Digestive enzymes play an important role in our health and longevity. In the past, we had access to digestive

enzymes from the plants we ate simply because they were essentially ripe when they were picked. Modern
farming techniques and processed foods have removed many of the enzymes we would normally get from the foods we eat. Consider that ripe fruits and vegetables contain the most digestive enzymes they will have. Even a few hours later, many of the enzymes have deteriorated. Many fruits and vegetables are harvested too early and shipped in cold storage and by the time they get to market may have less than 10 percent of the enzymes of fresh picked ripened produce. Moreover, produce today contains fewer minerals due to mineral-depleted soils. They also lack the proper micro-organisms to convert available nutrients and minerals into bioavailable forms that the plants can use. So, we end up with far less nutrients and enzymes in our food today.

Digestive enzymes play a major role in our health enabling our bodies to digest and use all the nutrients we take in to the greatest extent. Digestive enzymes are also responsible for elimination of toxins that build up over time. Although some digestive enzymes are made in our bodies in particular in the pancreas, stomach, salivary glands and the small intestine, they are not always sufficient for complete digestion. Raw foods contain a wide range of natural enzymes that make them easier for us to digest so that we can get the most out of the foods we take in.

As we get older, our digestive system becomes less efficient as we produce fewer digestive enzymes on our own. This results in a digestive tract that becomes more alkaline over time making it difficult for us to completely break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. This increase in alkalinity can lead to a whole host of digestive health issues ranging from excessive gas production, bloating, food allergies and food intolerances. Additionally, we don’t get the nutrition from the food we take in which can create nutritional deficiencies.

However, there is a solution to this problem. All one needs to do is to re-acidify the gastrointestinal tract and improve your ability to digestive properly by supplementing with digestive enzymes and botanicals that support overall digestion. When looking for a digestive supplement, look for supplements that contain proteases (they digest protein), lipases (they digest fats) and amylases (they digest carbohydrates). Botanicals that carry a fair amount of digestion-enhancing properties tend to belong to three groups. These plants contain bitter, aromatic and pungent substances that support proper digestion. Some examples of these plants include ginger, peppermint, fennel, dandelion, artichoke, caraway and turmeric.

XBrain® DigesTive Enzymes has been formulated with enzymes and a number of botanicals to support digestion throughout the gastrointestinal tract. These ingredients include betaine hydrochloride, bromelain, papain, amylase, lipase, apple cider vinegar, caraway seed, chamomile herb, fennel, ginger root, peppermint leaf and turmeric. These ingredients work together synergistically and may aid in maintaining healthy digestion. Below is the list of ingredients along with their bioactive components and how they work in the body.

Betaine hydrochloride

Betaine hydrochloride plays an important role in digestion by enhancing pancreatic release of pancreatic enzymes. It is important to have enough hydrochloric acid (HCl) for proper digestion. If the mixture of food, water and HCl (chyme) coming from the stomach emptying into the small intestine doesn’t have enough HCl and fluids, the pancreas will not be stimulated enough to produce its digestive enzymes and bicarbonate in the small intestines. Bicarbonate is extremely important as it will neutralize the acidity of chyme preventing damage to the small intestine and pancreatic enzymes will further digest chyme. So, it is crucial to increase HCl in the stomach so the pancreas can do its job. If your stomach is more alkaline, you get poor digestion in the stomach, release less pancreatic juice and cause damage to the upper small intestine (duodenum). Poorly digested material can cause cramping, flatulence and bloating.


Bromelain is a protease that comes from the pineapple. Proteases cleave proteins into smaller polypeptides and/or individual amino acids. Bromelain hydrolytically cleaves peptide bonds formed by the amino acids lysine, alanine, tyrosine and glycine and is referred to as an endopeptidase. Bromelain is actually a family of enzymes.


Papain is another plant protease (breaks down proteins) and comes from papaya which is a member of the melon family.This is a family of enzymes which have the ability to cleave bonds between arginine, phenylalanine and lysine, thus cleaving proteins into smaller polypeptides and complementing bromelain.


Amylase is a digestive enzyme that we make in our bodies. Salivary amylase is made by the salivary glands in your mouth and pancreatic amylase is made in the pancreas. This digestive enzyme breaks down starch (complex carbohydrate) in food turning it into small carbohydrates and in this case maltose. The pancreas releases amylase through a duct into the upper small intestine (duodenum) for further digestion of carbohydrates in the small intestine. Pancreatic amylase completes the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose which can then be absorbed through the gut wall then passing into blood.

Having more amylase around ensures you get greater carbohydrate digestion.


