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May 22, 2018  |  Login
By James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.
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Description: Enzymes are protein molecules that are found in every cell. They are required for the life-sustaining enzymatic reactions that occur in the body. Digestive enzymes help to break down food, while metabolic enzymes are involved in energy production, detoxification, immunity, and several other activities. Raw and lightly cooked foods provide enzymes, but there is debate as to whether they really increase the body's endogenous supply. Supplemental enzymes can be taken for a variety of health benefits. There are three main types of supplemental enzymes. Plant enzymes are derived from plants. The most common examples are bromelain from pineapple stems and papain from unripe papayas. Both help you to digest proteins, and bromelain has anti-inflammatory effects when taken on an empty stomach.

Microbial or fungal enzymes (also sometimes labeled as plant enzymes) are derived from the fermentation of fungus. The enzymes are then purified and available for therapeutic use. These types of enzymes can be used as digestive aids. Protease enzymes break down protein, lipase enzymes are for fats, amylase is for carbohydrates, and many others are available to break down other food components. Similar to bromelain, microbial-derived protease enzymes have blood-thinning and anti-inflammatory effects when taken between meals. These types of enzymes tend to have the best stability out of the three categories of enzymes.

The third category is animal enzymes. These enzymes are typically derived from animal organs. For example, pancreatic enzymes are usually derived from a sheep or pig pancreas.


  • Arthritis (protease enzymes taken between meals)
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Cancer
  • Candidiasis
  • Celiac disease
  • Colic
  • Digestive disorders (most kinds)
  • Food sensitivities
  • Infections
  • Sport injuries

Precautions: Side effects are uncommon. Protease enzymes are known to aggravate some users who have an active ulcer or gastritis. People taking blood-thinning medications should check with their doctors first before using enzymes. People with chronic candidiasis may experience yeast die-off symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, bloating, and so on, when they first begin enzyme supplementation.

Dosage: For digestive support, you would usually take 1 to 2 digestive enzyme complexes with each meal. Individual enzymes may be taken between meals for therapeutic effects. Take as directed by a health-care professional.

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