Enzyme Basics

About this site:

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.

~ Disclaimer ~



Selecting Enzyme Products

There are two main considerations in getting the best results with digestive enzymes:
(adapted excerpt from book 'Enzymes for Autism and other Neurological Conditions')


Type of Enzyme

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:







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



Enzymes work on contact. So the enzymes must be in physical contact with the food or substance in order to work. Enzymes usually come in capsules you can open or swallow, or as enterically coated tablets. The capsules are preferable because they can either dissolve in the stomach releasing the enzymes, or you can open the capsules and mix the enzymes with any food or drink and take at the beginning of a meal. This allows the enzymes to be breaking down food in the stomach before it passes in into the small intestine.

Capsules are either vegetable-based (veggie) or gelatin-based. Both types will dissolve in your gut. Some people find that they get much better results from veggie capsules if they wait about 20-30 minutes to allow more time for the veggie capsules to dissolve. This has not been an issue with gelatin capsules because they dissolve right away at body temperature, whereas the veggie capsules may not. Other people find they get best results by opening the capsules and mixing the enzymes with the food before eating. You may want to experiment a little to see which method gives you best results.