Enzymes: Kind of a Big Deal
Enzymes are make or break substances when it comes to your health, but we rarely give them much thought when actually, good enzyme health isn’t a given. So...what really ARE they, anyway? The dictionary defines an enzyme as “a substance produced by a living organism which acts as a catalyst to bring about a specific biochemical reaction.” Some of those biochemical reactions are vital to us as humans--digestion, respiration, and metabolism, to name a few of them. And enzymes have varying duties in the body. They might bind molecules together to produce a new molecule or, conversely, break large molecules into smaller pieces to be more easily absorbed by the body.
Some of the enzymes in the human body and their functions include
- Lipases - a group of enzymes that help digest fats in the gut.
- Amylase - helps change starches into sugars. Amylase is found in saliva.
- Maltase - also found in saliva; breaks the sugar maltose into glucose. Maltose is found in foods such as potatoes, pasta, and beer.
- Trypsin - found in the small intestine, breaks proteins down into amino acids.
- Lactase - also found in the small intestine, breaks lactose, the sugar in milk, into glucose and galactose.
- Acetylcholinesterase - breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in nerves and muscles.
- Helicase - unravels DNA.
- DNA polymerase - synthesize DNA from deoxyribonucleotides.
- MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase)- converts 5,10 methylenetetrahydrofolate to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (methyl folate), one of the main forms of folate in the blood circulation and an important form of folate used by the body.
Why You Should Give Enzymes Some Attention
Kind of like breathing and regulating our temperature, most people really don’t give enzymes--their presence, function, or the lack thereof--any thought until there’s a problem with them. Specifically regarding digestion, our bodies must produce the majority of the digestive enzymes we require. In theory, we could get a lot of our necessary enzymes from food, but there are two issues with that:
- Raw food only produces enough enzymes to digest that particular food, and
- Cooking and processing food destroys its enzymes...and we often cook or process our foods.