Digase™ (Digestive Enzyme Design Rationale) Part 1: the Need for Supplementation

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Here we present our Design Rationale for Digase™, Health Products Distributors, Inc.’s plant-based enzyme supplement formula. This Design Rationale includes product background information and a discussion of the need for individuals to supplement diet with digestive enzymes to create, support, and maintain optimal health.

Digase™ remains among our most popular digestive enzyme formulas. It is an effective, plant-based enzyme supplement providing a full spectrum of digestive enzymes plus digestion stimulating herbs.

Digase™ provides proteases (optimized for pHs of 3.0, 4.5, and 6.0), peptidase, lipase, and carbohydrases, including amylase, glucoamylase, invertase (sucrase), maltase, alpha-galactosidase, lactase, phytase, cellulase, and hemicellulase.

CereCalase™ is included to break down phytic acid, a substance that can prevent proper absorbtion of minerals in the diet.

Digase™ includes three digestion-stimulating herbs: ginger root, gentian root, and caraway seed.

Dr. Hank Liers designed Digase™ to be the most effective plant-based supplement available. Applying his understanding of digestive enzymes’ modes of action to bear on the development and design of Digase™, HPDI believes this product to be among the most advanced enzyme formulas on the market today.



The digestive system prepares food for use by the body’s cells. If food is not digested, it cannot reach the cells and is not in the appropriate form or chemical state. The digestive system modifies food physically and chemically through the use of exocrine and endocrine secretions as well as through the controlled movement of food through the digestive tract.

Digestion begins when food first enters the mouth. Here the first mechanical process occurs with the act of chewing. In addition, the body’s first enzymes are added to the food with saliva. This enzyme is called ptyalin and consists of amylolytic enzymes. As the food travels down the esophagus via peristaltic action, ptyalin as well as any endogenous enzymes continue the digestive process started in the mouth.

After the food bolus has entered the stomach, it may remain in the fundus or upper region of the stomach for as long as an hour until the food is mixed with the stomach secretions.During this time salivary amylase and food enzymes continue digestion. Research has shown that salivary amylase can digest as much as 30 to 40% of the starches present before mixing occurs.

The stomach continues mechanical digestion through churning the bolus into a creamy chyme. Several enzymes (see Table 1) are secreted in the stomach including gastric lipase (tributyrase), gastric amylase, gelatinase and pepsinogen. Pepsinogen is the inactive form of the proteolytic enzyme pepsin which is activated via acid hydrolysis with the hydrochloric acid secreted by the stomach. Thus, the stomach begins the enzymatic digestion of protein and to a limited extent fats.

As the chyme moves into the duodenum, the pancreas is stimulated to produce additional digestive enzymes. Pancreatic secretions includes enzymes for the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Secreted proteolytic enzymes include trypsin, chymotrypsin, carboxypolypeptidase, elastases and nuceleases. Proteolytic enzymes breakdown proteins into peptides of various sizes and free amino acids. Pancreatic amylase hydrolyzes starches, glycogen and other digestible carbohydrates into di- and trisaccharides.

Similar in action to salivary amylase, pancreatic amylase is several times more powerful and is the major agent in the digestion of starches and other complex carbohydrates. Fats are hydrolyzed by pancreatic lipase, cholesterol esterase and phospholipase. Together these lipolytic enzymes provide for the digestion of phospholipids, cholesterol and fats. To support fat digestion and absorption, bile is secreted by the liver. The bile salts function to aid emulsification of fat particles as well as transport and absorption of fatty acids, monoglycerides, cholesterol and other lipids through the intestinal mucous membrane.

Upon entrance to the small intestine, additional enzymes are present to further digest the ingested foods. Peptidases, disaccharidases, and intestinal lipase are located within the brush border cells where they complete digestion thus allowing absorption. Disaccharidase enzymes include sucrase, maltase, isomaltase, and lactase and function to hydrolyze disaccharides into monosaccharides. Absorption of nutrients takes place in the small intestine.

Having been digested into the appropriate form, monosaccharides, amino acids, fatty acids and other nutrients are absorbed across the intestinal mucosa and transported via the blood stream for use by cells throughout the body.

TABLE 1. Overview of Enzymes in the Healthy Human Digestive Tract
amylase starch maltose, dextrins
tributyrase butter fats free fatty acids, di-, monoglycerides
pepsin proteins peptides
gelatinase proteins peptides
amylase* starch, glycogen, COH maltose, dextrins
pancreatic lipase* fats (triglycerides) free fatty acids, monoglycerides
cholesterol esterase cholesterol esters free fatty acids, cholesterol
phospholipase phospholipids free fatty acids
trypsin* proteins/peptides peptides
chymotrypsin proteins/peptides peptides
carboxypolypeptidase peptides free amino acids
elastases proteins/peptides peptides
nucleases proteins/peptides peptides
small intestine
dipeptidases peptides tripeptides, dipeptides
aminopolypeptidase peptides tripeptides, dipeptides
peptidases tripeptides, dipeptides free amino acids
intestinal lipase tri-, diglycerides free fatty acids
sucrase sucrose glucose, fructose
maltase/isomaltase maltose glucose
lactase lactose glucose, galactose
dextrinase limit dextrins glucose
* enzymes responsible for the greatest percentage of digestion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.




