Why are enzymes important? After all, it’s not like you hear about them very often: have you ever seen your fave TikTok fitness guru spouting “omigawd, guys, I love my enzymes!”?
Probably not. So who cares?
Answer: you do! Because enzymes are awesome! They’re basically the secret superheroes of your body, working night and day to save your life only to tip their hat and state that it’s “all in a day’s work, ma’am.”
So let’s take some time to gives enzymes their flowers, explore why they’re actually crucial for your health, and find out how to keep them happy!
Enzymes are a type of protein you find in your cells. They’re a catalyst, speeding up all the processes in your body so that they can actually function.
That’s not all, though! It’s estimated that enzymes speed up around at least 4,000 processes in your body. This allows you to live, which is mega-useful. Feeling a bit more respect for them, now?
If life was WiFi, your internet connection would be your ability to live — which would make enzymes the router. Your router sends that sweet WiFi all over the house.
A slow router, or no router at all, equals no internet, and that is terribly bad for your life. A good router equals good internet, making all the web surfing you need to do a lot faster, and allowing you to download that “World of Warcraft” update.
That’s what enzymes do for you. And if you had no enzymes, or a disease that messes with them too much, it could be Game Over. That’s why keeping them healthy is so important.
Types of enzymes
There’s a whole bunch of different enzymes, but the Big Three are:
- Amylase. (Not the latest celebrity baby name.) This bad boy breaks down starches into simple sugars.
- Protease. (Not an OnlyFans account.) This breaks down proteins into amino acids.
- Lipase. (Not a lip balm brand.) This breaks down fats and oils into glycerol and fatty acids.
Why they’re important for cells
We’re all aware of how important cells are for your body — after all, you’re entirely made up of them. No cells, no you. Well, enzymes are the part of the cell that basically does most of the hard work.
Enzymes set off loads of chemical reactions. These give the cell enough energy to do what it needs to do.
Your cells affect everything your body does. Enzymes are responsible for keeping all of them working, as well as providing carbs to give you energy and protein for building and repairing muscle.
Thank enzymes next time you’ve made some serious gains at the gym.
Why they’re important for digestion
Enzymes aren’t just important for your digestive system: they’re crucial. As we’ve discovered, enzymes are the ones that break down all your foods, allowing you to feel the sweet, sweet benefit of that chocolate croissant.
So if you’re lacking some enzymes, you’re gonna have probs with your digestion. Heard of lactose intolerance? People who have it lack lactase, the enzyme which digests milk sugar (aka lactose).
Here’s what the Big Three do for your belly:
- Amylase. These little tigers attack your food as soon as you pop it in your mouth. Your salivary glands produce them, as well as the pancreas and small intestine. They immediately break down your food into sugars, which get absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Protease. Produced in the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine, these do the lion’s share of the work in your stomach, breaking down proteins into handy amino acids. These are great for building muscle and keeping your brainbox healthy.
- Lipase. Found in the pancreas, stomach, and small intestine, these keep your cells fighting fit, as well as making breast milk easier for babies to digest.
Enzymes are obviously total superheroes. But what’s their kryptonite? There’s a few factors that can upset your enzymes, and turn them from hero to zero.
Diseases that affect how enzymes work
Certain diseases can put a roadblock in the way of good honest enzymes, who are just trying to get to work.
Did you see how many of the Big Three come from the pancreas? As a result, if you have a bout of pancreatitis (a nasty inflammation in your pancreas), the enzymes living there can meet a sticky end.
Like most of us, enzymes don’t like working if they’re feel too hot. Unlike us, they can’t just switch on the office AC.
If you happen to have a fever, your body temperature jumps up, and your enzymes just can’t handle the heat. They break down completely until you can get your body temperature back down again.
Also like most of us, enzymes don’t like working if they’re bathed in too much acid (relatable, right?).
Certain conditions can cause high levels of acidity in the stomach, which triggers a breakdown in some of your enzymes. Other enzymes, however, prefer increased acidity. To each their own.
You might now be thinking, “Hey, these enzymes sound great! Lemme get more!” Then you might consider taking enzyme supplements.
But stop, citizen! There are occasions when taking enzyme supplements can be a Very Good Thing. But if you’re in good health and have a pretty normal digestive system, don’t start popping them thinking that you’ll become even healthier. You can do yourself some pretty unpleasant damage.
FDA-approved pancreatic enzyme products (PEPs) can be super helpful if you’re having trouble with your pancreas. This might be due to problems such as pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, or pancreatic cancer.
Talk with your doctor if you think you might benefit from supplements. They’ll give you the best advice on what you need. And if you don’t need ’em, don’t take ’em.
Enzymes might not do the sexiest job with the most kudos. But they play a key role in your health — you literally couldn’t live without them.
From breaking down the food you eat, to helping you get some serious muscle and helping teeny babies get the nutrients they need, they spread awesomeness through every cell in your body.
But don’t take additional enzyme supplements if you don’t need them, and do everything you can to keep their working conditions comfortable.
Follow those simple rules, and you and your enzymes can have a happy hero/sidekick partnership for years to come.