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What Is The Function Of Pepsin?

By Jayton Miller

What Is The Function Of Pepsin?

The human body is amazing in its own right. It has hundreds of thousands (potentially millions) of mechanisms in place to help carry out life processes. One of the most important life processes is digestion. The body must be able to properly break down and absorb nutrients in order to fuel the body and carry out additional essential processes. 

Besides breathing (for aerobic organisms), digestion of food might be one of the most fundamental signs of life, and good digestion is going to lead to a higher quality of life for any organism.

Digestive enzymes are one of the elements responsible for the breakdown of foods in the body. A little known fact is that these enzymes are not just located in the stomach, but start the process of breaking down food from the moment it enters your mouth. Digestive enzymes are found in your mouth, stomach, and intestines. There are three main types of digestive enzymes:

  • Amylases: break down carbohydrates into sugar
  • Lipases: responsible for the break down of fats
  • Proteases: break down proteins

Today, we are interested in the third type of digestive enzyme, proteases, in particular, the well-known digestive enzyme, pepsin.


What Is Pepsin?:

What Is Pepsin

The protease pepsin is one of the main digestive enzymes in the digestive system. Its main responsibility is to break down the proteins of food into polypeptides and amino acids. Pepsin is stable at a PH of 7.4 and can be reactivated by hydrogen ions. 

Theodore Schwann discovered pepsin in 1836. It was one of the first digestive enzymes to be discovered. Its name is Greek in origin, coming from the word pepsis, which appropriately means "digestion". Since its discovery, we have learned much about the benefits that pepsin offers. 

One of the important functions of gastric acid is to activate pepsinogen. Pepsinogen is secreted by the stomach wall and then turned into pepsin by gastric acid. Digestion is then initiated through proteolysis. The amount of pepsin produced is directly correlated to the amount of high-protein foods consumed.

Benefits of Pepsin:

Benefits Of Pepsin

Pepsin enhances the digestion processes and offers benefits to those who suffer from certain digestive disorders. Let's take a look at the benefits pepsin offers.

Acid Reflux Treatment

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LR) also commonly known as acid reflux is a condition where the acid produced in the stomach finds its way back up the esophagus and irritates the back of the throat. It is one of the most common and well-known digestive disorders, with most people experiencing acid reflux at some point in their life. This is a very uncomfortable condition with common symptoms including:

  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Swollen Larynx

Research shows that pepsin is a reliable marker of LR and can be used in the process of diagnosing LR.  Separate studies show that the use of pepsin as a diagnostic tool for LR is an accurate and cost-effective alternative to traditional methods. The test looks for pepsin an individual's saliva. A person suspected of having LR will test positive for pepsin.


Functional dyspepsia is a disorder of the upper digestive tract. Those who suffer from this condition feel a chronic sensation of movement in the upper digestive tract. That movement is called peristalsis, which is a squeezing of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine which serves to push food downward through the digestive tract. It is a normal movement during the consumption of foods. 

However, for some, the movement involuntarily occurs in the absence of eating. Symptoms include a feeling of fullness in the upper digestive tract, inability to finish meals and in some cases vomiting. Studies show that pepsin has the potential to be an effective therapy for those who suffer from functional dyspepsia by reducing the symptoms.


Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas and damage can occur when enzymes are activated before they are released from the pancreas. Pancreatitis can either manifest in an acute or chronic form. For those who suffer from severe pancreatitis, studies show that nutritional support is imperative. Pepsin has been shown to have positive effects on individuals with pancreatitis because of its role in aiding digestion.

Read More: How To Increase Stomach Acid & Why It Matters

How To Use Pepsin:

How To Use Pepsin

Pepsin is used to increase the digestion of foods and the absorption of nutrients in the body. Medications that are pepsin based are used to treat certain pancreatic and digestive disorders. For those looking to increase the amount of pepsin in the stomach, pepsin supplements are available that enhance the digestion process.

Before beginning a new diet regimen, it is important to speak with your health care provider. Only through a comprehensive medical exam can your doctor diagnose an existing medical condition and prescribe the proper treatment based on your unique situation.

Pepsin is available as both over the counter supplements and through prescription medication. You should always carefully read and follow the directions on the bottle and the advice of your doctor. The dosage depends on weight, height, age, diet and lifestyle. It is important to realize that pepsin is not regulated by the FDA.

Read More: 11 Ways To Get Rid Of Bloating Quickly & Naturally

Foods That Contain Pepsin:

Foods With Pepsin


Pepsin is produced by the stomach and therefore is not naturally found in the foods you eat. However, the types of foods you consume can affect the production of pepsin in the stomach. Your stomach will produce and secrete higher amounts of pepsin when you consume foods that are higher in protein. Examples of foods high in protein include fish, eggs, red meat, and poultry just to name a few. Even the consumption of protein powders like collagen will increase the production of pepsin.

Pepsin supplements are available to those who are looking to increase the amount of pepsin in their digestive system and reap the benefits.


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Properly digesting food and absorbing nutrients is important when it comes to feeling your best. Pepsin plays a large part in how efficiently you digest the proteins you consume. Supplements containing pepsin will enhance overall digestion and relieve the symptoms of many digestive disorders.