Enzymes: What Are Enzymes, Pancreas, Digestion & Liver Function (2023)

What are enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins that help speed up metabolism, or the chemical reactions in our bodies. They build some substances and break others down. All living things have enzymes.

Our bodies naturally produce enzymes. But enzymes are also in manufactured products and food.

What do enzymes do?

One of the most important roles of enzymes is to aid in digestion. Digestion is the process of turning the food we eat into energy. For example, there are enzymes in our saliva, pancreas, intestines and stomach. They break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Enzymes use these nutrients for growth and cell repair.

(Video) Pancreas Function, Enzymes & Role in Digestion

Enzymes also help with:

  • Breathing.
  • Building muscle.
  • Nerve function.
  • Ridding our bodies of toxins.

What are the different types of enzymes?

There are thousands of individual enzymes in the body. Each type of enzyme only has one job. For example, the enzyme sucrase breaks down a sugar called sucrose. Lactase breaks down lactose, a kind of sugar found in milk products.

Some of the most common digestive enzymes are:

  • Carbohydrase breaks down carbohydrates into sugars.
  • Lipase breaks down fats into fatty acids.
  • Protease breaks down protein into amino acids.

Parts of Enzymes

What are the parts of an enzyme?

Each enzyme has an “active site.” This area has a unique shape. The substance an enzyme works on is a substrate. The substrate also has a unique shape. The enzyme and the substrate must fit together to work.

(Video) Liver and pancreatic enzymes explained | AST, ALT, GGT, ALP, Amylase& Lipase

How do temperature and pH affect enzymes?

Enzymes need the right conditions to work. If conditions aren’t right, enzymes can change shape. Then, they no longer fit with substrates, so they don’t work correctly.

Each enzyme has an ideal temperature and pH:

  • pH: Enzymes are sensitive to acidity and alkalinity. They don’t work properly if an environment is too acidic or basic. For example, an enzyme in the stomach called pepsin breaks down proteins. If your stomach doesn’t have enough acid, pepsin can’t function optimally.
  • Temperature: Enzymes work best when your body temperature is normal, about 98.6°F (37°C). As temperature increases, enzyme reactions increase. But if the temperature gets too high, the enzyme stops working. That’s why a high fever can disrupt bodily functions.

Common Conditions & Disorders

What health conditions can enzyme problems cause?

Metabolic disorders are often the result of not having enough of a certain enzyme. Parents can pass them to their children through genes (inherited). Some examples of inherited metabolic disorders include:

  • Fabry disease prevents body from making enzymes (alpha-galactosidase A) that break down fat (lipids).
  • Krabbe disease (globoid cell leukodystrophy) affects enzymes needed for the protective covering (myelin) on nerve cells (Central Nervous System).
  • Maple syrup urine disease affects enzymes needed to break down certain branch chain amino acids.

Other health conditions related to enzyme imbalances include:

(Video) The Top Signs of a Digestive Enzyme Deficiency

How are enzyme tests used to diagnose health conditions?

Your healthcare provider can use a variety of enzyme and protein blood tests to check for certain health conditions. For example, elevated liver enzymes could be a sign of liver disease.

Caring for Your Enzymes

Do I need to take enzyme supplements?

People without chronic health conditions can usually get the enzymes they need from a healthy diet. But, if you have certain health conditions, your healthcare provider may recommend taking enzyme supplements. For instance, many people with EPI may take a digestive enzyme before they eat. This helps their bodies absorb nutrients from food. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any type of enzyme supplement.

Can medications affect enzyme levels?

Some medications affect enzyme levels. For example, antibiotics can kill certain bacteria needed for some enzymes to work their best. This is the reason antibiotics may cause diarrhea. To kill the bacteria making you sick, they also wipe out important good bacteria that aid in digestion.

Statins (medications that lower cholesterol) can raise liver enzymes and muscle enzymes. They may increase the risk of damage to the liver or muscles.

