Digestive Enzymes vs. Pancreatic Enzymes — What to Use for What : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Tuesday Apr 10 | BY |
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enzyme rich compost
There are enzymes in that compost!

After my re-posting of Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez’s partial interview from the Healing Cancer World Summit, I realized that there were a lot of questions about enzymes that I assumed many of you knew…

But in the comment thread, I noticed that there was some significant confusion about them — in particular the difference between digestive and pancreatic enzymes (which are used in natural cancer support.)

Today, I’m going to answer some of these questions to give you a better idea about how enzymes work and which ones you might need.

What are pancreatic enzymes? Just digestive enzymes that include Lipase, Protease, and Amylase?

Pancreatic enzymes are proteolytic or metabolic enzymes. Proteolytic or metabolic enzymes are enzymes that specifically break down proteins into amino acids. They are naturally found in just about every creature and function to clean up abnormal proteins in the body — since they are harmless to your own tissues.

They’re released into the blood — or absorbed into the blood stream — and their mission is to break down the protein coating protection of pathogens or abnormal tissues inside your body.

Digestive enzymes like protease (a proteolytic enzyme too), lipase, amylase, lactase, etc. are produced by your body and released during the digestive process. Their purpose is to help break down your food for better absorption.

Here’s where it gets tricky…

Some digestive enzymes are also proteolytic enzymes and some proteolytic enzymes are digestive enzymes. Protease is an example of one that is both.

So it depends on where the enzyme is to determine it’s function. If protease is in in the gut with food, it will break down the proteins in your meal. If it’s in your blood stream it will search out abnormal proteins to catalyze.

Where it also is a little confusing is that some of these enzymes can come from animal sources and plant sources. So there’s confusion in the natural health world about whether or not pancreatic enzymes (not just plant based enzymes) should be used in the treatment of cancer.

Dr. Gonzalez, Charlotte Gerson and many other natural cancer advocates use the pancreatic enzymes because they are proven to work better. In their clinics, they’ve found them to be more effective than the plant based alternatives and I find that hard to argue.

Are pancreatic enzymes vegan? Is there an effective vegan source?

No, pancreatic enzymes are not vegan, but proteolytic enzymes can be. In most cases the pancreatic enzymes are from either cow, pig or lamb. Dr. Gonzalez has formulated specific pancreatic enzyme capsules with a supplement company called Nutricology. You can find them here.

There are some vegan sources of proteolytic enzymes that may get similar results, but I would definitely consult with someone who is well versed in enzyme therapy before you rely on a treatment like this.

I asked Dr. Gonzalez at lunch a few months ago about vegan enzymes and he simply said he wishes that they did work as well, but they just don’t.

But, with that said, it depends on the reason you’re taking them…

If you have a serious disease, it’s much different than if you’re taking them for preventative reasons. For preventative reasons, you can use less effective — or less therapeutic — enzymes and still come out ahead of the game. For a serious illness, I’d stick with what we know to be effective.

Are the supplemental pancreatic enzymes that are available only with prescription more effective than non-prescription products?

These pancreatic enzymes from Nutricology are available for you to purchase online at their retail store. These are the ones that Dr. Gonzalez uses in his practice.

Does it reduce your natural enzymes when you take supplemental ones? My herbalist has told me NOT to take digestive enzymes… guess I need to ask why he said that.

I don’t know why he’d say that…

If this theory held up, then I’d recommend not to eat raw foods — since they’re packed with enzymes and could possibly reduce the natural enzymes you produce.

Sometimes theories don’t always add up. What does happen when you take supplemental enzymes is that your body can re-allocate resources to other places and allow your systems to function more efficiently.

This would be for continued health and cancer prevention only, so what would a dosage be? I assumed that digestive enzymes were mainly to help digest meat fats, dairy, bread and desserts… all of which I don’t eat.

The dosages depend on many factors, but for cancer prevention and continued health, you’d take a modest amount of proteolytic enzymes and digestive enzymes based on your size and weight.

Digestive enzymes are helpful for people who eat poorly and who eat healthy. As you get older your body tends to slow the production of digestive enzymes — regardless of your diet. So if you eat a clean diet, you may be able to assist in the digestive process even more if you take a digestive enzyme supplement.

Also, please be aware that for some the raw food or vegan diet can dampen your digestive fire (as per Chinese medicine) and hinder your ability to digest your foods properly. In this case, digestive enzymes and HCL may be necessary (as well as a change in your diet) to bring that fire back.

For use in cancer treatment, this amount may not be effective at all. So please consult someone who knows what they’re talking about and can create a protocol specific to your needs.

How does one take digestive enzymes, if they also take a probiotic?

This one is seemingly simple. You take them both at meal time. The probiotic will help rebuild your gut flora and the enzymes will help digest your food so your gut is functioning optimally.

Where it may not be as simple is this…

If protease is present in the digestive tract when you have bacteria (even from probiotics) the bacteria may be broken down to some degree. Remember that proteolytic enzymes will break down the protein protection of abnormal cells or pathogens.

But at the same time, this would mean excessive digestive enzymes would also deplete your gut flora as well over time. Since the protease in the formula would again, break down the bacteria in your intestines.

Remember, though, these last two paragraphs are theory based on our understanding of how these enzymes work. In practice, Dr. Gonzalez gives high doses of proteolytic enzymes and there seems to be little or no damage to the healthy bacteria in the system.

