The Big Three

The Big Three


by Charles Hallquist PhD, DN

When digestion, absorption, and elimination are maximized, you will notice a lot of other symptoms will be eliminated. Indigestion can be attributed to a great many causes. Its discomfort, not only in the stomach, but in the areas of absorption and elimination, creates a general “not feeling very well” condition to the client. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of the people working and walking around have a digestive problem, which could easily be eliminated. We will see how enzymes can return the digestive system to normal.

Common symptoms of enzyme insufficiency include abdominal bloating, gas, indigestion, and passing of undigested foods into the stool. In order to gain nutritional benefits from the food we eat, it is critical that we properly digest, absorb, and eliminate our food. The best nutrition in the world would go to waste if the body were unable to process that food. Fortunately, the human digestive system is quite efficient in extracting the needed nutrients from “good” food under normal conditions.

The major function of the digestive system is to grind down foods and absorb nutrients.

The digestive system extends from the mouth to the anus and includes: mouth, throat, esophagus, intestines, the salivary glands, the liver and gallbladder, and of course, the pancreas. Digestion occurs as a result of mechanical and chemical processes. The mechanical process includes grinding, crushing, and mixing of the food mass together with digestive juices/enzymes. These are responsible for the chemical breakdown of large molecules into smaller molecules by breaking up chemical bonds (when three or more molecules bond together). The active compounds in the digestive juices are primarily enzymes. Protease breaks down proteins, amylase breaks down starchy carbohydrates and lipase breaks down fat.

The digestive process starts in the mouth. Food is mixed with saliva, which contains the enzyme amylase, which breaks down starch molecules into smaller segments. Food is broken down in the stomach by mechanical as well as chemical means. The mixing of food with digestive secretions, including hydrochloric acid and enzymes, is critical to proper protein digestion and nutrient absorption. If hydrochloric acid secretion is insufficient or inhibited, proper protein digestion will not occur. In this process, the food is in the stomach from 45 minutes to 4 hours. When the food leaves the stomach, it is referred to as chyme. It takes the chyme approximately two to four hours to make its way through the 21-foot small intestine. The small intestine is divided into three segments:

  • Duodenum – the first portion, is 10 to 12 inches long
  • Jejunum – the middle portion, is about 8 feet long
  • Ileum – the last portion, is about 12 feet long

The small intestine participates in all aspects of digestion, absorption, and transport of ingested material. The small intestine secretes a variety of digestive and protective enzymes from the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Absorption of nutrients occurs predominately in the duodenum. Absorption of water-soluble vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins occurs primarily in the jejunum. Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, fat, cholesterol, and bile salt compounds secreted by the gallbladder occurs in the ileum during digestion. Disease in the small intestine often results in mal-absorption syndromes characterized by multiple nutrient deficiencies. Examples of common mal-absorption would include, but are not limited to, Celiac disease (gluten intolerance), food allergy (enzyme deficiency), intestinal infection, and Crohn’s disease, which would indicate an amylase deficiency.


The pancreas produces enzymes that are required for digestion and absorption of nutrients. Each day the pancreas secretes about 1-1/2 quarts of pancreatic juices into the small intestine. The enzymes secreted include lipase, protease, and amylase. Lipase along with bile from the gallbladder breaks down fats. Deficiency of lipase would result in mal-absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Amylase breaks down the starch (carbohydrate) molecules into smaller segments. The saliva gland as well as the pancreas secretes the enzyme amylase. Protease is secreted by the pancreas and breaks down protein into single amino acids, Incomplete digestion of protein creates a number of problems, including the development of allergies and formation of toxic substances, which are produced during putrefaction. Protease is responsible for keeping the small intestine free of parasites including bacteria, yeast, protozoa, and parasitic worms. Lack of the enzyme protease increases the risk of intestinal infection and chronic candida. Protease is very important in preventing the formation of fibrous clots, tissue damage during inflammation, and depositing immune complexes in the body tissue. Incomplete digestion and yeast can be the main contributors to the development of many diseases. Ingestion of healthy foods and many nutritional supplements are of little benefit when breakdown and assimilation are inadequate.

Enzymes assist in this necessary assimilation. Proper function of the small intestine requires effective digestive enzymes coupled with a fully functional absorptive surface. Improving small intestine function requires addressing the underlying issues, i.e., food intolerance, allergies, lack of enzymes, low immune status, and too much sugar in the diet. The digestive system is a truly integrated system, in which the function of one aspect usually affects the others. Due to the interrelationship among the components of the digestive system, it makes it difficult to determine the exact cause of a digestive disturbance. Using the proper digestive enzymes will eliminate most of the problems.

Copyright © 1997, Enzyme Research Products, Inc

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