Types of Enzymes and Their Sources
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.
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.