Which Enzymes to Use with Which Foods

last updated 8.25.05

How Enzymes Work

Enzymes are very specific. Each has a particular job it does and it does only that job. So you want to get the right type of enzymes for the right type of food or job you want the enzyme to work on. Enzymes must have the right shape and chemistry to function. Here are some animations that shows how the shape of the enzyme and the substrate are important:




How Enzymes Are Named

At first, enzymes were named with an ending of -in. These usually note pancreatic enzymes because these were indentified first: trypsin, rennin (used in cheese making), pepsin, chymotrypsin, etc.

Then researchers went to a naming system where any enzyme was given the ending -ase. This is used for metabolic as well as digestive enzymes. When you see -ase, read it as 'an enzyme which acts on...whatever is the front part of the name.'

Sugars usually end in -ose (lactose, sucrose, fructose). So sucrase is an enzyme which acts on sucrose. In this case, the action is to break it down.

Lactase is an enzyme which acts on lactose - in this case, the action is to break lactose down.

One metabolic enzyme is pyruvate dehydrogenase. This is an enzyme which acts on pyruvate, and the action is to remove a hydrogen molecule. Just an example of an action that is not food breakdown. There are many other types of actions too. An enzyme reaction important with sulfur is phenol sulfotransferase.It involves the transfer of sulfur with a phenol compound.

All enzymes themselves are proteins that consist of amino acids just like all other proteins.

Enzymes That Work on Specific Food Types or Compounds

Specific enzymes work on specific foods. You need the right type of enzyme for the foods you want it to break down. Think of the foods you have problems with and then choose a product that contains at least those types of enzymes. Here is a list of the common enzyme types and foods they act on.

Digestive enzymes are enzymes that break down food into usable material. The major different types of digestive enzymes are:

• amylase – breaks down carbohydrates, starches, and sugars which are prevalent in potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and many snack foods

• lactase – breaks down lactose (milk sugars)
• diastase – digests vegetable starch
• sucrase – digests complex sugars and starches
• maltase – digests disaccharides to monosaccharides (malt sugars)
• invertase – breaks down sucrose (table sugar)
• glucoamylase – breaks down starch to glucose
• alpha-glactosidase – facilitates digestion of beans, legumes, seeds,
roots, soy products, and underground stems

• protease – breaks down proteins found in meats, nuts, eggs, and cheese

• pepsin – breaks down proteins into peptides
• peptidase – breaks down small peptide proteins to amino acids
• trypsin – derived from animal pancreas, breaks down proteins
• alpha – chymotrypsin, an animal-derived enzyme, breaks down proteins
• bromelain – derived from pineapple, breaks down a broad spectrum of proteins, has anti-inflammatory properties, effective over very wide pH range
• papain – derived from raw papaya, broad range of substrates and pH, works well breaking down small and large proteins

• lipase – breaks down fats found in most dairy products, nuts, oils, and meat

• cellulase – breaks down cellulose, plant fiber; not found in humans

• other stuff

• betaine HCL – increases the hydrochloric acid content of the upper digestive system; activates the protein digesting enzyme pepsin in the stomach (does not influence plant- or fungal-derived enzymes)
• CereCalase™ – a unique cellulase complex from National Enzyme Company that maximizes fiber and cereal digestion and absorption of essential minerals; an exclusive blend of synergistic phytase, hemicellulase, and beta-glucanase
• endoprotease – cleaves peptide bonds from the interior of peptide chains
• exoprotease – cleaves off amino acids from the ends of peptide chains
• extract of ox bile – an animal-derived enzyme, stimulates the intestine to move
• fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – helps support the growth of friendly intestinal microbes, also inhibits the growth of harmful species
• L-glutamic acid – activates the protein digesting enzyme pepsin in the stomach
• lysozyme – an animal-derived enzyme, and a component of every lung cell; lysozyme is very important in the control of infections, attacks invading bacterial and viruses
• papayotin – from papaya
• pancreatin – an animal-derived enzyme, breaks down protein and fats
• pancrelipase – an animal-derived enzyme, breaks down protein, fats, and carbohydrates
• pectinase – breaks down the pectin in fruit
• phytase – digests phytic acid, allows minerals such as calcium, zinc,
copper, manganese, etc. to be more available by the body, but does not break down any food proteins
• xylanase – breaks down xylan sugars, works well with grains such as corn

Other general terms for enzymes referring to their general action instead of specific action

  • Endopeptidase: Enzymes that cleave proteins only on the inside
  • Exopeptidase: Enzymes that cleave proteins only on the outside (terminal) part
    • Aminopeptidase: Exopeptidase that cleaves at the amino terminating end
    • Carboxypeptidase: Exopeptidase that cleaves at the carboxy terminating end



Selecting Products
Which Enzymes?
Dosing Guidelines
Mixing Suggestions
Interactions w/ other things
What to Expect Starting
General Trends
At School
Getting Started Step-by-Step
Enzyme Safety

Sensory Integration
Digestive Disorders
Food Sensitivities

Leaky Gut
Bacteria / Yeast

PDD/Autism Spectrum

Autoimmune / Neuro Cond.
Heart/ Vascular Health
Sports Medicine

This independent site is for education and information about digestive enzymes. There is a large need to provide practical and general information on enzyme therapy for a wide range of uses.

Enzymes have been around a very long time. Hopefully this site will help reduce the learning curve.

Ideas, comments, and questions are welcome.

Site Information