Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Health News

Spotlight on Enzymes

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

If your body’s lacking certain enzymes, your health will suffer.

Your entire body is powered by enzymes-tiny proteins in each cell that facilitate numerous chemical reactions. Even as you read this, these compounds are responsible for everything from digesting foods to making hormones to breathing, thinking, and speaking. Though there are thousands of them, enzymes can be divided into two basic categories:

  • Metabolic enzymes are responsible for regulating the biochemical reactions that keep your body functioning, including toxin removal, production of energy, and tissue repair.
  • Digestive enzymes, secreted by digestive organs, break down food and allow nutrients to be transported into the bloodstream.

Enzyme Sources

Digestive enzymes can come from plants, animals, or microbes. The vast majority of enzymes you’ll find are plant-based. Some digestive enzyme formulas also contain hydrochloric acid, which can also help with digestive issues.

Animal-sourced enzymes include pancreatin, trypsin, and chymotrypsin. Also called proteolytic enzymes, they are generally used to help treat inflammation-related disorders. Proteolytic enzymes help break up protein into shorter fragments. Studies suggest that they can help reduce inflammation and pain, especially neck pain and pain from osteoarthritis and postherpetic neuralgia from shingles. They are also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders, presumably by digesting protein completely, thereby preventing the release of undigested food particles into the bloodstream where they can wreak havoc with the immune system. One of the strongest proteolytic enzymes for treating pain and inflammation is serrapeptase.

Do You Need Enzymes?

Some of the most common signs of enzyme deficiency include:

  • Feeling of excessive fullness or bloating after meals
  • Feeling like food just sits in your stomach after meals
  • Chronic gas or heartburn
  • Bites of undigested food in bowel movements
  • Joint and myofascial pain
  • Fuzzy thinking or “brain fog”

Besides discomfort, incomplete digestion can lead to more serious problems. It is thought that undigested food proteins make their way into the bloodstream through small holes in the intestinal lining.

The body perceives these particles as foreign invaders, and mounts an immune response that includes inflammation. Left unchecked, inflammation can lead to autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, and asthma. It has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other serious illnesses. -Lisa Turner

Editors’ Product Picks

Arthur Andrew Medical Serrétia Pure Serrapeptase, one of the strongest versions of serrapeptase on the market, is ideal for recovering from surgery, sports injury, and muscle tears and pulls. It’s also helpful for sinus problems and fluid retention.

Doctor’s Best Betaine HCL Pepsin & Gentian Bitters is an excellent choice if you have digestive troubles right after a meal. A trio of nutrients-betaine HCL, protein-digesting pepsin, and the stomach-soothing herb gentian-help enhance the entire digestive process.

Enzymedica Digest Gold is an award-winning and extremely comprehensive plant-based enzyme blend that targets a wide range of digestive issues, from incomplete digestion to heartburn. Be sure to take at the start of each meal for the best results.