, allicin is nonetheless useful for it, since it also acts as a cholesterol regulator.
Zingibain is abundant in ginger (Zingiber officinale) and is known for digesting protein, a requirement for rapid and smooth digestion. In particular, it breaks down proteins in milk, which results in curdling. In addition, zingibain can also be used as a meat tenderizer.
5. Glutathione Peroxidase
Glutathione peroxidase is an enzyme found in asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) that works by metabolizing omega-6 fatty acids (also known as arachidonic acid). Some studies have shown that asparagus helps speed up liver function, although this research is tenuous and has only been done with animal models. Nevertheless, it suggests that the enzyme has some digestive benefit.
Lipase aids the body in digesting fat and, as well as being found in foods, is also released by the pancreas into the small intestine. This enzyme is most commonly found in papaya and aloe (Aloe vera), and this is partly why both herbs are considered excellent supplements for optimizing digestive health. A person whose pancreas functions normally will probably not have any change in how the digestive system functions, but those who perhaps suffer from a deficit of lipase could well reap the benefits of consuming these herbs.
While enzymes for digestion are made by the body, some individuals can benefit from boosting their enzyme intake from food and herbs. Because these enzymes help break down food, they can ease gastrointestinal problems like indigestion, bloating, and acid reflux.
- University of Maryland Medical Center, Bromelain Supplements
- Journal of Dairy Science, Purification, characterization, and milk coagulating properties of ginger proteases, 2011
- Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Carica papaya lipase (CPL): An emerging and versatile biocatalyst. Biotechnology Advances, 2006
- Journal of Dietary Supplements, Effect of Asparagus falcatus on acetaminophen toxicity in mice: a comparison of antioxidative effect with N-acetyl cysteine, 2008
- National Institutes of Health, Lipase Test
- Oregon State University, Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds