Digest This

What are Digestive Enzymes – and What Do They Do?

August 25, 2022 by Enzymedica Team
What are Digestive Enzymes – and What Do They Do?

Digestive enzymes help break down food in the digestive tract. Enzymes are produced naturally by the body, but they can also be found in certain foods and supplements. They are needed for the chemical reactions that turn nutrients from food into the substances your body needs. Each digestive enzyme has a specific function. For example, amylase enzymes break down carbohydrates. Different organs like your pancreas, gallbladder and liver also release enzymes.1

Sometimes the body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes to break down the food you eat. This impacts how you make use of the nutrition in your food, your energy levels and your comfort after eating. In this article, we’ll talk about how digestive enzymes work, what they do – and how they can help prevent and eliminate occasional digestive discomforts, including gas, bloating and indigestion.*

  • Digestive enzymes are found in your saliva and every part of your GI tract.
  • Each enzyme targets a specific nutrient or molecule, like fat, carbs, gluten or glucose.
  • Digestive enzymes can be taken daily or when you eat a “problem” food.*
  • Digestive enzymes like Digest Gold® beat the bloat, for no gas or discomfort after eating.*
  • Since 1998, Enzymedica has offered the highest quality digestive enzyme supplements.

What are Digestive Enzymes?

Your body makes digestive enzymes to help break down the foods you eat. They “unlock” the nutrients in food so you body can make use of them. Your salivary glands, stomach, small intestine and pancreas are among the organs that produce different digestive enzymes. If your body doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, the nutrients in your food stay “locked up” and go to waste!2

Want to nourish and fuel your body to feel your best? A healthy diet is the first step. But then you need digestive enzymes! Your body has to assimilate or break down those nutrients into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and transported to the bloodstream and into cells and tissues. For that, your body needs adequate supplies of digestive enzymes.

Enzymes are biologically active proteins. The human body uses thousands of them to facilitate chemical reactions that all your cells, organs and tissues need for everyday bodily functions such as breathing, digestion, metabolism and more.3 Even though your body products digestive enzymes, it might not be enough to properly digest a meal! When food is left partially undigested, it causes fermentation in the gut. This results in uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, indigestion and even constipation or diarrhea. This can happen even when you eat “healthy,” “clean” or unprocessed foods.

What impacts digestive enzyme production?

  • age
  • personal habits
  • enzyme deficiencies (gluten or lactose intolerance)4
  • overeating

Thankfully, digestive enzyme supplements can help. These formulas help counteract incomplete digestion and prevent the symptoms associated with enzyme insufficiency. At the same time, they help increase energy and absorption of vital nutrients.

What Do Digestive Enzymes Do?

Digestive enzymes break down your food so all the good stuff inside can be put to use. Think of it like making change with dollars and cents.

Enzymes break down food

Macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates and fibers) in your food are like dollar bills. Digestive enzymes are like coins. Have you ever had the money to buy something but not had correct change? While rare in today’s digital world, it still happens: If you can’t make change, you’ll get whatever item you wanted to buy but you’ll waste money if you can’t get all your change. The same thing happens in your digestive system.

If you eat a meal but don’t have enough digestive enzymes, your body can’t fully break down the nutrients. For example, the proteins in your steak or tofu can’t get broken down into amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Plus, your body can’t get to the micronutrients (like vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc.) – and can’t keep that food moving through your GI tract at an optimal speed.

This can cause fermentation in your gut, which is what can lead to digestive complaints like gas, bloating, premature fullness and nausea.

Modern diets fall short

Whole, unprocessed foods take more energy and effort for your body to digest. They also deliver more for that effort, since they generally are more nutrient-dense than processed foods. (Convenience foods require less energy but provide less nutrition.

Enzymes are little cellular machines that know how to optimize digestion, so you use less energy to break down food and assimilate nutrients. Optimal digestion, complete with sufficient digestive enzymes, can mean the difference between feeling great after a meal and feeling yucky.

