Nutritional News/FAQs

Below are some common questions about our Digestive Aids. Click on each of the questions to
reveal the answer.

What are enzymes?

Enzymes are catalytic proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body and are necessary for life.  They catalyze (speed up) and regulate nearly all biochemical reactions that occur within the body.  They are distributed throughout all cellular components and are usually found on the inner surface of the membranes.  The location of specific enzymes depends on the site of the metabolic pathways in which these enzymes participate.

Enzymes in the digestion process divide substances into smaller compounds through a process called hydrolysis (breaking apart by water).  Essentially, the process involves turning food into smaller molecules for absorption, which in turn allows for the creation of energy to sustain life.  Food enzymes, however, are only provided by consuming raw foods or by supplemental enzymes.  Cellulase, for example, aids in fiber digestion; yet, it cannot be made in the body and must be introduced through raw foods or supplementation.  Raw foods provide only enough enzymes to digest that particular food, generally not enough to be stored for future use.

What units are used to measure enzyme activity?

Enzyme activity is the acceptable way to measure enzyme potency. Weight measurements (mg) are inappropriate and misleading. Our enzymes are measured in Food Chemical Codex units, the national standard sanctioned by the FDA.

The daily amount of supplemental enzymes that is supported by research for the proper digestion of proteins, simple and complex carbohydrates and fats depends on the activity measure of each enzyme. Minimum activity levels shown to support digestion for most individuals are 4000 HUT of protease, 2000 DU of amylase, 40 LU of lipase and 40 CU of cellulase.  Remember, it is not the amount (mg) of the supplemental enzymes in each capsule that is significant, but rather the amount of activity units. Activity units are the only way to identify the potency of an enzyme. However, there are several available methods used to determine enzyme potency, which is why Bluebonnet only uses published assays, such as those found in the Foods Chemical Codex for the measurement of plant-based enzymes. The following is a list of FCC units:


DU (Dextrinizing Units): FCC—for non-bacterial alpha amylase. A DU is defined as the number of grams of soluble starch dextrinized per hour at 30°C and pH 4.6.

LACU or ALU (Lastase Units): FCC—assay is based on a 15-minute hydrolysis of an o-nitro phenyl-β-D-galactopyranoside substrate at 37°C and pH 4.5.

DP° (Diastatic Power – Maltase activity): FCC—the assay is based on a 30-min hydrolysis of a starch substrate at pH 4.6 and 20°C. The reducing sugar produced is measured in a titrimetric procedure using alkaline ferricyanide.

IAU (Invertase Unit): FCC—One Invertase Unit is defined as the quantity of enzyme that will hydrolyze 1.142 mcgmol of sucrose per minute under the conditions of the assay. 

Protease –

HUT (Hemoglobin Units on Tyrosine base): FCC—for fungal proteases. Based on a 30-minute hydrolysis of a hemoglobin substrate at pH 4.7 and 40°C.

PC Assay (Protease Analytical Method): FCC—for bacterial protease. Based on a 30-minute hydrolysis of casein at 37°C and PH 7.0.

Plant Source Proteases: Bromelain and Papain

GDU (Gelatin Digesting Units): A common measure of Bromelain. 1 GDU is the amount of enzyme that liberates after 20 minutes, 1 mg amino nitrogen from a standard gelatin at 45°C and pH 4.5 and 5.5. 

PU (Papain Units): FCC PU (Plant Proteolytic Analytical Method): Based on 60 minute proteolytic hydrolysis of casein substrate at pH 6.0 and 40°C.

Lipase --    

Lipase – LU (Lipase Unit) or FCC FIP (Federation Internationale Pharmceutique)—The assay is based on the potentiometric measurement of the rate at which the preparations will catalyze the hydrolysis of trbutyin.   

Cellulase –

CU (Cellulase Unit): FCC—Assay is based on the enzymatic hydrolysis of the interior β-1,4-glcosidic bonds of a defined carboxymethyl cellulose substrate at pH 4.5 and 40°C, measured by a reduction in viscosity.  

HCU (Hemicellulase Unit): FCC—One Hemicellulase Unit (HCU) is defined as activity that will produce a relative fluidity change of 1 over 5 minute in a locust bean gum substrate at 40°C and pH 4.5. 

What is the Difference between TMG and Betaine HCL?

Betaine TMG (not to be confused with Betaine HCL) works along with Vitamin B6, folic acid and Vitamin B12 to augment the formation of SAMe, an amino acid in the brain. Amino acids are proteins. Metabolically, TMG is broken down into dimethylglycine (DMG) during the synthesis of the amino acid methionine from homocysteine, the main pathway for the degradation of TMG. A diet high in broccoli, spinach or beets can provide as much as a fifth or even a quarter teaspoon of TMG, just over 500 mg.

Betaine HCL functions of Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid serves many functions, the three most important are:

1. It is the primary digestive juice responsible for breaking down proteins, preparing them for assimilation.

2. It acts as a protective barrier, killing many potentially harmful microorganisms in our food.

3. It acts as a venting mechanism for the build-up of excessive concentrations of hydrogen ions in our blood and interstitial fluids. In other words, we consume acid forming foods and / or engage in acid forming activity, the production of stomach acid uses up considerable amounts of the acid forming material (hydrogen ions) thereby assisting in the elimination of excessive tissue acidity. The stomach acid once combined with food is eventually neutralized further down the alimentary canal by alkaline pancreatic secretions.

Bluebonnet provides both forms. Betaine HCL Plus Pepsin for digestive health and TMG in our Homocysteine Formula. However, we do not have a standalone.

What are probiotics?

According to an expert evaluation by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2001, probiotics are characterized as “live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host*.”  Probiotic bacterium, such as lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus bulgaricus and bifidobacterium favorably alter the intestinal microflora balance in the body, aiding in the digestion of foods and enhancing immune health.  Lactobacilli and bifidobacterium are non-pathogenic microorganisms that maintain a healthy balance of intestinal flora by producing organic compounds, such as lactic acid, hydrogen peroxide and acetic acid that tend to lower the pH of the intestines.

Healthy microbes like probiotics colonize in the GI tract and are important components of the immune system.  In fact, they serve to prime or stimulate the immune system.  There are many different strains of healthy microbes; however, L. bulgaricus, the champion of the transient flora,

intensifies the growth and helpful activity of L. acidophilus and B. bifidum.  L. bulgaricus also sweeps metabolic waste and chemical toxins out of the intestines.  L. acidophilus helps to maintain the healthy environment of the small intestines, while B. bifidum helps to maintain the healthy environment of the large intestines.

Okay, so now I know what a probiotic is…What is a prebiotic?

“Prebiotic,” a term used to describe a substance that is conducive to the formation of life.  An example of a prebiotic is fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a short-chain, nondigestible oligosaccharide, which provides a food source for the healthy growth of favorable bacteria in the intestines which leads to the production of short chain fatty acids.  These short chain fatty acids tend to lower intestinal pH and are more conductive to mineral absorption.

What is the difference between grape seed extract and pine bark extract?

Pycnogenol® is a patented form of pine bark extract. Both are significant sources of flavonoids, specifically OPC's (oligomeric proanthocyanidins). OPC levels are different for each supplement. Additionally, grape seed extract contains gallic esters of proanthocyanidins and Pycnogenol® contains organic acids and catechins. These may have additional therapeutic benefits. Grape seeds are more readily available than pine bark, so grape seed extract is less expensive than Pycnogenol®.