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Enzymes are the proteins which assist in speeding up chemical reactions or metabolism in the human bodies. All living things have enzymes. Enzymes are crucial for digestion, liver function and many other functions in the body. Healthcare providers with the help of enzymes in our blood can also check for injuries and diseases. Health problems can be caused by too much or too little of a certain enzymes. Although human bodies naturally produce enzymes, enzymes are also present in manufactured products and food.

Enzymes role and benefits

Enzymes play important role to aid in digestion. In digestion the food we eat changes into energy. The enzymes present in our saliva, intestines, pancreas and stomach break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Enzymes make use of these nutrients for growth and cell repair. The other benefits include help in breathing, building muscle, ridding our bodies of toxins, and nerve function.

Enzyme-substrate complex

A temporary molecule is formed when the substrate binds to the enzyme. When an enzyme binds to its substrate, it experiences a conformational change or the shape is temporarily changed. However, once the product(s) is released, the enzyme gets back to its original shape.

Types of enzymes

There are six main types of enzymes: oxidoreductases, hydrolases, transferases, lyases, isomerases, and ligases. Each type carries out a general type of reaction but catalyzes many different specific reactions within their own type. Apoenzyme or apoprotein, an enzymatically inactive protein part of an enzyme, requires a cofactor for its activity. A cofactor can be either organic compounds or metal ions that attach, either covalently or noncovalently, to the enzyme. The cofactor and apoenzyme complex is known as a holoenzyme.

In human there are thousands of individual enzymes each having specific job. For instance, sucrase, a type of enzyme, breaks down a sugar called sucrose. Similarly, lactase breaks down lactose which is a kind of sugar found in the milk products.

Some other digestive enzymes:

Lipase breaks down fats into fatty acids.

Carbohydrase breaks down carbohydrates into sugars.

Protease breaks down protein into amino acids.

Parts of an enzyme

Every enzyme has an “active site” with a unique shape. Enzyme works on a substance which a substrate having a unique shape. The enzyme and the substrate should fit collectively to function. The enzymes require perfect condition to function otherwise the enzymes may change the shape. Then, they no more fit with substrate and do not work correctly.

Temperature and pH:

Temperature: The best temperature for the enzymes to work for your body to work is about 98.6°F (37°C). The enzyme reactions increase with the increase of the temperature, but with very high temperature the enzymes stop working. One of the examples is during fever when enzymes stop working properly.

pH: Enzymes don’t work properly in too acidic or basic environment as they are very sensitive to acidity and alkalinity. For example pepsin, an enzyme in the stomach that breaks down proteins does not function properly with inadequate quantity of acid.

Common Conditions & Disorders

Metabolic disorders are usually due to not having enough of a certain enzyme. Children get disorders through parents via genes (inherited). Few examples of inherited metabolic disorders are as follows:

Fabry disease obstructs body from producing enzymes (alpha-galactosidase A) that helps breaking down fat (lipids).

Krabbe disease affects enzymes required for the protective covering (myelin) on nerve cells (Central Nervous System).

Maple syrup urine disease affects enzymes required to breaking down certain branch chain amino acids.

Other health conditions related to enzyme imbalances are as follows:

Crohn’s disease which is an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut (gut microbiome) may manipulate an autoimmune reaction of the intestinal tract. This may cause a function in presentation and severity of Crohn’s disease.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is a health condition where the pancreas doesn’t have enough digestive enzymes. The body can not break down food or absorb nutrients. Chronic pancreatitis, diabetes , pancreatic cancer  or cystic fibrosis can lead to EPI.

Lactose intolerance is a shortage of the enzyme required to digest sugars in dairy and milk (lactose).

Enzyme test:

A variety of enzyme and protein blood tests can be performed by your healthcare provider to check for certain health conditions. For instance, elevated liver enzymes may be a sign of liver disease.

Enzyme supplements:

If you do not have a chronic health condition you can get the enzymes from a healthy diet. But, in case of certain health conditions, your healthcare provider may prescribe you enzyme supplements. For example, many people with EPI may be recommended to take a digestive enzyme before they eat. This assists their bodies absorb nutrients from food they eat. It is always advisable to talk to your healthcare provider before going for any type of enzyme supplement.

Medications affect on enzyme levels:

Some medications show the affect on enzyme levels. For instance, antibiotics can destroy certain bacteria required for some enzymes to function their best. That’s why antibiotics may cause diarrhea. While killing the bacteria making you sick, they also kill important good bacteria that aid in your digestion.

Statins (medications that lower cholesterol) can increase liver enzymes and muscle enzymes. They may escalate the risk of damage to the muscle or liver.

Enzymes as Biological Catalysts

A basic task of proteins is to act as enzymes—catalysts that increases the rate of nearly all the chemical reactions within cells. Although RNAs are competent of catalyzing few reactions, most of the biological reactions are catalyzed by proteins. Without enzymatic catalysis, most biochemical reactions are so sluggish that they would not take place under the mild conditions of temperature & pressure that are compatible with life. Enzymes increase the rates of these types of reactions by well over a million-fold, so reactions that would take years in the absence of catalysis can happen in fractions of seconds if appropriate enzyme catalyzes. Cells consist of thousands of different enzymes, and their actions determine which of the many probable chemical reactions truly take place within the cell.


The enzyme problem can only be detected after blood test. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following problems as follows: Abdominal pain, Diarrhoea, Bloating or gas,  Nausea and vomiting, Fatigue, Low red blood counts (anaemia), Unexplained weight loss, Gastrointestinal bleeding.