Enzymes can help conserve energy*

Every bodily process takes energy, including digestion. But enzymes are catalysts for chemical reactions – when they’re there, those reactions take less energy. Whether it’s digesting all those game-day snacks without needing a nap or eating a bagel without feeling bloated, enzymes make the job easier. Enzymes make sure everyone has what they need, when they need it, to get their job done easily and efficiently.

When Should You Take Digestive Enzymes?

Since digestive enzymes are used to break down the foods you eat, they are taken with meals. Some people take them with every meal, while others take them only when they eat a food that gives them trouble.

As with any dietary supplement, you should take digestive enzymes based on the Suggested Use information provided on the package. Consult with a physician prior to use if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have a medical condition.

Answers to Your Questions about Digestive Enzymes

Do digestive enzymes work?

To work properly and efficiently, digestive enzymes need to be able to withstand the diverse pH levels within the digestive tract. That’s why we use Thera-blend® technology in our formulas.

Some enzymes on the market are active in one pH environment in the digestive tract. Your GI tract is a diverse and active place, and the pH (acidity or alkalinity) isn't the same all the way through. Our goals for optimal digestion include providing multiple enzymes that remain active throughout the stages of digestion. Enzymedica has formulated proprietary Thera-blend® combinations of enzymes that are active in the many pH levels. This allows the enzymes to continue working as food travels through the digestive tract. It helps maximize digestion and nutrient absorption.

For you, Thera-blend® ensures the enzymes can help break down food in the stomach, assist with nutrient absorption in the small intestine and support immune and whole-body health in the microbiome.*

So, the major difference with Enzymedica products is that we offer the most complete range of enzymes. We include some that are not found in lower-priced products. 

We know that it's important for supplements to actually do what they're supposed to do. Thera-blend®  technology means you're getting your money's worth.

What are examples of digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes that help to break down foods are named based on their function. They typically end in “ase.” For example, lactase breaks down lactose, protease breaks down protein and lipase breaks down lipids (dietary fat).

Digestion actually starts before you ever take a bit of food. When your plate arrives at the table and you catch a whiff of that mushroom risotto or juicy pork chop with asparagus, what happens? Your mouth waters as your salivary glands get ready to start digesting food. Saliva offers more than moisture; it also delivers your first round of digestive enzymes to help you start to break down food by chewing it. From there, different macronutrients are digested at different stages, with the help of the stomach, small intestine, pancreas and liver.

These are the digestive enzymes for each macronutrient:

Amylase for carbohydrates:

Amylase enzymes break down carbohydrates into sugars. The body uses glucose (a sugar) for energy. If you lack adequate amounts of these enzymes, undigested carbohydrates end up fermenting farther along in your GI tract. That can lead to occasional gas and bloating.

Lipase for dietary fats:

Lipase enzymes help break down dietary fat. They also help break down fat-soluble nutrients (i.e., vitamins A, D, E and K; omega-3 and other fatty acids). Without adequate lipase enzymes, your body can’t make full use of these nutrients, which play important roles in immune, bone, brain and cardiovascular health.

Protease for proteins:

Proteases are enzymes that break down proteins into their building blocks, or amino acids. Proteases help you build healthy muscle mass and remove dead and dying cells, tissues and toxins. These enzymes are important crucial for cognitive support and cellular regeneration.

Cellulase for fiber:

Cellulase enzymes break down cellulose (dietary fiber). Cellulase is special because it comes from the microflora in your gut. It’s not made by your body itself, unlike the other enzymes. Without adequate amounts of cellulase, your body isn’t able to make full use of fiber and the phytochemicals found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains and other plants.

