What is cellulase?
Cellulase is one of the many enzymes that the body needs in order to help in the breakdown of food – faster. This speeding up is called catalysis and an enzyme can be referred to as a catalyst. Like other proteins with this function in the body, it hastens the availability of nutrients to the body (enhanced bioavailability). Without this, and other enzymes, the food we eat would take unusually long to be of any benefit to the body.
This would result in various types of health issues. An interesting fact about cellulase, and other enzymes, is that although it quickens chemical reactions in the body, it doesn’t itself change. This doesn’t mean that it will continue to be available even after many reactions. It needs to be replenished.
Cellulase helps in the breakdown of cellulose. These are tough complex sugars that need to be broken down to simple sugars to provide the body to the required energy to run all other processes. In nature, cellulase is produced by various bacteria and fungi. This is particularly the case in the digestive systems of herbivores. This is why such animals can digest tough plant material. Human beings need help to digest even less tough plant matter. This is why it may be necessary to use a product containing cellulase as a supplement.
Types of cellulase
There are five types of identified cellulase enzymes. Each of this type acts on and breaks down a specific area of cellulose material. These enzymes also support the breakdown of the less complex sugars called hemicellulose.
Body processes that need cellulase
Although cellulase may be associated with the digestive system, its functions go beyond this area. It will also be needed in:
- The immune system
- Blood sugar metabolism
- Control of cholesterol levels
- Heart system
How it works
Cellulase is a collective term for several enzymes that breakdown cellulose. Each enzyme in the group breaks down a specific part of the cellulose fibrous tissue. The specific cellulase enzyme works best at different pH states of the body. Some need acidic conditions while others work best under alkaline body conditions. An oversimplified process of cellulose breakdown (cellulolysis) includes the following steps:
- Cellulose in a plant is broken down by cellulase
- One of the products of this chemical reaction is a less complex sugar called polysaccharide
- Another possible product is simple sugar (glucose) that the body can utilize immediately or may be stored for later use.
- Any undigested cellulose is eliminated in stool. It forms an import part of a healthy digestive system due to its bulking nature. This supports better bowel emptying.
Symptoms of cellulase deficiency
Cellulase deficiency may be suspected following persistent gut health issues. Abnormal blood sugar metabolism could also be part of the deficiency symptoms. While some of the symptoms could be due to other health conditions, a detailed history, physical examination, and relevant laboratory investigations could raise suspicion for the enzymes inadequacy in the body. Some of the symptoms include:
- Abdominal distension
- Stomach pains
- Abnormal blood sugar levels
- Poor cholesterol level control
- Since cellulase supports a healthy immune system, its deficiency may present with signs and symptoms of age-related disorders or premature aging of skin. This is due to uncontrolled and high levels of free radicals.
Sources of cellulase
There are two main sources of this enzyme.
- Natural sources
These include fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in cellulase and other enzymes. Certain fungi and other microorganisms also produce the enzyme. It is the existence of these organisms on the foods we eat that help in the digestion of the cellulose in such plants. Usually, cellulase producing microorganisms exist in a symbiotic nature on the fruits and vegetables in question.
These are usually derived from the organisms that naturally produce cellulase. These include fungi, protozoa, and certain bacteria. Some cellulase can also be extracted from the gut of some animals. If you are a vegan, it would be important to confirm the source of the cellulase product that you are taking.
Who is at risk of cellulase deficiency?
People suffering from specific or general ill-health are at a higher risk of cellulase deficiency and its associated disorders. Those suffering from eating disorders are also at an increased risk than those who use a healthy diet. Highly processed foods are void of cellulase. Taking such a diet for prolonged periods is another risk factor.
Health benefits of cellulase
A healthy digestive system is a basic step in the attainment of good overall health. Cellulase is an important contributor to this goal. Specific digestive and overall health cellulase health benefits include:
- Support for healthy blood sugar metabolism. Cellulose is a complex sugar that cannot help the body. The gradual breakdown of the sugar leads to controlled simple sugar (glucose) that the body can utilize. This way, blood glucose spikes are avoided.
- Supports the elimination of harmful microorganisms that have tough cell wall by digesting such a layer thus making the organism easier to kill by the body’s immune system.
- Improves the quality of fermented foods.
- The breakdown of cellulose promotes the availability of a plant’s nutrients to the body. These include the antioxidant properties of fruits and vegetables
- Supports a healthy cardiovascular system. A well-controlled cholesterol status in the body has a direct benefit on the heart and blood vessels health.
- May help in achieving a healthy body weight.
Dosage and how to take
The daily value of cellulase has not been established. However, 500 CU (Control Units) per day as a supplement is a good amount in addition to what you might get from the normal diet. It should be taken with meals.
Any health concerns with cellulase use?
Cellulase is considered a generally safe product. However, people react differently to the use of similar nutritional products. If you notice any symptoms that cause you concern after using the enzyme, then you should seek the opinion of a knowledgeable health professional.
Cellulase supplements should not be given to children.
Mild and transient digestive issues may be noticed. In most cases, cellulase is part of a multi-enzyme supplement and any undesirable symptoms noted may be due to any of the other ingredients.
Precaution should also be taken with:
- People suffering from chronic health conditions
- Pregnant or nursing mothers
- People on medications
- People known to be allergic to any other ingredient in the cellulase containing product
Where can you get a reliable cellulase containing product? Good gut health needs more than cellulase. Other important enzymes include protease, amylase, lipase as well as a healthy gut environment. Belisan’s Superplant Enzymes is a premium product that provides cellulase and the other digestive enzymes.
These supplement is animal products free, and gluten free. It is made in a GMP certified facility and packaged in the U.S.A.
To buy or to read more about Superplant Enzymes from Belisan, click here
All You Need to Know About Bromelain
All You Need to Know About Lipase
The Health Benefits of Papain
Newman, T. (2018, January 11). "Enzymes: How they work and what they do." Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319704.php.
Melanie Loiselle & Kimberly W Anderson (2003) The Use of Cellulase in Inhibiting Biofilm Formation from Organisms Commonly Found on Medical Implants, Biofouling, 19:2, 77-85, DOI: 10.1080/0892701021000030142
Tamang, J. P., Shin, D. H., Jung, S. J., & Chae, S. W. (2016). Functional Properties of Microorganisms in Fermented Foods. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 578. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00578