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What Are Enzymes?

Enzymes are biologically active proteins found in all living cells. Metabolic enzymes catalyze and regulate every biochemical reaction that occurs within the human body, making them essential for cellular function and overall health. Digestive enzymes turn the food we eat into energy which may be utilized by the body for various biological processes. Our bodies naturally produce both digestive and metabolic enzymes, as they are needed.

Enzymes are protein chemicals, which carry a vital energy factor needed for every chemical action, and reaction that occurs in our body. There are approximately 1300 different enzymes found in the human cell. These enzymes can combine with coenzymes to form nearly 100,000 various chemicals that enable us to see, hear, feel, move, digest food, and think. Every organ, every tissue, and all the 100 trillion cells in our body depend upon the reactions of metabolic enzymes and their energy factor. Nutrition cannot be explained without describing the part that enzymes play.

How are enzymes utilized in the body?

Metabolic Enzymes are an essential component for optimal cellular function and health. These descriptions are not without merit. They speed up the chemical reactions within the cells for detoxification and energy production. They enable us to see, hear, feel, move and think. Every organ, every tissue and all 100 trillion cells in our body depend upon the reaction of metabolic enzymes and their energy factor. Without these metabolic enzymes, cellular life would cease to exist.

Digestive Enzymes are secreted along the digestive tract to break food down into nutrients and waste. Most of the digestive enzymes are produced by the pancreas. The liver, gallbladder, small intestine, stomach and colon also play pivotal roles in the production of these enzymes. Digestive enzymes allow the nutrients found in the foods we consume to be absorbed into the blood stream and the waste to be discarded. Some human digestive enzymes include lipase, protease, amylase, ptyalin, pepsin and trypsin.

Food Enzymes are introduced to the body through the raw foods we eat and through consumption of supplemental enzyme products. Raw foods naturally contain enzymes, providing a source of digestive enzymes when ingested. However, raw food manifests only enough enzymes to digest that particular food. The cooking and processing of food destroys all of its enzymes. Since most of the foods we eat are cooked or processed in some way and because the raw foods we do eat contain only enough enzymes to process that particular food, our bodies must produce the majority of the digestive enzymes we require, unless we use supplemental enzymes to aid in the digestive process. A variety of supplemental enzymes are available through different sources. It is important to understand the differences between the enzyme types and make sure you are using an enzyme product most beneficial for your particular needs.

Why take digestive enzyme supplements?

Nearly one in three people in the U.S. experience some kind of digestive problem.

Though many suffer, few have to. The typical benefits of enzyme supplementation include reduced digestive distress, increased energy and improved regularity.

Soothe Digestive Distress: When undigested foods travel through the intestines they can irritate and potentially damage the sensitive intestinal wall. Over time, this irritation may reduce our digestive capacity and negatively influence the vital absorption process.

Increase Energy: According to Yuri Elkaim author of Eating for Energy, in most cases, up to 80% of our body’s vital energy is spent on digestion.

By aiding the breakdown and absorption of foods, you can free up enormous amounts of energy, increasing physical vitality and enhancing energy levels.

Promote Regularity: Promoting proper digestion may encourage a healthy intestinal environment, and help relieve occasional constipation and irregularity.

  1. “Common GI Problems: Volume 1.” The American College of Gastroenterology. The American College of Gastroenterology, n.d. Web. 30 Jul. 2010 <>.

  2. U.S. Census Bureau (2010). Data Finders: Population Clocks. Retrieved October 28, 2010. ,<>

  3. Elkaim, Yuri. “Health Benefits of Fasting.” Eating for Energy Blog. Yuri Elkaim, 22 Oct 2009. Web. 2 Aug 2010. <>.

What types of Enzymes Supplements are available?

Vegetarian Enzymes are the most popular choice of supplemental enzymes. They are grown in a laboratory setting and extracted from certain types of fungus and probiotics. The enzymes harvested from aspergillus are called vegetarian, or fungal. Of all the choices, vegetarian enzymes are the most potent. This means they can break down more fat, protein and carbohydrates than any other source.

Vegetarian Enzymes consist of bromelain and papain. Bromelain is a proteolytic (breaks down protein) and milk-clotting enzyme derived from the pineapple stem. A concentrate of this enzyme has been known to promote a healthy inflammatory response, is used as a meat tenderizer and is used in the chill-proofing of beer. Like pepsin and papain, bromelain has an optimal temperature higher than normal body temperature. There is always greater heat at the sight of inflammation than any other part of the body. Bromelain is used in Repair, Repair Gold and Natto-K .

