What are Digestive Enzymes?
Your body produces enzymes designed to break down and properly digest food. Without them you would have problems with indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence. These digestive enzymes include:
- Lipase (breaks down fats)
- Amylase (breaks down sugars and carbohydrates)
- Protease and peptidase (break down proteins)
Without enough of these digestive enzymes, the digestive process slows down, resulting in bloating and indigestion. Food particles that have not been completely digested make their way to the large intestine, where the microbe-rich environment consumes the unabsorbed food, resulting in gas and bloating. Worse yet, a digestive enzyme deficiency prevents proper absorption of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, which can result in other extensive problems.1
Digestive enzyme supplements can help to replenish your natural digestive enzymes, support digestive health, improve immune function, and potentially treat certain disorders. While digestive enzymes come from various sources, plant-based enzymes may be the ideal form for you. Read on to learn why.
Digestive Enzyme Benefits
Broadly, digestive enzymes are necessary to supporting your general digestive health, which plays an active role in your overall health and well-being.
1. Digestive Health:Reviews on available literature suggest that digestive enzyme supplementation can help to reduce certain gastrointestinal disorders, including:
- lactose intolerance
- celiac disease
- irritable bowel syndrome
- cystic fibrosis.5
Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, has been shown in several trials to exhibit
pain relieving properties.
Studies even suggest that bromelain may offer an alternative treatment for osteoarthritis.6
3. Stomach Acid:Digestive enzyme supplementation can help to correct problems stemming from low stomach acid caused by aging and acid reflux medication usage. As you age, your stomach produces less hydrochloric acid, resulting in a more alkaline environment. Your stomach acids play an important role in digestion and help to trigger the production and release of certain digestive enzymes. Symptoms of low stomach acid include heartburn, acid reflux, bloating, and general indigestion. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can help to normalize digestion and food absorption.7
Digestive Enzyme Side Effects
Digestive enzymes are generally safe for most people. You may experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or nausea, but these should subside as your body adjusts. More serious side effects may include:
- Joint pains
- Severe abdominal discomfort
- Frequent and/or painful urination
Serious allergic reactions to digestive enzymes are rare, but you should seek medical attention if you experience:
- Itching or swelling in the face, tongue, or throat
- Trouble breathing
Side effects are more common if you ignore dosage recommendations, so make sure you follow the label’s directions and consult your doctor.8
Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Digestive enzyme supplements may potentially help to reduce digestive disorders and reinforce your gut health. DrFormulas 18 Digestive Enzymes Supplement consists of both fungal and plant digestive enzymes. Consider incorporating our plant-based digestive enzymes into your daily diet to support your digestive health.
Digestive Plant Enzyme Sources
Digestive enzyme supplements can generally be derived from animals, plants, and microbes.
Animal Based Digestive Enzymes
These digestive enzymes are usually taken from the stomachs and pancreases of cows and pigs. Although certain animal-based digestive enzymes, like pancreatin, can be helpful in aiding certain conditions (pancreatitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, pancreatic cancer), they are generally too limited in their usage. This comes from the fact that animal-based digestive enzymes can only function properly at higher pH levels. That means that digestive enzymes derived from animals may only be effective in the large intestine, which has a moderately high pH, but may have trouble in the lower pH levels of the stomach.2
Microbial Based Digestive Enzymes
Microbial-based digestive enzymes comprise those derived from bacterial sources and fungi (including yeasts). These enzymes have greater gastric resilience than animal-based enzymes and generally help to digest plant components. This makes them particularly useful for vegans and vegetarians.3
Plant Based Digestive Enzymes
Plant-sourced digestive enzymes come from any type of plant. While this mainly constitutes fruits and vegetables, plant-sourced digestive enzymes can also come from soy, barley, and other plant mediums. Plant-based enzymes offer much greater versatility. Unlike animal-based enzymes, these work in a much broader pH range of 3.0 to 9.0, allowing them to work throughout the digestive system, stomach and intestines included. Plant-sourced enzymes also function best a temperature ranging from 92 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that the average human body offers an optimal environment.4 Along with encouraging the digestive process, digestive plant enzymes can help to reduce inflammation in the gut.3
A List of Natural Digestive Enzymes in the Digestive System
Some common digestive enzymes include:
- Lipase (found in plants and certain microbes) –A fat digesting enzyme. Lipase is essential for digesting triglycerides, phospholipids, and other fats.
- Bromelain (found in pineapples) – Bromelain helps to digest proteins, breaking them down into smaller peptides and individual amino acids.
- Gluten proteases (found in microbes) – These proteases are designed to digest highly resistant proline-rich polypeptides in gluten and casein. These polypeptides can trigger immune system reactions resulting in damage to intestinal tissues, a symptom characteristic of celiac disease.
- Amylase (found in plants and microbes) – An enzyme that digests starch. Amylase comprises starch- and glycogen-specific enzymes hat help to break down polysaccharides (long strings of sugars that make up carbohydrates) into disaccharides.
- Amyloglucosidase (found in plants and microbes) – Amyloglucosidase can effectively break down disaccharides into monosaccharide. Amyloglucodsidase should always be taken with amylase to break down carbohydrates.
- Lactase (found in plants and microbes) – Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, the main sugar found in milk and other milk porducts.
- Invertase (found in plants and microbes) – Invertase breaks down sucrose and maltose and smaller fructose and glucose.
- Phytase (found in plants and microbes) – Phytase breaks down phytic acid, a common component of seeds, nuts, grains, bran, and wheat.
- Cellulase (found in plants and microbes) – Cellulase helps to digest the plant fiber in fruits and vegetables known as cellulose.4
- Bicarbonate – Bicarbonate neutralizes the acidity of stomach chyme as it enters the duodenum from the phylorus.
- Zymogens – Zymogens are precursor enzymes that remained inactive until they are modified into the active form. Once active they can break down protein, fats, or DNA/RNA.
- Trypsinogen – Trypsinogen is a protease that activates into trypsin in the duodenum and helps to break down proteins.
- Chymotrypsinogen – Chymotrypsinogen is activated by duodenal enterokinase helps to break down proteins.
- Carboxypeptidase – This is a protease that takes a terminal amino acid group off of proteins.
- Various elastases – Elastases are primarily known for breaking down the protein elastin.
- Various nucleases – Nucleases break down DNAase, RNAase, and other nucleic acids.
- Pancreatic lipase – This enzyme breaks triglycerides into glycerol and fatty acids.
- Sterol esterase – Sterol esterase helps to break down fatty acids.
- Phospholipase – Phospholipase helps to digest phospholipids and break them down into fatty acids and other lipophilic compounds.
- Pancreatic amylase – This enzyme breaks down alpha-linked glucose polymers like glycogen and starch.
- Secretin – This hormone decreases gastric emptying while increasing secretion of pancreatic ductal cells.
- Cholecystokinin – CCK is a unique peptide that is released when chyme contains high fat or protein content. The enzyme promotes bile secretion and stimulates the acinar cells.
- Gastric inhibitory peptide – Gastric inhibitory peptides is produced by the mucosal duodenal cells in response to chyme that has high concentrations of proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty acids.
- Somatostatin – This hormone has significant inhibitory effects, including on the secretion of insulin and glucagon.9
This is by no means an exhaustive list of digestive enzymes, but it does go to show that most of the effective digestive enzymes come from plant sources.