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The Difference Between Systemic and Digestive Enzymes


Digestive vs Systemic Enzymes

You barely know what an enzyme is; let alone what kind of enzyme supplement you need.

Well, it’s good to know that there are just two broad categories of enzyme supplements:

  • Digestive enzymes, which aid the digestive process directly and
  • Systemic enzymes, which provide support throughout the body.

These two groups of enzymes are distinct from one another and have their own specific jobs.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzyme supplements are designed to be taken with each meal to complement the body’s own digestive enzymes produced primarily by the pancreas. The pancreas secretes enzymes to breakdown the main food groups entering the body, including: amylases for carbohydrate digestion, lipases for digesting fats and proteases for protein digestion. But this doesn’t always cut the mustard.

Supplemental digestive enzymes go the extra mile: they contain the above enzymes as well as others that the body does not specifically generate, which aid digestion of specific types of fibres or carbohydrates. One example of this is cellulose: an enzyme which helps us breakdown cellulose – a plant fibre otherwise indigestible to humans.

Why do we need a supplement if we make most of the enzymes ourselves?

Good question. In a state of optimal health and nutrition, yes, we do make adequate amounts of digestive enzymes ourselves and obtain others from the fresh raw foods we eat. But throw in stress, chronic disease, poor nutrition and food allergies –  to mention just a few of life’s frivolities – and suddenly the body is not so well equipped.

Also the number of enzymes produced by the body is limited over our lifetime. As we age, the level of enzymes we produce declines. Since we rely heavily on enzymes to unlock nutrients from the food we eat, the importance of good digestion with adequate enzymes becomes paramount to maintain good health.

Systemic Enzymes

Systemic enzymes on the other hand are designed to be taken on an empty stomach; allowing them to be absorbed directly into the circulation, to support the body where needed. These systemic enzymes can help:

  • Maintain healthy immune functions
  • Maintain healthy blood flow & circulation
  • Maintain healthy joints
  • Support normal, healthy temperature balance
  • Assist with muscle soreness after exercise
  • ( and a few other things that only your doctor / practitioner can talk about! )

There are many types of Systemic Enzymes used such as:

  • Serrapeptase – derived from the silk worm
  • Nattokinase – derived from the Japanese fermented soybean dish “Natto”
  • Lumbrokinase – a group of six enzymes derived from the earth worm
  • Bromelain – from pineapple
  • Papain – from papaya
  • As well as other enzymes like proteases and lipases. Check out our Detailed List of Enzymes

Whether enzymes work locally to assist digestion or systemically to work throughout the body is determined by how the enzymes are taken (i.e. with food or without food). Digestive enzymes can assist systemically if taken away from food, while systemic enzymes can assist digestion if taken with food. For best results, enzymes should be used as they have been designed.

Supplementary enzymes can work wonders for many different types of conditions, but it’s best to consult with your healthcare professional to ensure you’ve found the product best suited to your needs.

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