The Scoop on Digestive Enzymes

Generally speaking, there are 3 classes of enzymes: metabolic enzymes, food enzymes, and digestive enzymes.  Metabolic enzymes are those that facilitate in performing a number of biochemical reactions in the body.  Unless one has a condition that affects how a metabolic enzyme functions in the body most people will never pay attention to these enzymes.  Food enzymes and digestive enzymes, on the other hand, are a different story.  Many people would do well to consider these categories of enzymes and the impact they have on our health.

Food enzymes are those that are found in foods and are present to assist in digesting of that food.  An important consideration of enzymes is that they are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, therefore enzymes are proteins.  The function of proteins is affected by a number of factors, one of which is heat.  Heat denatures proteins which in turn affects their function.  That is to say, heat affects how well an enzyme will function.  As such, incorporating raw foods in one’s diet is a great way to support the digestion of that food.  Consuming a diet of solely cooked foods (not to mention processed and refined), as many people do, may add an extra burden on the body to produce all of the enzymes required to properly digest the foods eaten and/or actually hinder the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes effectively.

Digestive enzymes are those that are produced by the body to assist in digesting food consumed.  The majority of enzymes required for digestion are produced and secreted by the pancreas, and many elements can impact how well this happens.  Suffice it to say, many people are aided by the use of supplemental digestive enzymes. 

Digestive enzyme supplements tend to be sourced from either animals or plants.  Animal enzymes tend to be sourced from pancreatin, which is tissue from the pancreas of an animal.  This tissue, much like it does within us, is useful at providing digestive enzymes such as protease, amylase, and lipase.  Plant enzymes, while called “plant” enzymes are typically from fungal sources; most digestive enzyme formulas are fungal-based.  Other actual plant digestive enzymes include papain (from papaya) and bromelain (from pineapple). 

Digestive enzymes are useful for a number of conditions, particularly for anything related to impaired digestion.  Basic symptoms of impaired digestion include belching, bloating, flatulence and excessive full feeling after eating.  Digestion is central to all body systems and proper digestive health is core for general good health.


Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.



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A brief overview of digestive enzyme facts [Pamphlet]. (2000). Thornhill, ON: NaturPharm.

Cichoke, A. J. (1999). The complete book of enzyme therapy. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub.

Haas, E. M., & Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts.

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