What Are Digestive Enzymes and Do You Need Them?

Life as we know it could not exist without enzymes. This includes human life - a fact that most of us probably don’t think about very much. So let us introduce or expand your understanding of the life-giving topic known as enzymes.  It is all about breaking down food into nutrients.  

 What are enzymes?

Enzymes are naturally occurring compounds that act as catalysts to speed up complex biochemical processes in all living animals and plants. Enzymes control thousands of metabolic activities in the human body. This includes digesting our food so that our cells have the nutrients they need to function and assisting the immune system in fighting disease. 

Are there different types of enzymes? 

Yes, there are three broad classifications of enzymes – food, digestive and metabolic. The first two types of enzymes have to do with digestion processes whereas metabolic enzymes have to do with processes within our cells. 

Of the three types of enzymes, only two out of three can be supplemented to make up for a deficiency. 

Food enzymes can be supplemented by eating fresh, whole foods.

Digestive enzymes can be supplemented by taking a quality product designed to support the human body’s digestive processes. 

Metabolic enzymes - there is no known method to replace or supplement a metabolic enzyme deficiency to date. 

Deficiency in both food and digestive enzymes may be creating your stomach and bowel problems. 

What are food enzymes? 

Food enzymes are found naturally in raw, whole, unprocessed foods. Food enzymes exist in food naturally and act as catalysts to help us digest our food.

You may have noticed for example that if you bruise a banana, apple or avocado, the food turns soft or mushy in a short period of time and starts to decay. Why? Fresh, whole foods spoil rapidly when their cell walls are crushed. This is because naturally occurring enzymes within the whole foods are released when the food is bruised that causes the food to begin to ‘digest itself’.

The crunching motion of our teeth also activates enzymes in fresh, whole foods. This breaks down the food’s cell walls and releases enzymes within the food to help us begin the digestion process. If you practice the wisdom to ‘chew your food until it is a liquid’ you do yourself and your digestion system a huge kindness.

It is important to understand that there are no food enzymes in processed food, only whole foods. Basically, “processed,” means any food that arrives in a can, box or bag that has been cooked, sterilized, or treated before packaging. All enzymes are removed from food that is processed to extend shelf life. That’s why you will find processed foods located in the center isles of supermarkets and whole foods located in the refrigerated sections. 

Finally, because food enzymes exist naturally only in whole, raw foods, they cannot ‘be purchased separately’ from the whole food that contains them.

What are digestive enzymes?  

Our bodies produce digestive enzymes to chemically break down food particles into smaller molecules. Digestive enzymes exist as catalysts produced within our bodies to help us absorb the nutrients that are in our food. 

Different digestive organs secrete different enzymes. Digestive enzymes are secreted within our body in our stomach, small intestine, and pancreas. Chewing - the first step in the digestion process - mixes our food with our saliva. Our salvia also contains digestive enzymes.

While supplementing vitamins and minerals are important to our health, they will not be able to do their job of transporting nutrients without digestive enzymes. It is like adding fertilizer to your garden without watering the plants. Hence if you have an enzyme deficiency, taking vitamin or mineral supplements without addressing the enzyme deficiency is a waste of money. In addition, if you are enzyme deficient, no amount of whole, unprocessed foods will do the job without the aid of digestive enzymes. 

See ‘How do I know if I am enzyme deficit?’ below

What are metabolic enzymes? 

Metabolic enzymes are produced within our cells to perform complex cellular processes. This allows our bodies to accomplish basic everyday activities such as breathing, moving or thinking. Lack of metabolic enzymes is often a hereditary problem. 

Cystic Fibrosis, a common genetic lung disease, is an example of a metabolic enzyme deficiency. Or, if you have watched the 1992 movie, Lorenzo’s Oil, the boy suffered from a rare neurological disease because he lacked a metabolic enzyme that caused weakness, weight loss, coma and ultimately death. Scientists have only identified approximately 3,000 of the many thousands of metabolic enzymes that keep us alive.

How do I know if I am enzyme deficit? 

To learn the answer, here are the top four questions to ask yourself:

Do you bloat after meals?

Do you suffer from chronic constipation or diarrhea?

Do you develop excessive gas or abdominal cramping?

Do you experience heartburn or acid reflux?

If you answered yes to one or more of these, it is an indication that you are not digesting your food properly. Enzymes can help you find relief.

Here are more signs and symptoms you may be enzyme deficit:

GERD/ Heartburn

• Insomnia / Irritability


• Anxiety or Depression

Bloating after eating

• Stiff sore Joints


• Racing heartbeat


How do I know if I need enzymes?

If you’ve been frustrated by over the counter products, and haven’t found success, there is still hope. Our enzymes have been the answer for many, many people. Chances are you have not found the correct enzymes for your stomach and bowel problem. The enzymes we use are professionally formulated for the human body and tested by hundreds of thousands of happy stomachs and bowels! 

If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of enzyme deficiency above, you may benefit from the Digestive Relief Center’s Enzyme Profile Testing. You can schedule a consultation with Dr. Patrick in our Chico, California office to find out if this approach is right for you by calling 530-899-8741.

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Digestion Relief Center 

2639 Forest Avenue, Suite 120 Chico, CA 95928


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