So, to wrap it up, take them both at the same time, since I believe the action to be subtle. Your enzymes wouldn’t possibly be able to digest everything — which is why I think everything balances out at the end.

(If anyone has proof of why protease doesn’t eat healthy flora, please let me know.)

Your Question of the Day: Do you take enzymes daily?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Daniel Donovan says:

    I do not take supplemental enzymes, daily or otherwise. I focus on eating the more nutrient dense parts of animals like livers and bone marrow’s soups, as well as the best organic fruits and veggies I can get (raw and cooked).

  2. Janey says:

    So, should we take BOTH pancreatic AND digestive enzymes along with a probiotic? I take pancreatic enzymes 1x w/cooked meals…most of my diet is fresh veggies/nuts/etc., some fish, little poultry.
    If there is an issue with elevated pancreatic enzymes according to blood tests, should one consume more or less in supplement form?
    Yes, this is confusing!
    With gratitude

  3. Janey says:

    Can you please offer the name of the pancreatic supplement from Dr Gonzalez?

  4. Maroa says:

    I do take systemic enzymes, how do they enter the game? Thank you for clarification – yes, more needed 🙂

  5. Joseph says:

    Enzymes are part of the “exocrine” system… the same system that makes tears, saliva, fingernails, etc. Unlike the ‘endocrine’ (hormonal) system, we do not stop producing exocrine substances (e.g. enzymes) when we get them in food, supplements, etc. You can learn more about this by listening to the Enzyme talks from Dr. Wong (www.totalityofbeing.com/) and (www.drwongradio.com/). From what I’ve heard, he’s been at the forefront of proteolytic enzyme education for some time. His Zymessence formula is good… albeit a little expensive! 😉

  6. Helen says:

    Yes – and it’s been life-changing! I take plant-based digestive enzymes with every meal and this has been a huge breakthrough for my health. It was the BIG catalyst that helped me eliminate headaches (including migraines) which I was getting at least weekly and sometimes daily before this.

    I’ve been using enzymes now for about a year and a half. The switch for me happened when I bought the Perfect Digestion Plan http://store.renegadehealth.com/Books-DVDs/The-Perfect-Digestion-Plan-4-Steps-to-Healthy-Digestion-and-Radiant-Health-digital-p338.html. It was the first thing I bought from Renegade Health after following the blog for almost two years and since I have purchased most of the other programs – all really helpful! (Thanks so much, Kevin!)

    This ONE thing (supported by all the other important and related things I’ve been learning and implementing since, like making my own fermented foods, drinking kefir, practicing the Body Ecology Diet etc) has dramatically improved my quality of life more than anything else. It’s been the answer to my prayers and efforts for the past ten years as I’ve struggled to find a drug-free and long-term solution to my headaches.

    I suspected that digestion was the issue when I kept noticing that the digestion-related pressure points on my feet and hands (see Body Reflexology by Mildred Carter) were always very painful when I had a headache, but it took me ages to figure out what to do about it. Now it seems so obvious but living in almost constant headache pain must have clouded my vision because it literally took me years to see the connection between my headaches and digestive health.

    Another thing that helped me see the connection was keeping a daily health journal, which I developed using Gmail->Documents->Form. Every night, I would get an auto-reminder to complete my health journal and after doing this regularly for some time, I began to become more aware of the patterns and connections between my diet, lifestyle and headaches. This is how I began to learn how to “read” my body. This is an important skill I wish I would’ve learned as a child. If I had kids, it is one thing I’d be sure to teach them!

  7. Lauren says:

    Great info/clarification. BUT, the link does not seem to link to the enzymes, just the Nutricology site, and I looked everywhere, but don’t see pancreatic enzymes. Only glandular and ox bile. What is the name of the product, please? -Lauren

  8. Good information on enzymes. I would have to disagree on a few points though.
    I have studied from the best top enzyme experts in the field of enzymes.
    All plants contain enzymes and if we ate only raw plant food, we would stay healthy, but that is not possible for all.
    Pancreatic enzymes will be produced by the body only if plant enzymes are in the body first.
    Pancreatic enzymes work in a very narrow ph base and most are destroyed by the acid in the stomach.
    There are available weak plant enzymes and exceptionally powerful plant enzymes.
    I work with enzymes that work in a range of between 2 and 12 ph so they get directly into the bloodstream and are most effective.
    Enzymes are one of the supplements necessary for cancer prevention and elimination.
    I do not want to take up much space, but I could send our ‘Enzyme Educational’ package through postal mail at no cost.
    Contact me at: LeadingEdgeHealth@shaw.ca or

  9. Rudy says:

    I agree with Lauren. Please let us know which is the product on that website.

    Thank you.

  10. Annette says:

    I calle the company andcwas told dr Gonzalez likes to use pancreas pork. Go to the sitevandvkey in thevword pancreas and it will pop up.

  11. Annette says:

    Lauren key in pancreas and they all pop up. Called and they said he always reccommends. Pork.

  12. Hi Kevin,

    Firstly, great Summit this year. Thanks for organising.

    I have just started taking both digestive and pancreatic enzymes. I am a breast cancer survivor so am doing this for preventative reasons. I am unclear as to whether you take them before, during or after the meal for best results. I purchase the enzymes from the recommended Gerson website.

    Thanks for your help.


  13. Thank you Kevin, this was very informative. Well done!

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