Lipase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down dietary fats into fatty acids and glycerol. Small amounts of lipase are made by cells in the stomach. Larger amounts of lipase are made in the pancreas. This lipase is released into the small intestine where it will break down partially digested fats from the stomach. Before this occurs, bile made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder is released into the small intestine which converts dietary fat into fatty globules. Then pancreatic lipase kicks in and acts on the fatty globules converting them into fatty acids and glycerol. These fatty acids and glycerol are absorbed through the gut wall and enter the blood steam and lymphatic system. Having extra lipase around assists in a more complete fat digestion.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contain a number of ingredients including acids, mineral and vitamins. Research indicates that there are over ninety different substances in apple cider vinegar. These include 13 types of carbolic acids, 4 aldehydes, 20 ketones, 18 alcohols, 8 ethyl acetates and list goes on.

In the process of fermenting apple juice to alcoholic apple cider and letting it interact with oxygen turns the alcohol into acetic acid. This is a very useful acid for digestion purposes. Apple cider vinegar also contains propionic acid, lactic acid, amino acids, potash and apple pectin. The minerals include potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chlorine, sodium, sulfur, copper, iron, silicon and fluorine. Vitamins include C, E, A, B1, B2, B6, beta-carotene and Vitamin P.

Apple cider vinegar has been reported to reduce cholesterol, regulate water content, decrease excess sodium, regulate blood pressure, inhibits plaque formation, increase brain function in terms of focus and concentration and provide energy. The acetic acid along with other acids improve digestion in the stomach.

Caraway seed

For hundreds of years, caraway seeds have been used to treat gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion and flatulence. These seeds contain carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and are a rich source of essential oils. They are reported to aid in elimination of gas due to its carminative properties which either prevents the formation of gas or aids in its removal. Often times bloating occurs when harmful bacteria generate gas in your intestine. Caraway seed contains components that limit the growth of harmful bacteria while allowing beneficial bacteria to digest food.

Caraway seeds contain vitamins A, C, E and K along with vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B9. They also contain powerful antioxidants such as beta-carotene, beta cryptoxanthin and lutein zeaxanthin.

Recent research has revealed a number of novel bioactivities for caraway seeds. The compounds responsible for most of caraway’s medicinal benefits include monoterpene hydrocarbons, oxygenated monoterpenes, oxygenated sesquiterpenes, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, aldehydes, ketones and esters. Lignans are also present. Studies have shown that the specific major occurring compounds include carvacrol, carvone, alpha-pinene, limonene, gamma-terpinene, linalool, carvenone and p-cymene.

Clinical trials using herbal preparations of predominately caraway have demonstrated it ability to relieve dyspeptic symptoms (indigestion). An alcoholic extract of caraway has been demonstrated to inhibit smooth muscle contractions induced by spasmogens such as acetylcholine and histamine which provides evidence of caraway’s ability to relieve dyspepsia.

Another study done on 12 different bacterial strains with caraway oil demonstrated that caraway has the ability to inhibit the growth of possible pathogens yet had no effect on beneficial bacteria. This effect makes caraway oil useful for treating dysbiosis. Extracts of caraway seed have demonstrated antibacterial properties towards the gram-negative bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its clinical isolates. Helicobacter pylori is linked to the development of gastritis and peptic ulcers as well as gastric carcinoma and primary gastric B-cell lymphoma.

Extracts from caraway have been demonstrated to show antiulcerogenic effects against indomethacin-induced gastric ulcers along with a reduction in acid and leukotriene output with an increase in mucin secretion and prostaglandin E2 release. This activity has been confirmed histologically and was found to be due to the flavonoid content which provides for free radical scavenging.

Rats that had been given aspirin-induced gastric mucosal injury were administered an aqueous extract of caraway by stomach perfusion demonstrated increased acid secretion by a cholinergic mechanism. Researchers report that aqueous and solvent extracts of caraway increased amylase, protease, lipase and phytase activities.

Chamomile herb

Chamomile’s daisy-like flowers are a source of volatile oils. An extract of this botanical is reported to decrease muscle spasms and inflammation of mucous membranes which makes it useful for indigestion therapy.

Chamomile contains a number of bioactive ingredients, however, bisabolol is of particular importance for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to relax smooth muscle in the digestive tract. Researchers have demonstrated that experimentally induced gastritis can be quickly remedied with chamomile.

Chamomile also contain flavonoids mostly as apigenin with small amounts of luteolin and quercetin. These flavones are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile.

In vitro studies have demonstrated that a chamomile extract of alpha-bisabolol was able to act as a antipeptic (inhibits the action of pepsin). An alcohol extract inhibited the growth of a number of bacteria. For example, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus group B and Streptococcus salivarius.

Experiments done in vivo demonstrated that chamomile extracts have the ability to inhibit Cox-1, Cox-2 and lipoxygenase which inhibits the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes which are known as pro-inflammatory agents.

When taken internally, chamomile appears to provide relief for gastrointestinal disorders such as dyspepsia, bloating, impaired digestion and gas.