Under optimal conditions, it could be argued that the human body needs no supplementation of enzymes. As the table above indicates, the human body is quite capable of producing the enzymes necessary to digest food and allow for the absorption of nutrients. However, with estimates that as many as twenty million Americans suffer from various digestive disorders, optimal conditions are not the norm for most people.

In fact, digestive problems can cause improper digestion and malabsorption of nutrients with far reaching effects. Consequences of malabsorption may include impaired immunity, allergic reactions, poor wound healing, skin problems, mood swings, etc. Supplemental enzymes can improve the effectiveness of digestion and help assure maximum levels of nutrient absorption by the body.




All raw foods naturally contains the proper types and proportion of enzymes necessary to digest themselves (whether in human consumption or in the eventual decomposition in the natural world). When raw food is eaten, chewing ruptures the cell membranes and releases the indigenous food enzymes to begin the selective breakdown of substrates.

Proteases break long protein chains (polypeptides) into smaller amino acid chains and eventually into single amino acids. Amylase reduces large carbohydrates (starches and other polysaccharides) to disaccharides including sucrose, lactose, and maltose. Lipases digest fats (triglycerides) into free fatty acids and glycerol.

Cellulase and CereCalase™ (not found in the human system) break the bonds found in various fibers. By disrupting the structure of the fiber matrices which envelop most of the nutrients in plants, cellulase and CereCalase™ increase the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

Overwhelming evidence shows that food enzymes play an important role in digestion by predigesting food in the upper stomach before hydrochloric acid has even been secreted. Supplementation of food enzymes is necessary in today’s society due to the prevalence of cooked and/or processed foods.

Most food enzymes are essentially destroyed at the temperatures used to cook and process food leaving foods devoid of digestive enzyme activity. Placing the full digestive burden on the body, the body’s digestive process can become over-stressed and vital nutrients may not be released from food for assimilation by the body.

Unlike supplemental enzymes of animal origin, plant enzymes work at the pH found in the upper stomach. Food sits in the upper portion of the stomach for as long as an hour before gastric secretions begin action. Several studies conducted at major universities have shown that the enzymes in saliva continue their digestive activity in the upper stomach and can digest up to 30% of the ingested protein, 60% of ingested starch and 10% of ingested fat during the 30 to 60 minutes after consumption.

Although salivary enzymes accomplish a significant amount of digestion, their activity is limited to a pH level above 5.0. Exogenous plant enzymes are active in the pH range of 3.0 to 9.0 and can facilitate the utilization of a much larger amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat before HCl is secreted in sufficient amounts to neutralize their activity. Obviously, plant enzymes can play a significant role in improving food nutrient utilization.

In addition to protease, amylase, lipase, and cellulase, it is important to provide a concentrated source of the disaccharidases Lactase, Invertase and Malt Diastase. Disaccharide intolerance occurs when insufficient levels of disaccharidase enzymes are secreted in the small intestine causing malabsorption and physical discomfort. Lactase deficiency is the most common and well-known form of carbohydrate intolerance.

Lactase digests lactose (milk sugar) into glucose and galactose. Most mammals, including humans, have high intestinal lactase activity at birth. But, in some cases, this activity declines to low levels during childhood and remains low in adulthood. The low lactase levels cause maldigestion of milk and other foods containing lactose.

It is estimated that approximately 70% of the world’s population is deficient in intestinal lactase with more than one third of the US population presumed unable to digest dairy products. Supplemental lactase has been found to decrease the symptoms of lactose intolerance associated with consumption of dairy foods.

Invertase is another disaccharidase that works to break down sucrose (refined table sugar) into glucose and fructose. The prevalence of processed and highly refined foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) means Americans consume a large amount of this sugar, which can contribute to excessive digestive stress. It is theorized that unrecognized sucrose intolerance is a contributing factor in many allergies. Supplemental Invertase can increase the assimilation and utilization of this sugar.

The additional supplementation of the carbohydrase Malt Diastase augments the breakdown of starch into glucose molecules, allowing greater absorption of this energy-giving sugar. Inclusion of these sugar-breaking enzymes gives Digase™ a broad base for improving nutrition.


Also see Part II of the Digase™ Design Rationale.


Other HPDI formulas supporting digestion and intestinal health:

Prolyt (proteolytic enzyme formula with bioflavonoids)
Polydophilus (probiotic formula plus fructooligosaccharides)
Intestinal Rejuvenation Formula (intestinal cleansing formula)

Hank Liers, PhD

Hank Liers, PhD

Dr. Hank Liers is the CEO and chief product formulator for Health Products Distributors, Inc. He has been studying and using natural means of achieving health since 1984. Dr. Liers received his PhD in physics in 1969 from the University of Minnesota and has applied his analytical abilities to learning and applying a scientific approach to nutrition.