Most of us living in Thailand have some interests or concerns over health and fitness issues, so Inspire will each week share some of the most relevant articles for you
Many organs work together to make up your digestive system (1).
These organs take the food and liquids you eat and break them down into simpler forms, such as proteins, carbs, fats and vitamins. The nutrients are then transported across the small intestine and into the bloodstream, where they provide energy for growth and repair.
Digestive enzymes are necessary for this process, as they 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.
Here are 12 foods that contain natural digestive enzymes.
Pineapples are a delicious tropical fruit rich in digestive enzymes.
In particular, pineapples contain a group of digestive enzymes called bromelain (2).
These enzymes are proteases, which break down protein into its building blocks, including amino acids. This aids the digestion and absorption of proteins (3).
Bromelain can be purchased in powdered form to help tenderize tough meats. It’s also widely available as a health supplement to help people who struggle to digest proteins (4).
A study on people with pancreatic insufficiency, a condition in which the pancreas cannot make enough digestive enzymes, found that taking bromelain combined with a pancreatic enzyme supplement improved digestion more than the enzyme supplement alone (3, 5).
Papaya or pawpaw 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 (6).
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 (7).
If you want to eat papayas, just make sure to eat them ripe and uncooked, as heat exposure can destroy their digestive enzymes.
Also, unripe or semi-ripe papayas can be dangerous for pregnant women, as it may stimulate contractions (8).
Mangoes are a juicy tropical fruit that is popular in summer.
They 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 (9).
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.
That’s why it’s often recommended to chew food thoroughly before swallowing, as amylase enzymes in saliva help break down carbs for easier digestion and absorption (10).
It’s estimated that Americans consume over 400 million pounds of honey each year (11).
This delicious liquid is rich in many beneficial compounds, including digestive enzymes (12).
The following are enzymes found in honey, particularly raw honey (13, 14, 15, 16):
– Diastases: Break down starch into maltose
– Amylases: Break down starch into sugars like glucose and maltose
– Invertases: Break down sucrose, a type of sugar, into glucose and fructose
– Proteases: Break down proteins into amino acids
Make sure that you’re buying raw honey if you’re seeking its digestive health benefits. Processed honey is often heated, and high heat can destroy digestive enzymes.