(Video) The Exocrine Pancreas (Enzymes)

When to Call a Doctor

When should I contact my doctor about an enzyme problem?

You won’t know if you have an enzyme problem without a blood test. Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following problems:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Enzymes help facilitate biochemical reactions in our bodies. They aid in everything from breathing to digestion. Having too little or too much of a certain enzyme can lead to health problems. Some people with chronic conditions may need to take enzyme supplements to help their bodies work as they should. Only take enzyme supplements under the supervision of your healthcare provider.


What is the function of the liver and pancreas in digestion? ›

The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Liver. The liver produces bile, a solution that helps you digest fats.

What are the 4 enzymes in digestion? ›

This allows the nutrients from these foods to be easily absorbed into your blood and carried through your body. There are several digestive enzymes, including amylase, maltase, lactase, lipase, sucrase, and proteases.

What are the 4 functions of enzymes? ›

Enzymes include detoxification, muscle building, and breaking down food particles during digestion. Enzymes actually accelerate the rate of a chemical reaction to support life. Enzymes are very helpful in performing important functions of our body.

What causes low pancreatic enzymes? ›

People with EPI don't have enough pancreatic (digestive) enzymes to break down foods and absorb nutrients. It can lead to malnutrition.
Other causes of EPI in adults include:
  • Celiac disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Surgery on the digestive tract, including weight loss surgery.
Jun 10, 2021

How do you keep your pancreas healthy? ›

There are ways you can protect your pancreas and reduce your risk for pancreatitis and other serious health problems, such as EPI.
  1. Limit alcohol consumption. ...
  2. Eat a heart-healthy diet. ...
  3. Exercise regularly and lose excess weight. ...
  4. Skip crash diets. ...
  5. Don't smoke.
Apr 7, 2022

How can I improve my digestive enzymes? ›

Fruits, vegetables, and other foods have natural digestive enzymes. Eating them can improve your digestion. Honey, especially the raw kind, has amylase and protease. Mangoes and bananas have amylase, which also helps the fruit to ripen.

What is the most effective digestive enzyme? ›

There is no single digestive enzyme that is more effective than all others; rather, it's simply a matter of finding the enzyme supplement that contains the enzymes that your body needs the most. What you need will vary based on your diet and your body. Common digestive enzymes include lactase, lipase, and protease.

What are high enzyme foods? ›

Foods that contain natural digestive enzymes include pineapples, papayas, mangoes, honey, bananas, avocados, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kiwifruit and ginger. Adding any of these foods to your diet may help promote digestion and better gut health.

What are four signs that your digestive system isn't working properly? ›

Abdominal bloating. Abdominal pain. A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites. Vomiting undigested food eaten a few hours earlier.

What do digestive enzymes do to your poop? ›

Enzymes don't affect gut motility. They can affect the size of the stools and this may be what most are actually seeing. Enzymes, at some dose, will break foods down more thoroughly such that more of the food is absorbed into the body and not passed out as feces.

What disease is caused by lack of enzymes? ›

MPS: The mucopolysaccharidoses are a group of inherited diseases in which a defective or missing enzyme causes complex sugar molecules to accumulate in cells. As a result, progressive damage is done to the heart, bones, joints, respiratory system and central nervous system.

Is it OK to take digestive enzymes every day? ›

When the production of these enzymes is disrupted, though, you may experience some negative digestive symptoms. Digestive enzyme supplements can help address these symptoms. It's important to take these supplements consistently and in conjunction with your mealtimes.

Where are enzymes located in the body? ›

For example, there are enzymes in our saliva, pancreas, intestines and stomach. They break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Enzymes use these nutrients for growth and cell repair.

What are the 2 most important functions of an enzyme? ›

Enzymes are protein catalysts, meaning they speed up chemical reactions without being used up in the chemical reaction themselves. Although we usually think of enzymes in digestion, breaking down molecules, enzymes are also important for building new molecules inside the cell.

