Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes are compounds made by the body to digest food ready for absorption. There are 3 main types of enzymes needed for the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Raw foods such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrains contain the enzymes we need to digest them, but unfortunately cooking and processing destroys the enzyme content. Both pineapple and papaya contain high levels of digestive enzymes.

What it does

Some supplements offer a broad spectrum of enzymes, where as others offer a specific, single type of enzyme.

  1. Amylase: breaks down carbohydrates into smaller units known as monosaccharides. In the body amylase is found in saliva and in digestive secretions from the pancreas.
  2. Alpha Galactosidase: an enzyme with the ability to break down carbohydrates commonly found in beans, legumes, seeds and soy products which are generally poorly digested. These carbohydrates are often associated with bloating, flatulence and digestive discomfort.
  3. Protease:
    facilitate the breakdown of proteins into amino acids. Proteases are found in the stomach as pepsin, and in the digestive secretions from the pancreas. In order for proteases to work efficiently proteins must first be acted on by hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
  4. Lipase:
    breaks down lipids, or fats, into fatty acids and glycerol. Lipases are reliant on the action of lecithin in bile which has the effect of emulsifying fats allowing more of the lipid to be acted on by the enzymes.
  5. Lactase:
    The enzyme necessary for digestion of the milk sugar lactose.

Potential Uses

Bloating & Abdominal cramping Indigestion Food allergy
Flatulence IBS Diarrhoea
Arthritis Back ache Sprains & strains

If the body does not completely use a digestive enzyme supplement for digestive purposes, the remainder is absorbed into the system where it has an anti-inflammatory action.


Some digestive enzyme supplements may also contain betaine hydrochloride, which may aggravate peptic (stomach or duodenal) ulcers.

If you take warfarin, check with your doctor before taking digestive enzymes.

Generally, there are no side effects or contra-indications from using digestive enzymes.

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