Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]

Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]

For previous posts in this series, follow these links:

Healing Digestion: Part 1 – Restoring the Mucous Layer
Healing Digestion: Part 2 – Digestive Tonics
The Dangers of Acid Blockers: How to Heal Heartburn Naturally {Healing Digestion: Part 3}
3 Essential Facts about Probiotics [Healing Digestion: Part 4]

Enzymes are often the last piece of the puzzle for digestive issues. I became a convert when they stopped my daughter’s chronic tummyaches within 2 days of adding them to our protocol.

For her, it has been the biggest piece of the puzzle and that’s often the case for children.

Enzymes are catalysts within the body that create biochemical reactions.

In other words, they are essential for making everything in our body happen – including digestion.

A Recap of Digestion

When digestion is compromised, our bodies are often not triggered to produce the necessary enzymes to break down food into a usable form.

As we’ve discussed earlier in the series, digestion is a north to south process:

1.  If we are stressed, our bodies will not go into the relaxed state (parasympathetic mode) required for digestion to happen.

2.  When food is only partially chewed, amylase (digestive enzyme that breaks down carbs) and saliva are not released and the food is swallowed as chunks instead of the required ‘applesauce’ texture. (Part 1)

Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]


3.  Hydrochloric acid and pepsin (enzyme that breaks down protein) needs to be released in sufficient quantity to acidify the stomach and initiate the main chemical breakdown before the food is released into the small intestine. (Parts 2 and 3)

4.  And finally, that acidity triggers the small intestine to accept the ‘soupy’ contents from the stomach and release bile from the gall bladder and pancreatic enzymes to break down the nutrients into a form necessary to be of use to the body.

Digestive Enzymes

With all the stress and misfiring our bodies do these days, it’s no wonder that enzymes aren’t released when they’re supposed to and in the correct quantities when they are.

Eating a diet poor in raw and fermented foods (rich in enzymes) compounds the issue.

Since every body process requires enzymatic action, enzymes can be a critical element to healing.

There are 2 types of digestive enzyme supplements available – pancreatic enzymes and a combination of individual enzymes. I work with both in my practice, and bioindividuality determines which one is right for you.

Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]

Fructose Intolerance

If you are dealing with fructose intolerance and not responding to enzyme therapy when eating foods high in fructose, you are likely dealing with a liver deficiency. I will have a complete post on fructose intolerance in the near future.

Enzymes are only a part of the healing journey. There is no one cause and one cure for everyone’s ills.

Dosage and Timing

Enzymes are sensitive to heat and the acidic environment of the stomach, so it’s not recommended to take them in the middle of eating.

Take them either with the beginning of a meal or at the end. At the beginning of the meal, they will begin breaking down the food in the stomach before HCl is released. Taken at the end of a meal, they are more likely to be released into the small intestine where the majority of enzymes so their work.

I suggest trying both ways to see what you respond best to. My daughter requires them at the beginning of her meal, and I can take them either before or after with no ill effects. My clients also vary depending on their needs.

I use a porcine-based pancreatic enzyme for my clients that can only be purchased through a practitioner.

My favorite broad spectrum enzyme formula is available at health foods stores and online (buy it here). It is hypo-allergenic and designed for children with autism, so it’s perfect for little ones and everyone dealing with food allergies and intolerances.

[This post contains affiliate links. It involves no cost to you but provides a small advertising commission to help with the blog’s hefty operating costs and allows me to provide your nutritional therapy advice for free.

Click here for my full advertising disclosure.

A big thank you to all of you who help make this possible.]

List of Some Common Digestive Enzymes

Most enzymes are easily identified by the -ase suffix.