How can you tell if your pancreas is not working properly? ›

Chronic pancreatitis signs and symptoms include: Upper abdominal pain. Abdominal pain that feels worse after eating. Losing weight without trying.
  • Upper abdominal pain.
  • Abdominal pain that radiates to your back.
  • Tenderness when touching the abdomen.
  • Fever.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
Sep 24, 2021

What are the first signs of pancreatic insufficiency? ›

Symptoms of pancreatic insufficiency
  • abdominal pain and tenderness.
  • loss of appetite.
  • feelings of fullness.
  • weight loss and diarrhea.

How do you fix pancreatic enzymes? ›

Keys to a Pancreatic Insufficiency Diet
  1. Get plenty of fluids. It's important to stay hydrated throughout the day, Dr. ...
  2. Eat small, healthy meals more often. ...
  3. Use dietary supplements. ...
  4. Avoid a high-fiber diet. ...
  5. Stop drinking alcohol (and quit smoking, too).
May 9, 2022

What can I drink to cleanse my pancreas? ›

Pancreatic juicing recipes
  • 1 cup arugula + 1/4 cup carrots + one sliced apple + fresh ginger, to taste.
  • 1 cup kale + 1/2 cup blueberries + small handful of almonds.
  • 1 cup spinach + 1/2 cup strawberries + 5 to 10 seedless red table grapes.
May 15, 2019

What food cleanse the pancreas? ›

Eating probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, and others also helps cleanse your pancreas. These foods aim to establish a balance of gut microbiota. Proper gut health is vital for good digestion and detoxification properties. Additionally, you should strive to consume enough protein.

What foods heal pancreas? ›

The best food choices for those suffering from chronic pancreatitis are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nonfat/low fat dairy, and lean cuts of meat. Healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, may be consumed with careful portion control.

Who should not take digestive enzymes? ›

If you have a history of liver or gallbladder disease, or stomach ulcers, then you definitely want to consult a physician before taking digestive enzyme supplements. Digestive enzymes generally don't pose the risk for severe interactions with other drugs.

How can I improve my digestive system in old age? ›

9 Steps to Better Digestion as You Age
  1. Watch What You Eat. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do not only for healthy digestion, but also for your overall health as you age, Dr. ...
  2. Be Active. One of the best habits for healthy digestion is staying active. ...
  3. Eat a Rainbow. ...
  4. Enjoy Probiotics.

Is apple cider vinegar a digestive enzyme? ›

Apple cider vinegar is loaded with enzymes that aid in digestion. While you can take digestive enzymes as a supplement, drinking apple cider vinegar may offer similar benefits for less money.

Do doctors recommend digestive enzymes? ›

A lack of digestive enzymes can lead to certain health conditions, and vice versa. Taking digestive enzyme supplements is currently recommended for people with specific digestive disorders, such as pancreatic insufficiency and lactose intolerance.

What is better probiotics or digestive enzymes? ›

Digestive enzymes may speed up and improve digestion. However, current research suggests that taking a supplement offers the most noticeable benefit for people who have a specific deficiency or need. Probiotics on the other hand offer benefits for almost everyone of all levels of health, age, or gender.

What vegetable has the most enzymes? ›

Raw fruits and vegetables grown in nutrient-rich soils already contain the enzymes needed for us to digest the plants' proteins and carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables with the most enzymes when eaten raw include papayas, mangoes, pineapples, apples, avocados, carrots, grapefruit, spinach, and tomatoes.

Does peanut butter have enzymes? ›

Recently it has also revealed that peanuts are excellent source of compounds like resveratrol, phenolic acids, flavonoids and phytosterols that block the absorption of cholesterol from diet. It is also a good source of Co-enzyme Q10 and contains all the 20 amino acids with highest amount of arginine.

Are bananas high in enzymes? ›

Bananas are delicious fruits that contain high levels of natural enzymes. They contain glucosidases and amylases, two categories of enzymes break down complex carbohydrates such as starch into smaller sugars that your body can absorb with greater ease.

