What are enzymes?

Enzymes are small active biological substances that catalyze, i.e. speed up or slow down chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes thus have a very important role everywhere in the body. Not least of all, they are important for digestion to function optimally, because digestive enzymes are needed so that we can break down food into individual nutrients that the body can absorb.

If digestion does not work as it should, you may experience problems such as bloating, stomach cramps, gas and diarrhoea.

See our dietary supplements with digestive enzymes here .

The various digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes are thus a group of enzymes that are needed for the breakdown of the food we eat. They are found in the digestive system and work to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates into smaller units that the body can absorb and use. The enzymes are produced in different parts of the digestive system, such as in the mouth, stomach and above all in the small intestine.

The various enzymes found in the digestive system that you may have heard of are amylase, protease, lipase, cellulase and lactase.

Elixir Enzymes


Amylase is an enzyme that contributes to the breakdown of starchy foods. The enzyme catalyzes, i.e. speeds up, the chemical reactions that convert starch into various sugars which can then be broken down further into glucose.

Amylase is found both in the saliva and in the small intestine. Already in the mouth, the process of starch breakdown begins as soon as the food comes into contact with the saliva.

In the small intestine, the breakdown process of starch then continues. This dual presence of amylase ensures that the starch is efficiently broken down into smaller molecules that can be absorbed and used by the body.


Proteases are needed to break down protein molecules into smaller peptides and free amino acids. These enzymes are important for the body to add and utilize protein from the food we eat. Protease works by cleaving the bonds between the amino acids in the proteins.

These enzymes are also found in several places in the digestive system, including the stomach and pancreas. The stomach's acidic environment activates pepsin, a type of protease, which starts the breakdown of proteins. The pancreas then supplies additional proteases to continue the process in the small intestine.

The functions of proteases not only affect digestion, but also several other body functions. Proteins need to be broken down into their building blocks so that the body can build new proteins that are needed for cell growth, repair and other vital functions.


Lipase is the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of fat molecules (lipids) into glycerol and free fatty acids. This process is essential for the body to absorb and use fat from food. Lipase is mainly found in the pancreas and is secreted in the small intestine, where most fat molecules are broken down.

Fat molecules are not soluble in water, making them harder for the body to handle. The bile from the liver acts as an emulsifier that breaks down the fats into smaller droplets, helping lipase reach and break down these large molecules. This shows how different enzymes and substances work together to optimize digestion.

Lipase's function in digestion is thus affected by the presence of other substances and is an example of how the body's various systems depend on each other to effectively break down and absorb nutrients from food. Without lipase, the body would have difficulty utilizing fat from the diet, which would affect energy supply and energy storage.


Cellulase is a collective name for the enzymes that break down the cellulose found in plant cell walls. Cellulose consists of long chains of glucose molecules and is an important source of fiber in our diet. Although found in many foods, humans cannot naturally produce cellulase, instead we rely on certain microorganisms in our digestive system to aid in the breakdown of cellulose.

Cellulase catalyzes the breakdown of cellulose into glucose that can be absorbed by the body. Although we humans are not very good at breaking down cellulose completely, the process helps to soften food and facilitate passage through the intestines, promoting healthy digestion and preventing problems such as constipation.


Lactase is an enzyme that is needed for us to digest lactose, the main sugar in milk and dairy products. Lactase breaks down lactose into its two different components glucose and galactose, which can then be absorbed by the intestinal walls.

Many people produce less lactase after childhood, which can lead to lactose intolerance – an inability to digest lactose efficiently. It can cause symptoms such as gas formation, bloating, cramping and diarrhea after eating lactose-rich products.

Therefore, one may have a deficiency of digestive enzymes

Sometimes we can have a deficiency of digestive enzymes. With age, for example, our own enzyme production decreases, which can lead to problems with digestion or difficulty absorbing nutrients as we should. This can lead to a lack of certain substances and less stamina and energy. If we eat a nutrient-poor diet and stress a lot, this can also lead to indigestion. Some of us are also naturally deficient in certain enzymes, such as lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk products.

Signs of digestive enzyme deficiency

Bloating and gas

One of the most common symptoms of enzyme deficiency is a feeling of bloating and increased gas formation after meals. This is often due to food not being properly broken down and fermented by bacteria in the large intestine.


Incompletely digested food can cause loose stools or diarrhea as the body tries to get rid of undigested food.


In some cases, enzyme deficiency can lead to constipation, especially if it concerns enzymes involved in the breakdown of fibers and other difficult-to-digest components of the diet.

Stomach ache and cramps

Pain and cramping in the stomach are common and can be a sign that food is not digested properly.

Dietary supplements with digestive enzymes

If you experience stomach upsets as described above, dietary supplements with enzymes can support digestion. At Elexir Pharma, we have food supplements with digestive enzymes in combination with other substances that also support the digestive function.

Good digestion starts with nutritious food that is taken in peace and quiet and that is chewed properly, so that the intestinal system can handle the food more easily. If you are unsure of what is causing your discomfort, you need to consult a dietician or doctor before starting any dietary supplements.

Here you will find our dietary supplements with enzymes

Good Gut Feeling Lactic Acid Bacteria + Enzymes

What is the function of enzymes in the body?

Enzymes have a wide range of important functions in the body:

Catalyzes chemical reactions

The main task of enzymes is to efficiently catalyze chemical reactions. They do this by reducing the energy needed for a reaction to take place.

This means that processes that would otherwise be too slow happen faster. Sometimes enzymes can work alone but sometimes they need the help of other substances to take care of different types of chemical groups in the body.


Enzymes are needed for our metabolism, which includes all the chemical processes that sustain life within a cell or organism. They help to break down nutrients to produce energy and to build up various components in the cells.

DNA and communication

Specific enzymes are involved in the processes of copying DNA prior to cell division and repairing damaged DNA. Enzymes also affect how cells communicate with each other, for example about changes in the cells' environment.

Elixir Enzymes

Frequently Asked Questions: What are enzymes?

Are enzymes important?

Yes, enzymes are extremely important. They act as biological catalysts, which means they speed up chemical reactions necessary for life. Without enzymes, these reactions would occur so slowly that life as we know it could not be sustained. Enzymes are therefore central to many of the body's most important processes.

In order for the enzymes to function, they need to be able to bind to their so-called substrates, i.e. the substances that are to undergo transformation. For example, amylase, which breaks down starch, needs to be able to bind to specific starch molecules.

Are enzymes always a type of protein?

Enzymes are usually proteins, which means they consist of long chains of amino acids that fold into specific three-dimensional shapes. This structure is crucial to the function of the enzyme, as it determines how well the enzyme can bind to its substrates (the substances it is supposed to convert) and catalyze a reaction.

Why might you need supplements of enzymes?

There are several reasons why you may need supplements of enzymes. A common reason is that the body's own production of enzymes is not enough, which can affect digestion and absorption of nutrients. This can often happen due to certain health conditions. The addition of enzymes can then help to break down the food effectively, which means that the nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body.

Is lactose intolerance common?

Yes, lactose intolerance is relatively common worldwide, but the incidence varies greatly between different populations and ethnic groups. Some estimates suggest that around 65% of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after childhood. In some parts of Asia, Africa and South America, the prevalence of lactose intolerance can be as high as 90% or more, while it is lower in northern Europe and some societies where milk products have been part of the diet for many generations.