Those aren’t the only ones! These are the enzymes you’ll find in Enzymedica digestive enzyme products:


Nutrient Target

Alpha Galactosidase

Cellulose (plant fiber)

Amylase Thera-blend®

Carbohydrates (in plant foods)


 ATP, magnesium citrate, phytase & CoQ10

Beta Glucanase

Glucose in grains (barley, oats & wheat)

Cellulase Thera-blend® 

Fiber (in fruits, veggies, beans & grains)


Gluten (wheat protein)


Carbs into glucose


Hemicellulose (a carb) found in plant foods


Sucrose into simple sugars (glucose & fructose)


Lactose (milk sugar)

Lipase Thera-blend®

Dietary fats (both healthy & not-so-healthy ones)

Maltase (Diastase)

Carbs, malt & grain sugars into glucose


Carbs like pectin (in many fruits & vegetables)


Phytic acid (in plants like grains & legumes)

Protease Thera-blend® 

Proteins (from animal, plant & dairy sources)


Soluble fiber & phenols


Do digestive enzymes help you poop?

Digestive enzymes are not laxatives, but they do support healthy digestion – and pooping is the end result of that process. (Let’s talk about poop – really!)

By helping you better break down the foods you eat, digestive enzymes support your entire digestive process. Everything in your body is connected, so supporting healthy digestion can cause ripples throughout other areas of your well-being.*

If you are interested in a product to reduce occasional constipation and improve regularity, check out our Kiwi Regularity Chews.*

Who should take digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes can be taken with every meal to help break down macronutrients, speed up digestion, boost energy and reduce discomforts like occasional bloating, gas and indigestion.* They can also be taken only when eating “problem” foods, such as bean burritos, ice cream or pasta.  

Talk to your health-care provider before taking any new dietary supplement. Digestive enzymes can offer support for those who experience food intolerances. However, they are not intended for those who have food allergies. Digestive enzymes are also not intended to replace a gluten-free diet for individuals with celiac disease.

This blog post will help you distinguish between food allergies and food intolerances, while learning about the most common foods that can cause intolerances.

What are the best digestive enzymes?

Our Digest Gold® has been the #1 digestive enzyme supplement in America for over 10 years running. Trust the best – we are the #1 seller of digesting enzymes in the USA!

The best digestive enzymes list units of activity – not weights! (Enzymedica digestive enzymes always list these units.) Quality enzymes don’t list measurements by weights (e.g., mg or g). Enzymes need to be measured by activity levels, using unique standards for each type. If a supplement doesn’t list the enzyme activity units of every single enzyme, you’re wasting your money.  

There is an internationally recognized standard for testing enzyme activity units called the Food Chemical Codex (FCC). The FCC is a collection of standards for the purity and identity of food ingredients. Each type of enzyme has its own FCC unit activity abbreviation, and quality enzymes should list the number of units, not their weight (such as mg).

Enzymedica Digestive Enzyme Products You Might Like

Here are a few of the various digestive enzyme formulas that we have available.

Digest Gold® breaks down your biggest meals. Take daily with each meal to enjoy the foods you love and beat the bloat – with no gas or discomfort!* With bloat-busting, high-potency enzymes, Digest Gold® is the gold standard for digestive enzymes, as proven by its ongoing status as the number one best-selling enzyme formula in the US for over 10 years and counting. With Thera-blend® enzymes, it quickly breaks down carbs, fats, fiber and protein. Plus, it prevents that too-full feeling and converts food into fuel with ATPro® for greater energy!*

Digest delivers full-range, everyday enzymes. This formula helps you enjoy the foods you love when taken daily with each meal. It eliminates bloat (for no gas or discomfort)! Digest effectively breaks down carbs, fats, fiber and protein. It speeds digestion and helps absorb nutrients. And it converts daily meals into all-day energy.

Digest Basic® breaks down the simplest meals – so you can enjoy the foods you love.* Take it daily with each meal to ease bloat (for no gas or discomfort). These essential, easy-on-you enzymes gently and effectively break down fats, fiber, protein, carbs and hard-to-digest foods. Digest Basic prevents indigestion and converts food into vital energy.

