There are a lot of facts about enzymes that many people don’t know, including their effects on your body. What, exactly, do enzymes do?
Here’s a quick look at what enzymes are, and why they’re so important for good health. You’ll also learn some of the health problems that are related to low enzyme levels.
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes, in a nutshell, are molecules. Most of them are different types of proteins. Enzymes speed the reaction rate of a wide range of chemical reactions in the body. Basically, they are essential for life and support a wide range of bodily functions. Enzyme activity is the reason that your body can break down large molecules into smaller ones.
Each enzyme molecule works with another type of molecule, known as a substrate. A substrate binds itself to a portion of the enzyme, creating a chemical reaction. Scientists aren’t quite sure why the relationship between a substrate and an enzyme molecule takes place. But they have a couple of theories.
One is known as the “lock and key” model. The portion of the enzyme that binds to the substrate is shaped exactly right. This allows the substrate to bind with the enzyme molecule, sort of like a key fits exactly into a lock. The other theory holds that both the enzyme and substrate change their shape in order to bind.
No matter what the answer may be, the relationship between enzyme molecules and substrate molecules is very important. Without it, life as we know it wouldn’t be possible.1
Enzymes And Temperature: What’s The Association?
The reason enzymes are important is that they speed up chemical reactions in the body. The higher the temperature, the faster these reactions take place. A body temperature increase of as little as 2 degrees can speed these reactions by as much as 20 percent. But if the temperature gets too high, enzyme activity declines sharply.2
Many enzymes work their best at a certain temperature. In the human body, this is usually about 98.6° F. At temperatures above 104° F, however, a lot of enzymes break down to the point where they can’t do their jobs.3
If you have a high fever, a lot of your enzymes won’t work properly.4 That’s one of the main reasons a high fever not only makes you miserable, but could also pose a serious threat to your health.
How Is Enzyme Activity Beneficial To Digestion And Health?
As mentioned, enzymes play a lot of roles in helping you live. No role, however, is more vital than helping you be able to digest food.5
Digestive enzymes (more on specific digestive enzymes in a bit) start breaking down food as soon as it enters your mouth. They also break down food in the stomach. This makes it possible for nutrient absorption to take place. The saliva in your mouth produces enzymes, as does the pancreas.
Some people, however, can’t produce enough enzymes. That can lead to potentially serious health problems (more on this later). Also, as you get older, your digestive system doesn’t work as well as it used to. This can lead to digestive tract problems.6
How Does Your Digestive Tract Interact With Different Types Of Enzymes?
The pancreas is a powerhouse of enzyme activity. It’s the organ primarily responsible for secreting many of the enzymes that help with digestion. These enzymes not only break down carbs and proteins, but also fatty acids.
This incredibly important organ also aids the digestive tract by producing bicarbonate, a liquid that helps neutralize stomach acid. That helps you avoid the gas, bloating, and other issues caused by indigestion.7
Enzymes Are Critical For Good Health
Hopefully, you have a new appreciation for just how important enzymes are. You can see how critical they are to digestion, but they’re important to other bodily processes as well. If you have gas, bloating, stomach pain, or other symptoms of digestive issues, you might have low enzyme levels.8 Talk to a doctor, and see if that’s the problem.
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