Amylase breaks down starches

Pepsin breaks down proteins into peptides

Lipase breaks down fats

Cellulase breaks down plant fiber (cellulose)

Lactase breaks down milk sugars (lactose)

Further Reading


The Enzyme Cure: How Plant Enzymes Can Help You Relieve 36 Health Problems by Lita Lee, PhD


Jennifer Nervo is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Reiki Master Practitioner & teacher, and Aromatherapist. Her focus is on digestive, nervous, and immune system dysfunction and the fields of functional nutrition & psychoneuroimmunology. She works with all conditions and diseases including environmental and food allergies, autoimmune diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity, diabetes, eczema, anxiety, weight loss as a symptom of dis-ease, and gut-brain disorders like autism.

When she’s not herding her small troupe of monkeys or seeing clients, her free time is packed with researching and perfecting new wellness techniques (her not-so-secret passion). Jennifer is currently a group leader for the newest class of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners out of Ann Arbor, MI, studying for the national board exam in holistic nutrition, and running a combined distance and brick and mortar practice in metro Detroit. She’s also a homeschooling suburbanite, foodie, and mama to two littles and a schnoodle.

12 thoughts on “Digestive Enzymes [Healing Digestion Part 5]”

  • This was very informative. I am really looking forward to reading about liver deficiency….I have been seeing a chiropractor for Nutritional Response Testing for 3 or 4 months and she is giving my digestive enzymes along with other things. I have a lot of food allergies that just developed in the last year. I have avoided fruit for 3 months now (that is her protocol) and yesterday I tested okay for adding it back in but I have been okay with honey (which I only have twice a week) for a long time and now I have developed an allergy to that. I am very frustrated as to why new allergies keep coming up. Some weeks she will test me with food and it will be bad for me and then a few weeks later it is okay and then back again. I am on a strict food rotation diet to try to prevent new allergies from developing (which they did when I thought a food was safe and ate it a lot) and can not have dairy, egg whites, gluten, rice,. corn, cane sugar or honey, Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Your varying responses to food are most likely a result of an overworked immune system. Depending on how overworked it is at the time and what your body is battling, you may either overreact to allergens or your body may be too tired or busy to react at all.

      If you are not already on a gut healing protocol, I would definitely start that right away. Also, look to your stress levels. If your lifestyle or the protocol you are on is causing undue amounts of stress, then your body will not be able to heal properly. I like to take the ‘relax and let’s make it happen together’ approach with my clients. 🙂

      If you’re getting tired of the same old food and too many veggies, try roasting more of them! We usually eat mainly meat and veggies for meals and there are so many veggies that you can roast to make wonderfully delicious! We even roasted broccoli last week that came straight from the frozen broccoli bags. No fuss, no muss and they were super yummy.

  • I’ve been taking enzymes & ox bile since I had my gallbladder removed last year. But I can’t seem to figure out how & when to take them, or if they are even working. This article really helps! Thanks! Also, I know that I have low HCL too. Do you take the HCL pills & digestive enzymes together for meals? It seems like a lot of pills… I already changed my diet to a Traditional diet (WAPF). I’ve worked with a Naturopathic Doctor but I feel like she really isn’t listening to me. Just wondering what your thoughts are. Thanks : )

    • Digestive enzymes should either be taken at the beginning or end of a meal. HCl will kill the enzymes so should not be taken together. Since bile is released after food has been shuttled to the small intestine, I would suggest trying enzymes with your first bite of food, HCl mid-meal, and ox bile at the end to see how it works with your digestive system. If your ox bile and enzymes are combined, take them at the end of your meal or about 15 minutes after you eat if you can remember. Since I work with bioindividuality in my practice, I start with this formula and then tweak it as needed for my clients.

      If you are healing your digestion, you can require the HCl or digestive enzymes for 6-12 months depending on the speed of healing and how much is required, but you’ll definitely to stick with a bile salts replacement permanently.

  • What do you think of aloe vera for digestive healing? A well-respected holistic practitioner recommended it but it caused me to have bloating and diarrhea. I have autoimmune issues, food allergies/sensitivities, h pylori, and other digestive problems. I also can’t eat onions or garlic without blowing up like a balloon – which only started after taking the aloe vera. Could the aloe vera have caused SIBO?


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