As nutritional science advances, we are learning more and more about the important role that carbohydrates play in our overall health – whether you are eating too many, the wrong kind, or need to load up for athletic activity.

In all three of these scenarios, nutrient absorption, or malabsorption, plays a key role. A major part of making sure that you optimally absorb all nutrients you require from the food you eat is having necessary levels of the enzymes that help process them. This is where amylase comes in. As lipase helps you digest fats and protease helps you digest protein, amylase is essential to breaking down carbohydrates.

The Role of the Amylase Enzyme

Among the “trinity” of digestive enzymes, amylase is unique in that its effects are observed faster than the other enzymes. This is because amylase comes from two distinct parts of your body: the pancreas and salivary glands in the mouth. The end goal of amylase is to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars that the body can use for energy, and this starts in the mouth. As food is chewed and mixed with saliva, amylase starts working to break down food into smaller molecules (1). In the stomach, this amylase is neutralised by gastric acid, and the starch, only partially broken down, goes on to the small intestine.

In the intestine, the starch is broken down further by the next set of amylase enzymes, this time released by the pancreas. The final result is glucose, which moves on into your bloodstream to be used for energy (2). Low levels of glucose in the blood can lead to fatigue and muscle weakness, and glucose is the preferred type of fuel for the brain and nervous system.

However, different types of carbohydrates manifest this energy in different ways. For example, simple carbs, like those found in refined sugars, break down quickly, giving a quick burst of energy followed by fatigue (3). For more complex carbohydrates, amylase breaks things down more slowly, leading to more consistent energy levels. Good foods in this category include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole-grain products
  • Most vegetables

Added Benefits of Amylase Enzymes

Amylase’s primary function is digestion, but it may play a role in other facets of health as well, perhaps not directly, but as an indicator. One study showed that people with metabolic syndrome are more likely to have low serum amylase levels (4).Another study showed that levels of salivary alpha-amylase were extremely sensitive to psychosocial stress. This means that amylase may have future use as a means to help measure stress levels (5). Amylase has one additional small but important role – processing and digesting dead white blood cells.

There are several potential issues that can lead to enzyme deficiencies or imbalances. Some of the most common are issues with the pancreas, but alcoholism and certain medications can impact the levels of amylase that you have in your body. Also, we naturally start producing lower levels of amylase as we age. If you find that eating starchy foods is giving you inordinate amounts of discomfort, it would be worthwhile to meet with your doctor and have your amylase levels checked. If digestive enzymes are found to be low or suspected to be low, supplementation can be an ideal way to increase your digestive enzyme levels and lead to better digestive health overall.

References

1. Peyrot des gachons C, Breslin PA. Salivary Amylase: Digestion and Metabolic Syndrome. Curr Diab Rep. 2016;16(10):102.
2. Garrison R. Amylase. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 1986;4(2):315-27.
3. Costill DL, Hargreaves M. Carbohydrate nutrition and fatigue. Sports Med. 1992;13(2):86-92.
4. Nakajima K, Nemoto T, Muneyuki T, Kakei M, Fuchigami H, Munakata H. Low serum amylase in association with metabolic syndrome and diabetes: A community-based study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2011;10:34.
5 Nater, Urs Markus et al. Stress-induced changes in human salivary alpha-amylase activity—associations with adrenergic activity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006;31(1):49-58

BY ENZYMEDICA

Enzymedica is a Florida based company that offers the highest-quality enzyme products possible. Today, as one of the global leaders in the industry, Enzymedica strives to ensure that their products are clean, sustainable and highly effective. Find out more about Enzymedica.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.