The Role of Enzymes in Digestion

Have you ever felt bloated, gassy or just have general discomfort after eating? We’ve all been there and while it can be a nuisance, it can also lead to bigger health issues.

When you feel this way, it’s your body actually telling you that it is not easily breaking down the food you just ate. As a result, your body is also not properly absorbing nutrients, which could lead to nutrient deficiency.  This is especially relevant because the nutrients from our food is what fuels our body and supports over 300 metabolic reactions.  Every organ in our body relies on nutrients to operate at its optimal level. 

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone – up to 70 million Americans are affected by a digestive disorder (source).

Digestive Enzymes

Enzymes are specialized proteins that function as catalysts in almost all cellular functions and chemical reactions throughout the body. They play a critical role in growth, healing, and reproduction. Enzymes are also necessary for breathing, thinking, immune function, hormone regulation, detoxification, and thousands of other biochemical functions.

And most noteworthy, enzymes are necessary for digesting food nutrients and converting nutrients to energy in cells (source).

During the digestive process, different enzymes are released:

  • Amylase – present in saliva and breaks down starches into maltose (sugar)
  • Pepsin – produced in the stomach, pepsin breaks down proteins into smaller peptides
  • Lipase – its function is to break down fats into fatty acid that can be better absorbed into the body
  • Trypsin and chymotrypsin – these two enzymes break down proteins into even smaller polypeptides
  • Cellulase – several enzymes that break down cellulose and makes it easier to digest high-fiber foods
  • Lactase – breaks down the lactose from dairy into glucose
  • Sucrase – catalyzes the breakdown sucrose to its subunits, fructose and glucose
  • Maltase –  an enzyme in the small intestine that breaks down maltose and other sugars into glucose
  • Exopeptidases, carboxypeptidase and aminopeptidase – all help release amino acids
  • Other enzymes that break down sugar/carbs like invertase, glucoamylase and alpha-glactosidase.

How Digestive Enzymes are Formed

These glands release the above enzymes in the digestive process:

  • Mouth – as we chew, amylase and lipase enzymes are released to break down carbohydrates and fats 
  • Stomach – lipase helps further break down fats and pepsin tackles protein molecules
  • Pancreas – the amylase, lipase, trypsin, chymotrypsin enzymes break down carbohydrates, fats and protein
  • Small intestine – maltase for starches, sucrase for sucrose, lactase for lactose, and peptidase for protein

However, if one of these glands is not functioning as it should, digestive issues arise. Other factors include aging, leaky gut (when the lining of your gut becomes damaged or irritated) and inflammation.

That is where digestive enzymes supplements can help.Health Benefits of Digestive Enzymes |

Sources of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are derived from three sources:

  • Fruit – usually pineapple or papaya. Bromelain is an enzyme from pineapple that breaks down proteins and has anti-inflammatory properties. Papain is another enzyme that’s from raw papaya and works well to support the breakdown of proteins.
  • Animals – including pancreatin sourced from ox or hog. 
  • Plants – derived from probiotics, yeast and fungi.

Here are the 12 most common foods that contain natural digestive enzymes:

  1. Pineapple
  2. Papaya
  3. Mango
  4. Honey
  5. Bananas
  6. Avocados
  7. Kefir
  8. Sauerkraut
  9. Kimchi
  10. Miso
  11. Kiwifruit
  12. Ginger

Digestive Enzyme Supplements

If you have heartburn or acid reflux, you may take an over-the-counter antacid. The problem with that, is drugs just relieve the symptoms of what’s bothering you. They do not get to the root cause of why you’re having issues digesting food.

When you begin to experience these symptoms it could mean your digestive system is struggling to break down and absorb nutrients in your food.  As a result, this could lead to nutrient deficiency, which in turn can lead to additional health issues. 

Digestive enzyme supplements can act like the enzymes your body creates and help to break down food.

Furthermore, they are modeled around the three categories of digestive enzymes that are created naturally – for carbohydrates, proteins and fat.

Health Benefits of Digestive Enzyme Supplements

Here are some of the health benefits of digestive enzyme supplements:

  • Alleviate symptoms of IBSone study showed that people with IBS that took a digestive enzyme supplement experienced less cramping, bloating, and pain.
  • Manage inflammatory bowel disease (colitis)another study found that patients who were treated with a digestive enzyme supplement reported less abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence. 
  • Relieve pain related to osteoarthritis – due to its ability to reduce inflammation, there is evidence that it offers pain-reducing effects.
  • Reduce symptoms for people undergoing cancer treatmentresearch shows that patients with colorectal cancer had their symptoms of the disease reduced.
  • Improve behavior of autistic childrenin one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, children that received digestive enzyme therapy for three months had significant improvement in emotional response, general behavior, and gastrointestinal symptoms (quality of stools, abdominal pain, vomiting, and food variety).

Recommended Digestive Supplement

My go-to digestive enzyme supplement is DigestZen TerraZyme® Digestive Enzyme Complex by dōTERRA. 

It’s a proprietary blend of active whole-food enzymes that are often deficient in cooked, processed, and preservative-laden foods. The powerful combination of digestive enzymes supports the body’s constant production of enzymes critical for healthy biochemical functions. This includes healthy digestion of food nutrients and cellular metabolism of nutrients to energy. 

Digestive Enzyme Supplement | LeannForst.comIn conclusion, other benefits include:

  • Supports healthy digestion and metabolism of enzyme-deficient, processed foods
  • Supports conversion of food nutrients to cellular energy
  • Promotes gastrointestinal comfort and food tolerance
  • Supports healthy production of metabolic enzymes
  • Proprietary blend of 10 active whole-food enzymes
  • Contains the doTERRA tummy tamer blend of peppermint, ginger, and caraway seed
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate-free HPMC vegetable capsules
  • Safe and effective



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    Leann Forst, MBA, CHC, CEOC — Holistic Health Practitioner

    Leann is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Essential Oils Coach. She holds a Master’s degree from Drake University and a Bachelor of Science from Upper Iowa University. Accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Leann is an award winning author of 2 books How to Get Your Kids to Beg for Veggies and 100 Ways to Lose Weight”.

    Born and raised as an Iowa farm girl, she moved to Texas in 1998 where she lives with her husband and 2 kids.

    As a wife of a brain cancer survivor, Leann has a special interest in anti-cancer nutrition and detoxification. She works with individuals and groups, and speaks regularly at hospitals, schools and organizations. Leann’s goal is to teach people how to attain optimal health by getting to the root cause of chronic and inflammatory conditions, while using healing modalities such as essential oils. Click here to get Leann’s free report, “37 Cancer Facts You Should Know…But Probably Don’t

    Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

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