Digest Spectrum® breaks down all your problem foods.* It’s for all food intolerances!* Take daily with each meal for no gas or discomfort to enjoy the foods you love.* With enzymes for multiple food intolerances, this specialized, high-potency formula breaks down gluten, phenols, lactose and casein.* A repeat award winner, this formula relieves digestive discomfort from all major food intolerances.* Not sure which foods are causing your intolerance? Reach for Digest Spectrum.*

Here are some of our specialized digestive enzyme formulas:

Bean Assist® breaks down gas-inducing foods.* When taken daily with each meal, you can enjoy the foods you love and stop gas. That means no bloat or discomfort! Ideal for the nights when chili, cabbage rolls or loaded burritos are on the menu. These fast-acting enzyme breaks down complex carbs in fiber-rich foods like beans, cabbage and broccoli.* The formula stops gas and bloating before it starts – and makes meals easier to digest.*

GlutenEase® breaks down breads, pastas and grains.* Enjoy the foods you love with no bloat or discomfort. Take daily with each meal for gluten intolerance. This blend of powerful gluten-intolerance enzymes efficiently breaks down both gluten and casein. It also protects against hidden gluten in meals.*

GlutenEase® Extra Strength offers double the digestive power for maximum potency to quickly break down foods with both gluten and casein.* It guards against hidden gluten in meals – with our most advanced gluten intolerance enzymes.

DairyAssist® breaks down dairy sugar and protein.* Take DairyAssist® daily with each meal to enjoy ice cream and cheese – no bloat or discomfort.* It contains dual-action, dairy intolerance enzymes that quickly break down both lactose (dairy sugar) and casein (dairy protein) for twice the digestive relief.* DairyAssist® makes every part of dairy more easily digested.*

Lacto® breaks down your dairy-heavy meals, so you can enjoy the foods you love.* Formulated for lactose intolerance, take daily with each meal for no bloating, gas or discomfort!* With maximum-strength dairy intolerance enzymes, Lacto is packed with powerful enzymes for meals that contain lots of dairy.* It breaks down lactose (dairy sugar), casein (dairy protein) and dairy fats for complete meal digestion.* Grab this one before you dig into that cheese board!

Lypo Gold® breaks down fatty foods! Enjoy the foods you love and take it daily with each meal to relieve discomfort, for no gas or bloating.* These fat-digestion enzymes are keto-friendly.* They quickly break down all fatty foods, from healthy to greasy ones, along with protein and carbs. Whether you have a gallbladder and not, Lypo Gold has your back!

VeggieGest® breaks down all vegetables – so you can enjoy the veggies you love! Take daily with each meal to prevent bloat for no gas or discomfort. This whole-food meal enzyme blend actively breaks down the complex carbs in vegetables, grains and legumes to enhance nutrient absorption. It’s great for vegetarian and vegan diets as well as any diet that’s rich in whole foods that are unprocessed.

Note: Digestive enzyme supplements are not suited for individuals with allergies or celiac disease. Food allergies are immune reactions. A food intolerance is an enzyme deficiency. A dietary supplement such as Digest Spectrum® works best for individuals with known food intolerance reactions or those looking to provide support for cross contamination when eating away from home.

Why Choose Enzymedica Digestive Enzyme Supplements

Since 1998, Enzymedica been focused on one mission: Making great health easy for everyone. You can trust that every Enzymedica product is always clean, sustainable and effective. We scour the globe to source only the purest natural ingredients and keep all the artificial junk out. Every batch is tested for purity, so you can rest assured that what we list on the label is what is actually in each and every bottle. Plus, we are proud to be the very first supplement brand to be certified by the Clean Label Project, which ensures our products are free of over 130 different contaminants. We use vegan, vegetarian and Kosher ingredients whenever possible.

We know that creating the world’s most powerful supplements doesn’t happen by accident. We independently verify that all our products meet our stringent standards. We always partner with world-class researchers and suppliers, and we turn to the latest research and technology to improve our products – just for you.

We believe that the planet's well-being is as important as our own. We believe ecological balance is both good business and a way of life.

When it comes to overall wellness of your body, mind and spirit, digestion is key. At Enzymedica, the leading brand digestive enzyme supplements in America, we offer exceptional solutions for natural digestive health and wellness. Every one of our products is uniquely formulated to be as efficacious as possible.


1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31334962/

2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27753218/

3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK9921/

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4923703/