Vegetarian enzymes for digestion

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Vegetarian Enzymes

Vegetarian EnzymesWritten by: Walter J. Crinnion ND

When I started my naturopathic medical clinical training at the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine (JBCNM), the number of digestive aids was quite limited. The JBCNM clinic dispensary was a tiny room, and the only digestive products it contained were Betaine HCL caps, Ox bile capsules and porcine pancreatic extracts (pancreatin). My supervising doctor taught, “Pigs can digest anything, so this pancreatin will work for any digestive need.” I repeated this to patients in need of digestive help. What I did not know at the time was that the US Pharmacopeia[1] had already defined what each milligram of pancreatin should contain, and it wasn’t much. In fact, a study showed that it worked best for digesting lipids rather than protein.[2]

Each 1 mg of pancreatin contains:

  • not less than 25 USP units of amylase (to breakdown 1 microequivalent of sugar linkages per minute)
  • not less than 2.0 USP units of lipase (also 1 microequivalent of fat per minute)
  • not less than 25 USP units of protease (able to digest 1 mg of casein)

I also did not learn until much later that pancreatin is denatured in the stomach acid, and rendered inactive. This is probably one of the reasons I never saw those extracts work. Currently pancreatin extracts need to be enterically coated micropellets or minitablets with a diameter of 2mm or less[3]. Pancreatin that is produced in that manner does have some good trypsin and chymotrypsin-like activity, but is very poor at breaking down casein.[4] However, the greatest activity of pancreatic extracts is in the breakdown of fats.

Microbes, especially fungi, produce a lot of digestive enzymes, making them excellent at composing a variety of materials. For example, the yeast used in the fermentation of sourdough bread is superb at breaking down gluten–something humans are not able to do.[5] The first article about the potential uses of microbial enzymes was published in 1954.[6] The production of microbial-derived, “vegetarian” enzymes has mushroomed since.

Microbial enzymes are used extensively in the pharmaceutical, clothing, food and detergent industries. The progress in the Microbial enzyme industry has been able to deliver enzymes previously unavailable to the physicians and consumers. Enzymes like dipeptitidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4), which is able to break down gluten in the human stomach before it even enters the small intestine.[7] The enzyme industry is now able to produce a wide range of proteases, lipases and amylases that target specific proteins linkages and a wide range of fats and carbs at specific pH levels, providing excellent digestive assistance. This production allows companies to combine a variety of different proteases, lipase and carbohydrate-digesting enzymes together to help individuals with intestinal dysfunction.

The proof, of course, is in the action after one tries such an enzyme. More than 30 years of searching and I finally found a powerful combination vegetarian enzyme digestive aid that works.


[1]US Pharmacopoeia XXII. Rockville, MD: US Pharmacopeia Convention, 1990
[2]Knill-Jones RP, Pearce H, Batten J, Williams R. Comparative trial of Nutrizym in chronic pancreatic insufficiency. Br Med J. 1970 Oct 3;4(5726):21-4. PubMed PMID: 4919118
[3]Mössner J, Keim V. Pancreatic enzyme therapy. DtschArztebl Int. 2010;108(34-35):578-82. PubMed PMID: 21904592
[4]Andriamihaja M, Guillot A, Svendsen A, Hagedorn J, Rakotondratohanina S, Tomé D, Blachier F. Comparative efficiency of microbial enzyme preparations versuspancreatin for in vitro alimentary protein digestion. Amino Acids. 2013;44(2):563-72. doi: 10.1007/s00726-012-1373-0.
[5]Freitag TL, Loponen J, Messing M, Zevallos V, Andersson LC, Sontag-Strohm T, Saavalainen P, Schuppan D, Salovaara H, Meri S. Testing safety of germinated rye sourdough in a celiac disease model based on the adoptive transfer of prolamin-primed memory T cells into lymphopenic mice. Am J PhysiolGastrointest Liver Physiol. 2014;306(6):G526-34. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00136.2013. PubMed PMID: 24458020.
[6]Underkofler LA, Barton RR, Rennert SS. Production of microbial enzymes and their applications. ApplMicrobiol. 1958;6(3):212-21. PubMed PMID: 13534309
[7]Stepniak D, Spaenij-Dekking L, Mitea C, Moester M, de Ru A, Baak-Pablo R, van Veelen P, Edens L, Koning F. Highly efficient gluten degradation with a newly identified prolylendoprotease: implications for celiac disease. Am J PhysiolGastrointest Liver Physiol. 2006;291(4):G621-9. PubMed PMID: 16690904.


Written by: Walter J. Crinnion, ND


*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.
**This blog was written by an outside source. This blog does not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Natural Partners.

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