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Digestive Health
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Swanson staff • August 18, 2023

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

When it comes to digestive health and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, our bodies rely on assistance from specific proteins which work to help break down food in our GI tract for optimal absorption. These naturally occurring proteins are known as digestive enzymes.1

Most digestive enzymes are produced within the human body by organs such as the small intestine, the stomach and especially the pancreas. The digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas are particularly important as they work to help the body break down and digest fats, carbohydrates and even other proteins.1

Sources of Digestive Enzymes

Although many digestive enzymes are produced naturally by various organs in the body, some are also found in particular plants and microbes. While it may be best to get the needed digestive enzymes from food, supplementing with digestive enzymes can help plug any nutritional gaps which may exist in your healthy diet and may also boost nutritional benefits. Some sources of digestive enzymes include:2

  • Pineapples
  • Avocados
  • Kiwi
  • Kefir
  • Bananas
  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut

Swanson® Digestive Essentials also features GI allies such as fennel seed, licorice root extract and papain (derived from papaya fruit).

What do Digestive Enzymes Do?

In order for our digestive tract to properly absorb the nutrients in the food we eat, this system requires the help of enzymes. These digestive enzymes then work to break down the food so that its elements can be used by the body for cell repair or even growth. The digestive enzymes also help the body maintain a healthy system of detoxification and elimination.3

Types of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes may be classified in one of four classes: lipases, proteases, fibrolytic enzymes, or carbohydrases.4 Some of the most common digestive enzymes found in quality supplements include:

  • Lipase—this enzyme works with the gallbladder and pancreas to aid in digestion of fats such as phospholipids and triglycerides4
  • Protease—helps to break down gluten and casein-derived proline-rich peptides in the digestive tract5
  • Bromelain—a type of protease found in pineapples, this enzyme helps to break down amino acids and gluten proteins4
  • Amylase—found in the body and certain microbes, these types of digestive enzymes help in the breakdown of starches and carbohydrates4
  • Lactase—this digestive enzyme is naturally present in the gut of most infants but decreases over time into adulthood. It is used to break down the milk sugar lactose into glucose, a form more easily used by the body for energy4

You can find these digestive enzymes and natural sources for them in expertly crafted supplements such as Swanson® Digestive Essentials or Swanson® Digestive Enzymes.

Benefits of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes play an important role in the body’s absorption of nutrients as they directly assist in the breakdown of food in the gastrointestinal tract. Some benefits of digestive enzymes include:

  • Breaking down fats and carbohydrates for energy metabolism
  • Breaking down sugars and starches
  • Supporting the body’s natural digestive process
  • Helps to improve digestive comfort2
  • May promote healthy weight management
  • Promoting overall health by alleviating potential digestive concerns in certain populations

Side Effects of Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzyme supplements are generally considered safe to use, but it’s always a good idea to discuss them with your doctor before adding any to your health regimen, particularly if you take certain prescription drugs. Some of the more commonly reported side effects of digestive enzymes may include:2

  • Upset stomach
  • GI discomfort
  • Nausea

These types of side effects are typically rare, so you can take digestive enzymes daily if you feel the benefits are right for you.


Enjoying better digestive health and the long list of related benefits for long-term wellness is a goal easily reached when you’ve got the right knowledge and helpful supplements on your side. Swanson is proud to offer a variety of digestive enzymes and related supplements to help along your health journey!

Always serving our customers,

Your friends at Swanson

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


  1. Digestive Enzymes. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Read source
  2. Benefits of Digestive Enzyme Supplements. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Read source
  3. Enzymes. Cleveland Clinic. Read source
  4. Digestive Enzymes. Clinical Education. Read source
  5. Highly Efficient Gluten Degradation. American Journal of Physiology. Read source