  • Papain is an enzyme derived from the latex of papaya. This enzyme becomes active in an environment of 6.0 - 8.0 pH and requires temperatures above normal human body temperature. Like bromelain, it too supports the body’s natural recovery from overexertion.

Glandular/Animal: Chymotrypsin, pancreatin, pepsin and trypsin are enzymes from the pancreas, stomach and small intestine derived from animal glands and organs. These enzymes require an alkaline pH level of 8.0 to become active. Enzymedica products are 100% vegetarian, thus, enzymes derived from animals are not used in Enzymedica enzyme formulations.

What types of supplemental enzymes are sold in stores?

Vegetarian enzymes are the most popular enzymes found in natural food supplements. The four most common are Protease, Lipase, Amylase and Cellulase. They represent about 80% of the market. They are sourced from aspergillus and grown in a laboratory setting on plants such as soy and barley. They are called vegetarian, microbial and fungal. Of all the choices, vegetarian enzymes are the most active or potent. This means they contain the highest active units and can break down more fat, protein and carbohydrates in the broadest pH range than any other source.

Vegetarian enzymes are useful to develop and maintain a proper digestive system and to allow the body to produce more metabolic enzymes by reducing the need to produce digestive enzymes. They can also be used in varying formulas to treat certain ailments. The other types of enzymes mentioned next are better suited for specific treatment purposes rather than in enzyme maintenance programs.

Aspergillus enzymes have a strong record of safe use in the food industry and are considered food by the FDA. These enzymes can be taken with meals to aid in the digestion of all foods or between meals to feed and fortify the body as a whole. Vegetarian enzymes are not disposed of as if the body has no need for them, rather they exit only after there is no more activity left to do their work. Since they are food which is natural to the body, and since they are the most potent, they are often preferred over other types. The following is a list of other types of enzymes commonly sold in most health food stores.

Pancreatin is a substance from the pancreas of the hog or ox containing enzymes. Pancreatin contains proteolytic enzymes (enzymes that break down protein), amylase, and lipase. This enzyme has been studied extensively for its anti-inflammatory properties. Pancreatin has been used successfully in Germany for fortifying the pancreas in a molecular way. Since it is a glandular compound it provides the same type of support a thyroid complex provides an individual's thyroid. Dr. Roy Dittinan suggests that pancreatic enzymes should not be taken during pregnancy or when using blood thinners.

Pepsin is a proteolytic enzyme usually prepared from the stomach of pigs and is the principle digestive component of gastric juice. It is usually given to those whose digestion of protein is impaired. However pepsin is only activated at a temperature higher than normal body temperature.

Bromelain is a group of proteolytic and milk clotting enzymes derived from the pineapple stem. A concentrate of this enzyme can be used as an anti-inflammatory agent, a meat tenderizer, and in the chill-proofing of beer. Like pepsin, bromelain is only activated at a temperature higher than normal body temperature.

Papain is a proteolytic enzyme derived from the latex of papaya. This enzyme becomes active in an environment of 6.0 - 8.0 pH and required temperatures above normal human body temperature. For this reason Papain and Bromelain are often used to reduce inflammation since the temperature at points of inflammation are always higher than the rest of the body.

Chymotrypsin is a proteolytic enzyme taken from the pancreas of ox and pigs. This enzyme requires a pH level of 8.0 to become active.

Trypsin is a proteolytic enzyme formed in the intestine and can be taken from the intestine or pancreas of an animal. Trypsin breaks down arginine or lysine and works only in an alkaline setting. Today, it is often coated so that it can make it to the 8.0 pH occurring in the small intestine. It is commonly used to fortify the pancreas and the small intestine.

What enzymes should I take for proper digestion?

Protease breaks down protein, amylase breaks down carbohydrate and starch, and lipase breaks down fat. These three enzymes break down the majority of the common food groups. Other enzymes include lactase (breaks down lactose-dairy), maltase & sucrase (break down food sugars), and cellulase (break down cellulose).

What side effects should I expect from the use of supplemental enzymes?

Enzymes typically have positive effects such as increased energy and relief from digestive complaints.* Few negative effects are reported. A very small percentage of people have reported upset stomach and soft stool (more frequent and softer bowel movements) when first beginning to take a high-potency digestive enzyme supplement. As with any adverse effect, discontinue use and consult a health care practitioner.

How quickly will I feel results with the use of enzyme Supplements?

Some individuals insist that the effects of digestive enzymes can be felt more quickly than other nutritional products. The typical experience allows for the consumer to make an educated decision on the continuing use of a particular product within just a few days to a few weeks because of the speed of results with enzymes.

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