The digestive system works not only due to the various organs and glands, but also owing to the various digestive enzymes secreted. These enzymes are an integral part of the digestion process, and help in the breakdown of food particles and absorption of essential nutrient elements into the body.
Enzymes, are basically proteins that have the ability to accelerate and control the rates of chemical reactions. Almost all the biological processes in a living cell require the presence of some type of enzyme.
The type of enzyme catalyzing a reaction is very specific, hence in this case enzymes that exist as a part of the digestive system are called digestive enzymes.
These enzymes can be classified according to their location in the digestive system. They all play an important role in the breakdown of food and absorption of the nutrients.
The salivary glands in the oral cavity secrete two important enzymes called ptyalin and lysozyme, however lysozyme is not a digestive enzyme. Ptyalin, which is a digestive enzyme, is a type of µ-amylase. This enzyme helps to break down the starch into smaller segments of soluble sugars, which can then be utilized by the body.
These enzymes are generally referred to as 'gastric enzymes'. There are four of them, which include pepsin, gelatinase, gastric amylase, and gastric lipase. Pepsin is a peptidase, which refers to larger group of enzymes acting on proteins and breaking them into peptide chains. It works on proteins, breaking down the protein molecules into peptides.
Gelatinase enzyme, degrades type 1 and type 4 gelatins, and type 4 and type 5 collagen. Gastric amylase is responsible for breakdown of starch. Gastriclipase, is a butter fat enzyme, which specifically acts only on tributyrin, which is an ingredient of butter.
Pancreas secrete trypsin, chymotrypsin, steapsin, carboxypeptidase and pancreatic amylase. Trypsin and chymotrypsin are peptidases that help breakdown the peptides. Steapsin breaks the triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol. Carboxypeptidase is a protease that helps to break the peptide fragments into amino acids.
Pancreatic amylase degrades several carbohydrates. In addition to this, the pancreas secretes several elastases and nucleases that act on the protein, elastin and nucleic acids respectively.
The small intestine secretes several peptidases. The jejunum and the ileum of the small intestine secret a mixture of several enzymes, which is called succus entericus. The enzymes included are sucrase, which splits the sucrose into glucose and fructose, maltase that splits maltose into glucose.
Isomaltase breaks down maltose into an isomaltose. Lactase is responsible for splitting lactose into glucose and galactose, whereas intestinal lipase helps to break down the fatty acids.
You would have now gotten an idea about how imporant these digestive enzymes are, for your body. Do incorporate them in your diet, and reap the benefits of a healthy digestive system.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.