What is the difference between digestive enzymes?


Khadijah from California asks What is the difference between digestive enzymes and which should I take for optimal digestive function?

You may need to take a variety of digestive enzymes to achieve optimal digestive function. It is very person-dependent based on age, health and diet. 

NEVER chew or open the capsule of your digestive enzymes. Most digestive enzymes were not manufactured to be used in this manner and may lead to ulceration of your mouth and esophagus.

Physical digestion begins in the mouth with amylase, then onto the stomach for HCl and pepsin. Next, our gallbladder and pancreas respectively produce bile salts and pancreatic enzymes (amylase, lipase and protease). Lastly, our microbiota (gut flora) further breaks down our food into nutrients for our body.


Some enzyme basics:

-Ase at the end of a word = enzyme

-Ose at the end of a word = sugar (there are LOTS of different types of sugars)

– For example, we have heard of lactose (-ose = sugar), lactase is the enzyme that breaks down lactose.


Specific enzymes:

Amylase – for carbohydrates digestion; produced in the saliva, stomach, pancreas

Pepsin – for proteins digestion produced in the stomach

HCl – for prevention of infections and protein digestion produced in the stomach, decreases the pH of the stomach

Protease – for proteins digestion, produced in the stomach and pancreas

Lipase – for breaking down fats, produced by the pancreas

Trypsin – for proteins break down, produced by the pancreas

Bile Salts – emulsify fats, stimulates the movement of the small intestines and colon, produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder


Other enzymes in supplemental digestive enzymes may include:

Cellulase or hemicellulose – help breakdown fibers

Papain – an enzyme from papaya 

Bromelain – an enzyme from pineapple 

Note: healthy gut flora is SO important in further breakdown of our food once it passes into the small intestines and colon. If we do not have adequate or an improper balance of flora, we will not get all the wonderful benefits of various nutrients that are byproducts of the microbiota.


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