General Health

What are Pancreatic Enzymes? | How They Support Healthy Digestion*

Pancreatic enzymes are often recommended as digestive support supplements. In this article, we will explain what these enzymes are, and how they support healthy digestion and nutrient absorption.*

What are Pancreatic Enzymes?

Pancreatic enzymes are key players in normal digestion. The enzymes protease, lipase, and amylase are naturally secreted by the pancreas when we eat a meal. They are essential to the breakdown of food and the absorption of its nutrients as it arrives in the small intestine.

Improper digestion is a leading cause of malabsorption and malnutrition. Pancreatic enzyme supplements are a popular digestive aid for supporting gut health and nutrient absorption.*

What are Pancreatic Enzymes Used For?

Pancreatic enzyme supplements are also known as natural digestive enzymes. These dietary supplements may be recommended when people have symptoms related to the incomplete digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, or fats during the digestive process, where these macronutrients are broken down into smaller components. Symptoms of incomplete digestion may include occasional gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, or food intolerances.*

(Note: Food intolerances differ from anaphylaxis or IgE-mediated food allergies, which can be life-threatening. A licensed healthcare professional can help distinguish between the two with skin scratch testing for allergies).

Additionally, specific conditions such as cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis may also produce symptoms requiring enzymatic support, which a physician should oversee. (1) Consult a healthcare professional if you experience symptoms of malabsorption, such as chronic diarrhea, unintended weight loss, or steatorrhea (bulky, pale, foul-smelling stool which may float or appear greasy).

What Pancreatic Enzymes are Necessary to Digest Fats, Proteins & Carbs?

Lipase is the pancreatic enzyme necessary to digest fat, while protease breaks down proteins, and amylase acts on carbohydrates.

In addition to lipase, Ox Bile extract may further support the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. The combination of Pancreatin & Ox Bile may be appropriate for those needing additional support to assimilate fats and fat-soluble vitamins by supplementing the body’s bile production . This digestive support formula may be indicated for anyone without a gall bladder and, therefore, unable to release a bolus of stored bile in response to a fatty meal, people with poor fat absorption, or deficiency of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.*

What is the Best Way to Take Pancreatic Enzymes?

Recommendations vary, but pancreatic enzyme nutritional supplements are most effective when taken shortly before a meal. When selecting pancreatic enzymes, it’s important to note that full-strength pancreatin is the preferred form to ensure it is free of lactose – a commonly used filler that can aggravate digestive complaints in the large proportion of the adult population who are lactose intolerant.*

Vital Nutrients offers an extensive line of professional quality digestive support supplements, including full-strength, lactose-free Pancreatic Enzymes and Pancreatin & Ox Bile.*

Vital Nutrients Pancreatic Enzymes supplement supplies 1000 mg of full-strength pancreatin per 2-capsule serving size. Each serving provides the digestive enzymes protease (223,000 USP units), amylase (245,000 USP units), and lipase (35,500 USP units) to support the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These natural digestive enzymes work synergistically over a broad pH range for complete digestive support. Delivered in high-quality gelatin capsules, they are gluten-free and free of milk/dairy, soy protein, egg protein, sugar, casein, whey, unnecessary excipients (fillers, coatings, and binders), and other common allergens. The non-active ingredients include allergen-friendly cellulose, calcium carbonate, and ascorbyl palmitate.*

Vital Nutrients Pancreatic Enzymes are also available in a vegan-friendly formulation. Most pancreatic enzymes are derived from animal sources, making them unsuitable for vegans. Vital Nutrients Vegan Pancreatic Enzymes provide an alternative option to traditional bovine or porcine-derived pancreatic enzymes. They feature a complete blend of highly-active protease, lipase, and amylase enzymes that work synergistically over a broad pH range. Their activity begins in the stomach and continues through the small intestine for complete digestive support.*

Get more from your meals with Pancreatic Enzymes including Vital Nutrients Pancreatic Enzymes and Vital Nutrients Vegan Pancreatic Enzymes.*


1. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010; 32 Suppl 1:1-25 [PMID: 21054452]

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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