Digestive Enzymes: How to Read Labels

You can’t replace metabolic enzymes you lack by taking a pill, but you can use supplements or supplemental digestive enzymes to supply your body with the energy it needs. If they’re taken at other times then with eating they’re called therapeutic enzymes. They’re the same enzymes but the timing makes the difference. When you take them before a meal they’ll assist in digestion and breaking down of your food. When you take them on an empty stomach between meals they are absorbed into your body and are used systemically. The most important utilization of supplemental enzymes is for digestion, because your body uses so much energy in the digestion of your food. This benefits your body because it helps your body utilize nutrients and gives more energy to your other systems. This is especially important if you’re ill. Illness means your other systems are not functioning efficiently.

It’s important that if you’re going to use enzymes therapeutically you must also use them for digestion. If you don’t they will digest the food in your gut and will be less potent therapeutically. It is especially important if you’re sick because you must reduce demand on your digestive system so that your body can heal.

Digestive enzymes are measured in active units rather than weight in milligrams (mg). The exceptions are seaprose and superoxide dismutase, which are measured in milligrams. Any label that doesn’t give you active units doesn’t give you an accurate or true measure of the ingredient’s potency.

Below are examples of such units:

  • AGU- Amygalactosidase Units- Glucoamylase
  • AJDU- Apple Juice Depectinizing Units- Pectinase
  • Baker Units- Catalase
  • BGU- Betaglucanase Units- Beta-glucanase
  • CU- Cellulase Units- Cellulase
  • DP- Degrees of Diastatic Power- Maltase
  • DU- Dextrinizing Units- Amylase
  • FCCFIP- Food Chemical Codex Federation International
  • Pharmaceutique- Lipase
  • FCCPU- Papain Units- Bromelain
  • FU- Fibrinolytic Units- Nattokinase
  • GALU- Galactosidase Units-Alpha-galactosidase
  • GDU- Gelatin Digesting Units- Bromelain
  • HCU- Hemicellulase Units- Hemicellulase
  • IAU- Invertase Active Units- Invertase (Sucrase)
  • HUT- Hemoglobin Units in a Tyrosine base-Protease
  • LacU- Lactase Units- Lactase
  • LU- Lipase Units- Lipase
  • MSU- Mucolase Units- Mucolase
  • PU- Phytase Units- Phytase
  • SKB- Sanstedt Kneen Blish Units- Amylase
  • XU- Xylanase Units- Xylanase

If you want to take supplemental enzymes as therapeutic enzymes you should take them on an empty stomach one-half hour before or two hours after eating. When you take them in this manner they aren’t intended to digest your food. They’re intended to be absorbed into your blood stream. They can then benefit your other systems such as circulatory, cardiovascular, immune or reproductive. Although they don’t function directly as metabolic enzymes they improve metabolic function. They make up for any deficiency you might have in a specific enzyme. In this manner they improve your health. For example, protease can act as raw material to manufacture white blood cells or it can digest dead or damaged cells that are mainly protein, which would lessen the demand for metabolic protease.


  • Alpha-galactosidase – Helpful in digestion of beans and raw vegetables
  • Amylase – Regulates histamine if taken on an empty stomach. Reduces food cravings. Increases blood sugar.
  • Beta-glucanase – Beneficial as a digestive enzyme for people whom have difficulty digesting grain-based food.
  • Bromelain – Beneficial as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Catalase – One of the most potent antioxidants.
  • Cellulase – Helps to free nutrients from fruits and vegetables by its action on the cell wall.
  • Glucoamylase – Beneficial as a digestive enzyme.
  • Hemicellulase – Beneficial as a digestive enzyme for people whom have difficulty digesting vegetable material.
  • Invertase (Sucrase) – Beneficial as a digestive enzyme for people whom have difficulty digesting sugar.
  • Lactase – Beneficial as a digestive enzyme for people whom have difficulty in digesting lactose or are lactose intolerant.
  • Maltase – Beneficial in digesting malt and grain sugars.
  • Mucolase – Helpful with congestion and sinus infection.
  • Nattokinase – Used to treat high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, circulatory issues and slow tissue repair.
  • Papain – Beneficial as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Pectinase – Beneficial in digesting pectin found in fruits.
  • Phytase – Helps with mineral absorption.
  • Protease – Supports immune function when taken on an empty stomach. Reduces inflammation. Increases circulation.
  • Seaprose – Helpful with congestion and sinus infection.
  • Serratiopeptidase or serrapeptidase, or serapeptase – Beneficial as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Superoxide Dismutase – Protects cells from free-radical damage.
  • Xylanase – Beneficial in breaking down soluble fiber.