Digestive Enzymes: The Essentials

Digestive Enzymes: The Essentials

Have you ever wondered how our bodies absorb the nutrients from the food we consume?

It is a complex process that is assisted by the grobular proteins controlling biological reactions that are also known as enzymes. But how does it work exactly? Digestive enzymes speed up the breakdown (hydrolysis) of food molecules into their “building block” components. Experts say that this is happening outside of the cells lining the gut.

TedEd explains in detail how our digestive system works, from seeing our appetizing lunch to consuming and absorbing its nutritious value:

Now that we know how digestion works, let us go back to enzymes and their role in the process. As we already know, enzymes` main goal is breaking food molecules into very much smaller “building block” units. Then, these smaller units can be absorbed through the gut wall and into the bloodstream and thus be transported to the liver and other parts of the body.

However, you might be wondering where in the human body are enzymes being produced? Also, you may be asking some very logical questions like “is there a difference between these enzymes” and “how are they different?”

Enzyme production and types

The main enzyme-producing structures that are part of the human digestive system are the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, liver and small intestine.

Check out this detailed overview (compiled by Science Learning Hub) of the various types of digestive juices and enzymes, as well as the substances they digest and the products that are formed by them:

Digestive juices and enzymes Substance digested Product formed
Starch Maltose
Gastric juice
Protease (pepsin) and hydrochloric acid
Proteins Partly digested proteins
Pancreatic juice
Proteases (trypsin)
Fats emulsified by bile
Peptides and amino acids
Fatty acids and glycerol
Intestinal enzymes
Sucrose (sugar)
Lactose (milk sugar)
Amino acids
Glucose and fructose
Glucose and galactose
Bile from the liver
Bile salts
Fats globules Fat droplets


Summing it all up, digestive enzymes are important to absorb the nutritious value of the food we eat. They are associated with some benefits that are observed in patients having problems with their digestion. For example, enzymes can protect people against:

  • A feeling of tiredness after eating;
  • A menu mostly containing processed food
  • Digestive problems like swelling, pain and excessive gas production.

NB!!! Our organisms maintain very complex balance. Always consult with a doctor before taking any supplements.

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