Digestive Enzymes

Eric Bakker N.D.May 29, 2022

Digestive enzymes differ from systemic enzymes, in that they are designed to be taken just before, with or during meals. They complement our own digestive enzymes, generally produced by the stomach and the pancreas. Digestive enzyme supplementation can aid in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and may provide benefit in disorders in which a compromised digestion may be involved.

Eric Bakker Naturopath » Recipes » Digestive Enzymes

Digestive Enzymes

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes differ from systemic enzymes, in that they are designed to be taken just before, with or during meals. They complement our own digestive enzymes, generally produced by the stomach and the pancreas. Digestive enzyme supplementation can aid in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and may provide benefit in disorders in which a compromised digestion may be involved.

Digestive enzymes are those enzymes found in the body that function as biological catalysts to begin the breakdown of foods so that the important nutrients in the food can be properly absorbed and utilized. All food contains nutrients and potential nutritional value; however, until enzymes start the digestive process, the nutrients are locked up in the cellular structure and are not yet available to be absorbed by the body.

Proper and complete digestion is essential in maintaining good health because without digestion, the nutrients you consume from the food you eat won’t be adequately absorbed. Digestive enzymes also play a key role in gastrointestinal health because they can exert a powerful effect in addressing a full range of commonly recognised gastrointestinal disturbances, including intestinal irritation, maldigestion, malabsorption, intestinal hyperpermeability, gut dysbiosis, and food allergies and sensitivities. Clinical experience with the use of digestive enzymes has shown that these conditions can be supported by the use of broad-spectrum enzyme formulations.

I recommend digestive enzymes for most all of patients who come in complaining of bloating, burping, flatulence and will commonly place any patient over the age of 50 on a trial course of digestive enzymes for a month. A digestive enzyme supplement, especially a good pancreatic enzyme formula, is one of the most important supplements in my clinic. Most all patients come back telling me how much better they feel – their bowel function improves (stool texture and frequency are improved), their bloating improves, their flatus reduces and over the course of two to three months there are numerous benefits such as increased energy, improved mood and cognition as well as a noticeable improvement with their sleeping pattern. Many patients you see on a daily basis will be eating a reasonably good diet, but due to stressful lifestyle will be experiencing an impaired digestion.

Digestive Enzymes Are Commonly Insufficient

The human body naturally produces digestive enzymes; however, the following situations can leave an individual lacking in necessary enzymes:

  • Nutritional deficiency adversely impacts enzymes
  • Enzyme production commonly decreases with age
  • Cooking of foods destroys naturally occurring enzymes that work with human digestive enzymes
  • Stress commonly depletes enzymes
  • Illness inhibits enzyme production
  • Injury can tax enzyme levels

You will discover that many patients in fact suffer from hypochlorhydria, and the problem with hypochlorhydria is that the symptoms of over and under acidity are very similar, with their doctor commonly prescribing acid blockers when the patient complains of heartburn or an upper GI problem. Digestive enzymes are complex proteins involved in digestion that stimulate chemical changes in other substances. Digestive enzymes include pancreatic enzymes, plant-derived enzymes, and fungal-derived enzymes.

There are generally three classes of digestive enzymes:

  • Proteolytic enzymes to digest protein
  • Lipases to digest fats in your diet
  • Amylases to digest carbohydrates

Poor diet, regular alcohol intake, chronic antacid use, stress and normal aging often result in the stomach making less acid. The exocrine pancreas, responsible for secreting a number of digestive enzymes and sodium bicarbonate, can also produce less of these enzymes because of a number of health conditions. When it comes to supplementation, most patients are not sure which enzymes are needed. And you will dicover that in most cases, a multi- or broad-spectrum enzyme product would be the best choice. Broad-spectrum enzyme products help digest all food groups including proteins, fats, starches and other carbohydrates, sugars, celluloses, and fiber.

Different Kinds Of Digestive Enzymes For Different Purposes

I would routinely tend to give a digestive enzyme formula that targets the stomach (high in betaine HCL and pepsin) routinely for persons over the age of 50 or to those patients I typically would expect to have hypochlorhydria (underactive stomach), such as people with poor dental health, those who drink alcohol, eat take away food regularly, live stressful lives, etc. A comprehensive digestive enzyme support formula that has its action in the stomach and duodenum is best, but it also helps to prime the pancreas to do its job more efficiently. The other digestive enzyme I use typically supports the stomach, pancreas and small intestine and in a more comprehensive level of support. This is the formula I tend to use more commonly than the stomach enzyme with men, women and children. The tablets are easily taken three times daily with meals.

Vegetarian Digestive Enzymes

For those who are vegetarian or vegan and who desire a 100 percent vegetarian digestive enzyme, there are products are also available, and while these enzymes are not as powerful as the ones I’ve mentioned above, they still are still a most useful nutritional adjunct for those patients who wish to supplement their diet with enzymes that are plant and not animal based, and are suitable for starches, proteins, fats, and cellulose, a dietary fibre.

Clinical Indications For Digestive Enzymes

  • Countless digestive issues. Digestive enzymes are very useful adjunct to support the digestive processes for those with pancreatitis, indigestion, IBD (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis) as well as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), constipation, celiac disease, flatulence, burping, fullness after meals, and various other digestive complaints.
  • Food allergies. Taking a digestive aid with each meal can assist the stomach and pancreas in digesting food properly, thus alleviating many of the symptoms of poor digestion. Proper digestion of proteins can also help prevent food allergies, which can begin when proteins are not properly digested; i.e., improperly digested proteins are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, creating a constant irritation of the immune system, a circumstance that has been linked to allergies, asthma, eczema, and a number of autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis.
  • Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid). I suspect this frequently not only in middle aged and elderly, but in young persons with eczema, asthma, and very commonly in autism. 100% of patients in my clinic presenting with acne rosacea get treated with digestive enzymes. All male patients who complain of bloating, fullness after meals and those who like red meat and a drink will often be recommended digestive enzymes.
  • Liver and gallbladder issues. Digestive enzymes are indicated for indigestion or malabsorption. A patient with liver problems or gallstones will also benefit. Proper digestion of fats helps the body absorb essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, and the correct digestion of carbohydrates can prevent gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
  • Weight loss. Digestive enzymes are also a good choice for those on a weight-loss program. Optimisation of the digestive system, will mean better food utilisation, foods will be broken down, absorbed as well as excreted more efficiently. This leads to better eliminations, and as you lose weight you will want to ensure your digestive system is in peak condition to maximise your body’s ability to burn fat and metabolise it.
  • Nails, hair and skin: Persons with flaky, weak nails and thin lack lustre hair may well benefit. All patients with these complains will receive digestive enzymes in my clinic with most positive outcomes.

“Eighty percent of our body’s energy is expended by the digestive process. If you are run down, under stress, living in a very hot or very cold climate, pregnant or a frequent traveler, extra enzymes are required by your body. Because our entire system functions through enzymatic action, we must supplement our enzymes. Ageing deprives us of our ability to produce necessary enzymes. The medical profession tells us that all disease is due to a lack or imbalance of enzymes.  Our very lives are dependent upon enzymes making supplementation very advantageous”

(Dr. Dick Fuller – The Healing Power of Enzymes)


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Discussion (1 comment)

  1. Do you have a particular brand you recommend? I recently tried Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes and after three days of taking one per day had bad heartburn and constipation, which I didn’t have before. Some people in Amazon reviews of this product said they just pushed through those symptoms and felt better later, but I wonder if it’s just not the right product for me. I have been treating Candida Krusei for three years with Canxida and other supplements, but haven’t used digestive enzymes.

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