What are digestive enzymes?


Digestive enzymes break down food. Food is eventually broken down into fuel. Digestive enzymes break down fats, carbohydrates and protein from food into fuels the body uses to give it energy, like fuel in a car. Digestive enzymes come from the pancreas.

Dr. Robynne K. Chutkan, MD

Digestive enzymes are substances in your GI tract that break down the food you eat down into the nutrients that your body absorbs and uses. Watch integrative gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, MD, discuss the various types of digestive enzymes.


Nancee Jaffe, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Digestive enzymes help to regulate digestion and also help to give us energy and conserve energy. There are over 2,700 digestive enzymes in the body. An enzyme is in charge of taking a big molecule and breaking it into smaller molecules so that the body can utilize it. For instance, when you add an enzyme to fat, you end up with smaller portions that the body can then utilize.

Digestive enzymes can be taken as a supplement. If you have any changes to your bowel habits, especially if you're noticing undigested food in your stool, that's a good time to consider digestive enzymes to help break down some of that food stuff. Digestive enzymes are also good if you have a food intolerance.

Continue Learning about Digestive Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.