We are more aware now than ever before that the foods we eat nourish our body while some may bring harm. We know that the energy we need we get from our foods, the healthy life we live we benefit from healthy foods. In whatever manner foods are categorized, be it by the calories they contain or the places they come from, they are processed in the body in the same manner. All foods go through a process called digestion starting in the mouth into the alimentary canal with the aid of chemical compounds specialized for their absorption called enzymes.
Digestion occurs because of the presence of enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract. Foods are broken down into smaller substances, simpler compounds for use by the body. This process is coordinated with many other processes in the body altogether known as metabolism, and the enzymes of the digestive system serve as agents that connect digestion to the rest of metabolic reactions.
Mouth: Amylase and Lingual Lipase
Digestion begins in the oral cavity, the mouth in particular, with the chewing of foods.Right after we swallow them, foods are mixed with saliva, which softens the food and causes them to stick together in the form of bolus. The saliva has the enzyme amylase that breaks down bigger carbohydrates into sugars that dissolve in water like maltose. Also, the oral cavity contains the enzyme lingual lipase that helps break down some fats into simpler fatty acids. When we push the bolus form of foods to the back of the mouth after we chew, it passes through the esophagus into the stomach in a few seconds.
If we fail to chew the foods we swallow, digestion starts in the stomach.Gastric acid is responsible for the low pH in the stomach, resulting in an acidic environment that exposes the chemical makeup of proteins and kill microorganisms that get in. The enzyme pepsin breaks down proteins into peptides, simpler amino acids. Alcohol passes through the stomach walls and gets absorbed by the blood, explaining the short time it takes to intoxicate the body. The rest of the food component is turned into a semi-fluid form called chime and passed to the small intestine.
Intestine: Carbohydrase, Lipase, and Protease
Much of the absorption process takes place in the small intestine where everything is further broken down into compounds the body can absorb through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream. Bile emulsifies fats and fatty acids. The pancreatic juice is a combination of different kinds of enzymes classified into three: (1) carbohydrase, (2) lipase, and (3) protease. Carbohydrase changes the chemical makeup of starches and other forms of carbohydrates into monosaccharides or simple sugars. Lipase changes emulsified fat molecules into monoglycerides and free fatty acids. Protease changes the peptide bonds of proteins into shorter chains of amino acids. All of which are ready for absorption by the fingerlike projections of the intestinal walls.
As you might have observed, enzymes are fundamental components of digestion. Have you had your digestive enzymes today?