When are digestive problems serious? ›

Call your doctor if you have any of these digestive symptoms: Chronic or unusual abdominal pain. Persistent or severe heartburn. Difficulty swallowing.

Why am I pooping out food I just ate? ›

Passing stool immediately after a meal is usually the result of the gastrocolic reflex, which is a normal bodily reaction to food entering the stomach. Almost everyone will experience the effects of the gastrocolic reflex from time to time. However, its intensity can vary from person to person.

How often should you poop? ›

How often should you poop. You don't need to poop every day to be regular. It's normal and healthy to have a bowel movement anywhere between three times a week to three times a day. If you're producing soft, well-formed logs that aren't hard to push out, your bowels are probably in good shape.

Do you gain weight with digestive enzymes? ›

In fact, a side effect of taking digestive enzymes may actually be weight gain. Since the lipase digestive enzyme variety encourages fat breakdown to help absorption and digestion in the body, taking this enzyme may contribute to weight gain from increased fat absorption.

Can digestive enzymes make your stomach worse? ›

Digestive enzyme supplements also could interact with antacids and certain diabetes medications. They may cause side effects including abdominal pain, gas and diarrhea.

When should I take digestive enzymes? ›

The best time to take digestive enzymes is before you eat—ideally about 10 minutes before—which is enough time for them to reach your stomach and mix with gastric juices. This is because of the cephalic phase of digestion—the mouthwatering that happens when we see food, which triggers pancreatic enzyme release.

What are 3 conditions that affect enzymes? ›

Factors affecting enzyme activity
  • Temperature: Raising temperature generally speeds up a reaction, and lowering temperature slows down a reaction. ...
  • pH: Each enzyme has an optimum pH range. ...
  • Enzyme concentration: Increasing enzyme concentration will speed up the reaction, as long as there is substrate available to bind to.

What happens when your liver doesn't produce enough enzymes? ›

Liver failure occurs when your liver isn't working well enough to perform its functions (for example, manufacturing bile and ridding your body of harmful substances). Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite, and blood in the stool. Treatments include avoiding alcohol and avoiding certain foods.

What health conditions can enzyme problems cause? ›

Various enzyme deficiencies inside lysosomes can result in buildup of toxic substances, causing metabolic disorders including:
  • Hurler syndrome (abnormal bone structure and developmental delay)
  • Niemann-Pick disease (babies develop liver enlargement, difficulty feeding, and nerve damage)
Nov 6, 2020

How do you know if you are lacking digestive enzymes? ›

Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency

Bloating. Diarrhea. Gas. Oily stools (bowel movements)

Do digestive enzymes interfere with medications? ›

Digestive enzymes have no known severe interactions with other drugs.

Are digestive enzymes the same as probiotics? ›

Though they both aid the digestive process, probiotics and digestive enzymes are not the same. Digestive enzymes are molecules which assist in the breakdown of the foods we eat, whereas probiotics are living micro-organisms which live in our gut and positively affect our body/physiological processes.

What would happen if there were no enzymes in the human body? ›

Enzymes are proteins

They act as catalysts, which means that they make biochemical reactions happen faster than they would otherwise. Without enzymes, those reactions simply would not occur or would run too slowly to sustain life. For example, without enzymes, digestion would be impossible.

Can digestive enzymes cause constipation? ›

The most common side effects of digestive enzyme supplements include constipation, nausea, cramps, and diarrhea.

What do enzymes in body do? ›

An enzyme is a kind of protein located within a cell, which catalyses chemical reactions within the body that help sustain life. The function of enzymes is to carry out critical tasks. These involve muscle growth, removing toxins, and tearing down the molecules in food throughout digestion.

What is the most important enzyme in the body? ›

Most of the chemical reactions occur in the stomach and small intestine. In the stomach, pepsin is the main digestive enzyme attacking proteins. Several other pancreatic enzymes go to work when protein molecules reach the small intestine.

What is the most important enzyme? ›

Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, better known by the name Rubisco, is the key enzyme responsible for photosynthetic and chemoautotrophic carbon fixation and oxygen metabolism. Scientists believe it is the most abundant enzyme on the planet.

