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Types of Enzymes and Their Sources

Updated on September 10, 2011

The Two Main Types of Enzymes

The two types of enzymes that the body uses are digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes. An enzyme is defined as a chemical produced by a biological organism that acts as a catalyst, to quicken or cause a specific biochemical reaction. Without enzymes, life would not function. Most enzyme reaction rates are literally millions of times faster than reactions of un-catalyzed chemicals. They basically speed up all of the different reactions in your body. Enzymes are proteins that are made up of amino acids.

  • Digestive Enzymes -- Digestive enzymes are compounds produced primarily by the pancreas and the liver. They help the stomach and digestive tract to digest and absorb various nutrients. Digestive enzymes kick start the process in the mouth, as saliva begins the initial breakdown. There are 6 main digestive enzymes that the body uses, which we'll talk about in the next section.
  • Metabolic Enzymes -- There are many thousands of different metabolic enzymes. They perform many different functions and work to speed up the thousands of various chemical reactions that are happening in your body at each given moment. Metabolic enzymes comprise a wide range of different types of things.

Papaya has one of the best types of enzymes, protease, which helps people fully break down meat into its base amino acids.
Papaya has one of the best types of enzymes, protease, which helps people fully break down meat into its base amino acids.

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Their Sources

Digestive enzymes are categorized based upon the type of compound they help to break down. Some digestive enzymes target fats, others target proteins, while others target carbohydrates. Digestive enzymes help the body to break down food into its base elements. For example, when a protease digestive enzyme makes contact with a protein, it helps to break it down into amino acids. So let's go through the 6 main digestive enzymes.

Protease -- Protease helps to digest proteins. As we just mentioned, it breaks down proteins into their base amino acids so that the body can absorb and use them for a wide variety of function. The best natural source of protease is the fruit papaya. It contains a protease enzyme called papain. Many digestive enzyme supplements have concentrated papaya enzymes.

Amylase -- Amylase helps the body to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars. Amylase is produced naturally in many fruits during the ripening process. Amylase causes fruit to taste sweet. Eating a variety of fruit is one of the best ways to get more amylase into your diet.

Sucrase -- Sucrase works in conjunction with amylase, taking the product of the amylase reaction and further breaking down the carbohydrates into simple sugars. Sucrase specifically targets sucrose. It can be round in many raw green plants, and especially cucumber. Potatoes are also good sources of sucrase, as is sugar cane.

Lipase -- Lipase helps the body to break down fats, also known as lipids. Fats require a special process to be broken down, with lipase coming in once the fats have been broken down into smaller chunks. Natural food sources of lipase include wheat germ, avocado, rice, soybeans, coconut, flax, and many green plants.

Lactase -- Lactase helps the body to break down dairy. Many people are lacking in this digestive enzyme, making them lactose intolerant. If you're a lactose intolerant person, some natural sources of lactase include raw tomatoes, apples, peaches, almonds, and persimmon.

Maltase -- Maltase also helps the body break down sugar, but more specifically grains. Natural sources include brewers’s yeast, rice, barley, banana, mushrooms, and many various green plants.

Causes of Enzyme Deficiency

There can be multiple causes of enzyme deficiency. One major cause is genetic. Many people are either born or else predisposed to certain enzyme deficiencies, the main being lactose intolerance. But there are some other causes of enzyme deficiency that can cause poor digestion, and digestive problems like nausea, gas, bloating, and other side effects. Not eating enough raw fruits and vegetables can be a big cause of digestive enzyme deficiency. People don't eat nearly the same amount of raw foods as we once did, and cooking food destroys the enzymatic value of a food. Heat ruins digestive enzymes, so if you're experiencing digestive problems and a lack of digestive enzymes, try eating more raw fruits and vegetables. This will not only give you a boost in digestive enzymes, but fiber as well, which can also help correct digestive problems.

Another cause of enzyme deficiency is amino acid deficiency. Enzymes are proteins, and pretty complex ones at that. They each require dozens or hundreds of various amino acids. If a person has an inadequate supply of amino acids, enzymes might not be produced in as plentiful supply. This lack of digestive enzymes can then cause a further deficiency, as not as many amino acids will be absorbed through digestion, and a cyclical deficiency between amino acids and digestive enzymes can come about. So make sure you're getting enough complete protein into your diet.

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    • Benjimester profile image
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      Benji Mester 2 years ago from San Diego, California

      Thanks!

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      bilal 3 years ago

      verrrrrry informative :)

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      Benjimester The image of the papayabove attracted me to this Hub. I ate so many of these in fruit salad whilst living in South Africa. They were enormous and particularly nice with Passion Fruit - My Mum used to used the leaves to help tenderize steak - she would lay the meat o between the leaves whilst beating them and then leave them to stand for a while. It seemed to work very well. Definitely some enzymes in Papaya.

    • GClark profile image

      GClark 5 years ago from United States

      Enjoyed reading your informative and timely hub about enzymes; especially, as recently wrote an article myself for hub pages on "fighting cancer with enzymes" after researching on the internet to find out more about enzymes. It's amazing that doctors over 100 years ago published research that was well before its time. Thanks for sharing. GClark

    • Benjimester profile image
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      Benji Mester 6 years ago from San Diego, California

      Yeah, this one was fun to research. I really enjoyed learning about all the different types of enzymes. Thanks for stopping by.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Great research information. enjoyed. Flag up!

    • Benjimester profile image
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      Benji Mester 6 years ago from San Diego, California

      Thanks Susie! I'm really glad it's useful. Your mom sounds like a smart lady. In this day and age, people rarely try and fix problems with nutrition. Thanks for stopping by!

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      SusieQ42 6 years ago

      Excellent source of information. I was "allergic" as my mother always told me, to milk when I was baby. She gave me mashed bananas. I don't know if this was an old family antidote or a doctors suggestion. Anyway, I've loved milk for childhood, so somebody did something right. Or maybe I just grew out of it! Thanks for the great read.