Understanding Digestion

Digestion begins in the mouth where we physically breakdown foods with saliva and by chewing. Food then travels to the stomach where it is digested by the acidic stomach juices. Food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine. Here digestive enzymes from the small intestine and pancreas are added. These enzymes aid in the digestive process by binding to receptors that help it match with the specific macronutrient. Enzymes aid in biological and chemical reactions in the body. Digestive enzymes break down macronutrients so that the body can utilize them. These enzymes come from the salivary glands, the stomach, the intestines, and the pancreas. 


Digestive enzymes treat digestive problems and other conditions such as anorexia, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, parasitic infections, cystic fibrosis, and pancreatitis. Herbs can improve digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes, promoting benefits such as increasing healing, reducing water retention, reducing inflammation, enhancing the immune system, and reducing the risk of malnutrition. Enzyme therapy has been used to reduce the adverse effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in cancer treatment but might well designed studies still need to be done. Children with autism spectrum disorder who have used enzyme therapy reported improvement in emotional response, and gastrointestinal symptoms.  Supplemental oral enzymes have serves as substitutes for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat inflammation-related conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. But again more studies need to be done to test the effectiveness. 


Enzyme therapy consists of plant and animal enzymes used to stimulate the digestive process and improve the body's metabolism.


”The seven categories of food enzymes and their activities:


  • Amylase: breaks down starches
  • Cellulase: breaks down cellulose
  • Lactase: breaks down lactose (milk sugar)
  • Lipase: breaks down fats
  • Maltase: breaks down maltose (malt sugar)
  • Protease: breaks down proteins
  • Sucrase: breaks down sucrose (table sugar)”

     (McNutty 2020) 



Enzyme supplements are arrived from plants such as pineapple and papaya and from the organs of cows and pigs, then distributed in tablet or capsule form. Pancreatic enzymes can be given by injection.  Nondigestive ailments require enzymes to be taken an hour before meals. Digestive ailments require enzymes to be taken immediately before meals with fluids. Pancreatic enzymes are taken with vitamin A for effectiveness. 


The pancreas is a digestive organ that produces enzymes required for the digestion and absorption of food. Chymotrypsin or protease is a digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins. It is produced in the pancreas but can be taken as an enzyme supplement to improve health, digestion, and aid in the treatment of various diseases. Chymotrypsin works by catalyzing peptide bonds of proteins in the small intestine with the addition of water. Although chymotrypsin will not digest blood proteins due to protective factors that block the enzyme.


Chymotrypsin supplements come fresh hog, beef, or oxen pancrea and available orally, topically, or by injection for life-threatening situations. Creams and ointments are used on dead tissue resulting from burns, wounds, and abscesses. Chymotrypsin can be taken before, during, or after meals, and before going to bed at night to improve digestion. For inflammatory or chronic conditions, chymotrypsin is taken on an empty stomach an one hour before meals or at least two hours after meals. Chronic conditions such as arthritis will take one to three months before any noticeable change in condition.


As a naprapath, nutritional counseling is part of the treatment. Use of vitamins and supplements are required to help the body heal and recover at a much more rapid pace. It is crucial to understand how digestive enzymes work, as many patients do not know they have food allergies, know that gas and bloating on a regular basis is not normal. Most will just pass it off until a major problem arises. It is good to consult with patients on their dietary habits and give them much needed information on how the body digests food and utilizes it for recovery not just energy. 



Enzymes. (2009, January 1). Human Atlas. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CT2622110172/HWRC?u=lirn33148&sid=HWRC&xid=0338d3a0


McNulty, M., & DeShantz-Cook, L. C. (2020). Enzyme Therapy. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (5th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 946-948). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7947800319/HWRC?u=lirn33148&sid=HWRC&xid=3eab77fa


Sharp, K., & Blake, S., ScD. (2020). Digestive Enzymes. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (5th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 864-867). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7947800293/HWRC?u=lirn33148&sid=HWRC&xid=225787cc


Sims, J., & Smith, F., ND. (2020). Chymotrypsin. In D. S. Hiam (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (5th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 651-654). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX7947800218/HWRC?u=lirn33148&sid=HWRC&xid=e7a27dd8

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published