Have you ever noticed irritation on your tongue or a scratchy feeling in the back of your throat after eating pineapple? No, it isn't your imagination. Every time you eat a pineapple, it eats a little bit of you! A compound contained within pineapple flesh known as bromelain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes strong enough to break down human tissue... or help digest a juicy steak. Pineapple is not alone in this regard. A wide variety of foods contain large concentrations of digestive enzymes that have the ability to metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Is it possible to replace your body's missing digestive enzymes with a diet full of enzyme-rich foods?
As is often the case with health-related questions, it depends a number of factors. What are the types of digestive enzyme deficiencies you suffer from? What types of foods are you willing to add to your diet? How frequently will you consume these foods, and how much of them will you eat?
Pineapples and papayas contain proteases which can help metabolize proteins in other foods during the digestive process. Amylases turn starch into sugar and are present in mangoes and bananas. Avocados are rich in lipase, which helps break down fat molecules into smaller, easier to absorb compounds. In addition, fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain several different digestive enzymes, while also providing your body with beneficial gut bacteria.
While it is theoretically possible to carefully construct a diet that contains the full complement of digestive enzymes you need, it is easier said than done. With access to essential digestive enzymes spread across a number of different foods, it can be challenging to provide your body with the broad spectrum digestive enzyme support you need during every meal. In addition, since your body cannot absorb and store exogenous digestive enzymes contained within food for later use, any enzymes from dietary sources stay active only during their time in the digestive tract. For this reason, obtaining the wide variety of enzymes necessary to benefit your digestion would require some unappetizing food combinations. Unfortunately, eating a pineapple, avocado, and sauerkraut salad before each meal is just not realistic for all but the most adventurous of eaters.