The Digestive System
Lesson 6, Page 5 of 8

The sphincter valve located between the small intestines and the large intestines (colon) is known as the ileocecal valve.

The Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are proteins which make possible or facilitate a chemical reaction under a given environmental condition. Digestive enzymes are enzymes which help break down food substances into forms that can be absorbed and assimilated by the body.

Digestive enzymes are very important. Unfortunately, starting at about the age of 30, the body's secretion of enzymes begins to gradually decline. By the senior years the decline is usually significant enough to adversly effect the digestion and assimilation of food. This is one reason why digestive disturbances are common in the elderly, and why seniors often have difficulty getting the nutrients they need—a contributing factor to many health problems including osteoporosis, which is caused primarily by insufficient assimilation of proteins, calcium and other minerals. Most elderly people can benefit by taking food enzymes with their meals, along with a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.

Younger individuals commonly suffer from insufficient digestive enzymes as well. Tons of antacids are purchased each year by individuals who are suffering more from a deficiency of enzymes (and from improper chewing of their food) than from excess stomach acid. Most of these individuals would be much better served by supplementing their diets with food enzymes.

Digestive enzymes are normally secreted 1) in the mouth (as part of the saliva), 2) by the stomach, and 3) released into the small intestines from the liver and pancreas. The major enzymes are:

A note about terminology: You may have noticed that the names of many enzymes end with -ase, the suffix that is used to indicate an enzyme. The suffix that is used to indicate a sugar (or simple carbohydrate) is -ose. Thus cellulase breaks down cellulose. In the same way, lipase breaks down lipids (fats); pectinase breaks down pectin; protease breaks down proteins, etc.


Which of the following enzymes help break down fats (lipids)?

Cellulase
Amylase
Protease
Lipase

(Select the best answer and click on the "Continue" button.)

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