In the East, particularly India, fennel seeds are often chewed on after a meal to aid in digestion. The licorice flavor and digestive qualities come the the volatile oil anethole. Anethole stimulates secretion of gastric juices, decreases inflammation of the stomach and intestines and aids in absorption of nutrients. Fennel is commonly used in antacids, toothpaste and mouth fresheners.

If you’re having gas trouble, fennel contains aspartic acid which has anti-flatulent properties. If on the other hand you are constipated, fennel acts as a good laxative because it contains fiber. Fennel also carries simulating effects that maintain peristaltic movements in the intestine allowing for proper elimination.

If you’re having problems with diarrhea, fennel carries disinfectant and anti-bacterial properties. It also contains the amino acid histidine which has been suggested to aid in proper digestion curing your diarrhea problem if it is due to indigestion.

Fennel is a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, B3, B9, molybdenum phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, rutin, quercitin and kaempferol glycosides (powerful antioxidants).

Ginger root

The medicinal part of the ginger plant is its rhizome or root. Ginger contains a number of molecules but importantly the non-volatile pungent components, [6]-gingerol, [10]-gingerol, zerumbone, shogaols, paradols and zingerone. These compounds produce the hot sensation in the mouth. These substances have been reported to inhibit colon cancer. Gingerol is a relative of capsaicin found in hot peppers. The volatile oils include mainly sesquiterpenes such as zingeberene, curcemene, farnesene, bisabolene and monoterpenoids such as cineole, linalool, borneol, neral, geraniol and sesquiphellandrene. Other components include oleoresins, fats, waxes, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Ginger also contains a proteolytic enzyme known as zingibain.

Clearly foods such as break, milk, fish and egg-white contain essential nutrients we all need, however, for some, these foods cause a wide range of diseases due to allergies and intolerances to the proteins contained within these foods. Many of these foods contain proteins that contain proline groups (amino acid) which the body can’t digest. As the immune system becomes sensitized to these groups, this sets off reactions such as inflammation, excess mucous production, indigestion and irritable bowel problems. Zingibain is an enzyme (protease) that can break up proline groups making the remaining protein digestible preventing an immune reaction and maintaining proper digestion. Zingibain has also been reported to break down proline groups on viral coats effectively allowing the immune system to be more successful in getting rid of them. So, zingibain has the ability to break down difficult to digest proteins in gluten, albumin, dairy, nuts, and meats reducing adverse side effects of some foods as well as the ability to attack viruses.

Peppermint leaf

Peppermint improves the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder providing a choleretic effect, hence supporting liver function. The increase in bile flow helps to support digestion by breaking down fats and decreasing bad cholesterol. By reducing cholesterol levels, this decreases the work load on the liver. This has the effect of giving the liver a boost.

Peppermint contains menthol, menthone, cineole, methyl acetate, methofuran, isomenthone, limonene, pinene, germacrene, sabinene and pulegone.

The cholerectic effect has been suggested to come from peppermint’s ability to up-regulate CYP7A1 and FXR mRNA levels meaning that a peppermint component is regulating gene expression involved with bile acid biosynthesis. The CYP7A1 gene codes for an enzyme known as cholesterol 7 alpha-hydrolase (also known as monooxygenase, cytochrome P450 7A1). Cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase is the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of bile acid from cholesterol. This pathway is inhibited by Sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBP) when plasma cholesterol levels are low and it is up-regulated by the nuclear receptor LXR (liver X receptor) when cholesterol levels are high. Up-regulating this system increases bile acid production and reduces cholesterol levels in liver cells.


Turmeric (Circuma longa) is a member of the ginger family. Turmeric has been used since ancient times as a digestive bitter and a carminative. It has the ability to improve digestion, decrease gas and bloating. It stimulates bile production (a cholagogue) in the liver and enhances bile excretion from the gallbladder. Importantly, this helps the body to digest fat.

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory to mucous membranes such as in the throat, lungs, stomach and intestine. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease, or diarrhea you may benefit from daily use of turmeric. Turmeric also has the ability to maintain beneficial flora by acting as an anti-bacterial agent. It also contains compounds that are similar to compounds found in milk thistle and artichoke leaves. It is reported to be able to reduce the size of engorged liver ducts, therefore, it may be useful for conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and jaundice. It is known to be a powerful detoxifier.

Turmeric is also reported to have antispasmodic activity on smooth muscle cells, thereby, reducing digestive cramping.

Suggested Reading

Cuminum cyminum and Carum carvi: An update




Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties


Pharmacokinetics of 6-Gingerol, 8-Gingerol, 10-Gingerol, and 6-Shogaol and Conjugate Metabolites in Healthy Human Subjects


Health Conditions and Concerns – Digestion


Preliminary experimental research on the mechanism of liver bile secretion stimulated by peppermint oil.


[Expression of FXR mRNA, PPAR alpha mRNA and bile acid metabolism related genes in intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnant rats].


Regulation of the Farnesoid X Receptor (FXR) by Bile Acid Flux in Rabbits