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What Are Digestive Enzymes & Why Do You Need Them

When it comes to improving performance, recovery, and overall day-to-day health and wellness, we focus on the “big picture” things like getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.


But, one area that doesn’t get enough attention, until recently that is, is the health of your gut microbiome.


This is a shame, too, when you realize that the gut is at the very center of your ability to perform at a high level, both mentally and physically, as well as combat infection and just be in a upbeat, healthy mood.


Believe it or not, the gut plays a central role in cognitive function, immune defense, mood, athletic performance, and even the appearance of your skin.


When the gut is out of balance, individuals are prone to GI upset, bloating, cramping, gas, and other unsavory side effects.


This is one of the many reasons we developed Gut Health Plus.


Gut Health Plus contains numerous nutrients that support and optimize GI health and function including prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.


Let’s now discuss a little bit more about digestive enzymes and why they’re so important to the health of the GI system, as well as your ability to utilize the nutrients from the food you eat each day!


What Are Digestive Enzymes?


Digestive enzymes are proteins that help your body break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins by speeding up chemical reactions that turn nutrients from the food we eat into substances that your GI tract can absorb and utilize.


Why Are Digestive Enzymes Important?


Digestive enzymes allow you to get the important nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids) from food. Without digestive enzymes you wouldn’t be able to absorb the nutrients in your food, which could lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor health.


In the instance the body cannot synthesize adequate amounts of digestive enzymes (a condition called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), supplementation with digestive enzymes, like those found in Gut Health Plus, may be necessary.


Research also indicates that supplementation with digestive enzymes may play an integral role in the management of various digestive disorders.[1]


Digestive enzyme supplementation may also be beneficial for other conditions associated with poor digestion including lactose intolerance.[1,2]


Where Do Digestive Enzymes Come From?


The pancreas creates most of the digestive enzymes in the body, but the mouth, stomach, and small intestine also make digestive enzymes as well.


Let’s now look at the various types of digestive enzymes you’ll find both within the body as well as enzyme supplements.


Types of Digestive Enzymes




Amylase is found in the saliva, and it is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, or starches, into sugar molecules. This enzyme is particularly important for individuals consuming higher carb diets, such as those individuals looking to build muscle and/or improve athletic performance.


Deficiencies in amylase can lead to diarrhea.




Cellulase is a complex of three enzymes (endoglucanase, exoglucanase, and β-glucosidase) that help breakdown cellulose into glucose. Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) consisting of hundreds (or thousands) of glucose molecules made by plants, algae, and some bacteria.


Cellulose acts as a fiber in the body, adding bulk to stool and serving as a source of food for the bacteria that line your gut.




Peptidase is an enzyme that catalyzes proteolysis, the breakdown of proteins into smaller polypeptides or single amino acids. These enzymes help breakdown proteins by severing the peptide bonds within proteins via hydrolysis.




Protease is another digestive enzyme that supports the digestion of protein molecules by cleaving the peptide bonds within proteins into polypeptides or amino acids. This digestive enzyme is of particular importance for breaking down protein from beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, and low-fat dairy products (including whey protein), thereby supporting optimal digestion, protein synthesis, and muscle recovery/growth.


Deficiencies in protease can lead to deficiencies in protein and amino acids, which may affect everything from muscle recovery to immune function to skin and joint health.




Papain is a proteolytic enzyme extracted from the papaya plant that helps break proteins down into peptides and amino acids. Due to this, papain is a popular ingredient in meat tenderizer.


Papain is also frequently supplemented to help reduce pain and inflammation. A 2013 study also noted that a papaya extract may ease symptoms of GI distress, such as constipation and bloating.[3]


Perhaps most intriguing are the findings of a 2012 systematic review which noted that papain is effective for promoting the healing of wounds in various stages.[4]


For hard-training athletes, like the individuals who enter our Transformation Challenges, papain may be of particular utility as a 2004 study noted that digestive enzyme supplements (including protease and papain) may relieve muscle pain induced by intense exercise.[4]


Who Can Benefit from Digestive Enzyme Supplements?


Individuals who are dealing with certain conditions, such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or GI disorders, may benefit from supplementation with digestive enzymes. Additionally, those dealing with sensitivity to certain foods (such as lactose) as well as those consuming very high calorie, high-carbohydrate meals may benefit as it allows their body’s to better digest the foods eaten while limiting the occurrence of bloating, gas, upset stomach, etc.




Digestive enzymes are essential to efficiently absorbing (and ultimately, utilizing) the nutrients contained in the foods we eat. Moreover, research suggests that digestive enzyme supplements may help improve digestion, reduce pain, and decrease inflammation.


Without adequate digestive enzymes, nutrient absorption is impaired, which has several downstream consequences for athletic performance, muscle recovery, and overall health.


If you’re looking to support gut health and proper digestion, check out 1UP Gut Health Plus, which contains a comprehensive spectrum of digestive enzymes to support nutrient breakdown, absorption, and utilization for better results!



  1. Roxas M. The role of enzyme supplementation in digestive disorders. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Dec;13(4):307-14. PMID: 19152478.
  2. Felicilda-Reynaldo RF, Kenneally M. Digestive Enzyme Replacement Therapy: Pancreatic Enzymes and Lactase. Medsurg Nurs. 2016 May-Jun;25(3):182-5. PMID: 27522847.
  3. Muss C, Mosgoeller W, Endler T. Papaya preparation (Caricol®) in digestive disorders. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(1):38-46. PMID: 23524622.
  4. Leite AP, de Oliveira BG, Soares MF, Barrocas DL. Uso e efetividade da papaína no processo de cicatrização de feridas: uma revisão sistemática [Use and effectiveness of papain in the wound healing process: a systematic review]. Rev Gaucha Enferm. 2012 Sep;33(3):198-207. Portuguese. doi: 10.1590/s1983-14472012000300026. PMID: 23405827.
  5. Miller PC, Bailey SP, Barnes ME, Derr SJ, Hall EE. The effects of protease supplementation on skeletal muscle function and DOMS following downhill running. J Sports Sci. 2004 Apr;22(4):365-72. doi: 10.1080/02640410310001641584. PMID: 15161110.

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