How do you get enzymes? ›

Fruits, vegetables, and other foods have natural digestive enzymes. Eating them can improve your digestion. Honey, especially the raw kind, has amylase and protease. Mangoes and bananas have amylase, which also helps the fruit to ripen.

What is the function of the liver in digestion? ›

Liver: An organ with many functions, your liver's two main responsibilities in the process of digestion are to make and secrete bile and to process and purify the blood containing newly absorbed nutrients that are coming from the small intestine.

What is the role of the liver in digestion? ›

Your liver continually produces bile. This is a chemical that helps turn fats into energy that your body uses. Bile is necessary for the digestive process. Your liver also creates albumin.

What is the function of the liver in the digestive system? ›

Functions of the liver

All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and creates the nutrients and also metabolizes drugs into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body or that are nontoxic.

What is the role of the liver in digestive system? ›

Within the digestive system, the liver's main role is to process materials absorbed by the small intestine and create the necessary chemicals. Essentially, the liver is the body's chemical factory. It processes nutrients so that they can be used by the rest of the body.

What is the function of the pancreas? ›

Your pancreas creates natural juices called pancreatic enzymes to break down foods. These juices travel through your pancreas via ducts. They empty into the upper part of your small intestine called the duodenum. Each day, your pancreas makes about 8 ounces of digestive juice filled with enzymes.

How do I clean my liver? ›

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Eat a well-balanced diet every day. That's five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, along with fiber from vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Be sure to include protein for the enzymes that help your body detox naturally.

What side is your pancreas on? ›

The right side of your body contains the head of your pancreas. This narrow organ lies along the first segment of your small intestine, called the duodenum. The left side of your body houses the tail of your pancreas.

How to improve liver function? ›

Here are 13 tried and true ways to achieve liver wellness!
  1. Maintain a healthy weight. ...
  2. Eat a balanced diet. ...
  3. Exercise regularly. ...
  4. Avoid toxins. ...
  5. Use alcohol responsibly. ...
  6. Avoid the use of illicit drugs. ...
  7. Avoid contaminated needles. ...
  8. Get medical care if you're exposed to blood.
Jun 24, 2021

How do I know if I have damaged my liver? ›

As the liver becomes more severely damaged, more obvious and serious symptoms can develop, such as: yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice) swelling in the legs, ankles and feet caused by a build-up of fluid (oedema) swelling in your abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid known as ascites.

What are 3 important functions of the liver? ›

The liver is an essential organ of the body that performs over 500 vital functions. These include removing waste products and foreign substances from the bloodstream, regulating blood sugar levels, and creating essential nutrients.

How do you keep your liver healthy? ›

Heed these tips to stay right with your liver.
  1. Be careful about alcohol consumption. If you think only lifelong, falling-down drunks get cirrhosis of the liver — you're mistaken. ...
  2. Wash produce and steer clear of toxins. ...
  3. Prevent hepatitis A, B and C. ...
  4. Watch out for medications and herbs. ...
  5. Exercise and eat right.

What are the 4 functions of the liver? ›

Functions of the liver include:

Filtration. Digestion. Metabolism and Detoxification. Protein synthesis.

Does liver damage cause pain? ›

Liver disease doesn't always cause noticeable signs and symptoms. If signs and symptoms of liver disease do occur, they may include: Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice) Abdominal pain and swelling.

What side is your liver on female? ›

The liver is an organ located in the upper right part of the belly (abdomen). It is beneath the diaphragm and on top of the stomach, right kidney, and intestines. The liver has many functions.

When should you do liver function test? ›

Why it's done
  1. Screen for liver infections, such as hepatitis.
  2. Monitor the progression of a disease, such as viral or alcoholic hepatitis, and determine how well a treatment is working.
  3. Measure the severity of a disease, particularly scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
  4. Monitor possible side effects of medications.
Aug 18, 2021


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