Are you consuming a diet full of fruits and veggies, but feel like something is missing? Maybe you’re not getting the results you want or you’re bloated and gassy all the time even after eating super healthy food? Well, you’re not alone.
Your digestive enzymes may not be working as efficiently as they should be to break down your food and extract all the nutrients possible. But the good news is there’s a simple fix. Read on to understand what digestive enzymes are and how introducing them into your daily life can vastly improve your health.
What are digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are proteins that are produced naturally in your mouth, pancreas, stomach and small intestine. They break down the fats, carbohydrates and proteins in your food into particles that are easily absorbed so your body can get the most nutrients and benefits possible from your diet.
When you consume food, your pancreas releases about a litre and a half’s worth of pancreatic enzymes each day that will travel to the start of your small intestine, the duodenum. Beginning in the mouth and stomach, and then in the small intestine, is where the food is broken down so that when it passes through the rest of your intestine it will be absorbed efficiently.
As explained in this medical article, proper digestion is essential for the human body to minimize risks of food intolerances, increase accessibility of nutrients and reduce possible toxins and irritants in the gastrointestinal tract. Failing this, improper digestion leads to a myriad of issues that are uncomfortable and even embarrassing, like bloating and gas.
If you’re experiencing a few of the below symptoms, it may be a sign your digestive enzymes are not working as they’re supposed to:
- Abdominal pain/nausea
- Headaches/brain fog
- Oily substances in the toilet bowl when passing stools (undigested fats)
- Feeling full after only a few mouthfuls of food
- Stools that float consistently or have undigested food in them
As these symptoms can be common with other health concerns, before you start taking a digestive enzyme supplement it’s always best to check with your doctor first. If they do determine it’s a digestive enzyme issue then keep reading to get all the information you need to get your digestion back on track.
What could cause my digestive enzyme deficiency?
So if you’ve read the list of symptoms above and think a few of them may be affecting you, it’s possible you could have a digestive enzyme deficiency. Take a look below at why this could be happening and see if any of these factors are relevant to you:
Ever heard of the “fight or flight” mode? Well, when you’re stressed your body prioritizes it’s everyday functions. If you’re consistently stressed, your digestion may be flagging because your body considers it less crucial in keeping you alive and therefore isn’t devoting the normal amount of resources to it.
Minor inflammation of the digestive tract
Things like food intolerances, allergies, infections and more could all be affecting your digestive tract and causing your digestive enzymes to work sub-optimally.
This isn’t one you can control, but it’s definitely good to be aware of it. Aging is a natural process and over time your digestive enzymes will not be produced as they used to, this is completely unavoidable but totally manageable so no need to worry.
Issues with your pancreas
This includes pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, anything that could impair the function of your pancreas and stop it from producing as many digestive enzymes for the body. Pancreatic enzyme supplementation is actually the therapy of choice for these kinds of diseases as explored in this medical article.
How can a digestive enzyme supplement benefit me?
Any of those lifestyle factors above sound familiar? It’s likely at least one of those factors will be the reason your digestive enzymes aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. But never fear, all hope is not lost. Here are some health aspects that digestive enzyme supplements can assist with:
- Better digestion
This is the main one because, as the name suggests, digestive enzymes assist with the absorption of your nutrients. Taking a daily supplement will help your body to keep that process running smoothly and take any stress off your other organs so they can also get on with their respective jobs. Everything from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to Crohn’s disease and simple digestive issues like bloating and heartburn after meals can be improved.
- Ease symptoms of liver disease
Roughly 15 percent of adults will develop liver disease, if you suffer from liver disease it is assumed you have an enzyme insufficiency. If you’re noticing fullness sensation, right upper abdominal discomfort, fatigue and recurrent respiratory infections then you may need to get your doctor to check you out for liver disease, they may recommend you start taking a digestive enzyme to help ease the symptoms.
- Negate effects of low stomach acid (Hypochlorhydria)
Too little stomach acid can prevent your food from being broken down correctly so that your body can extract all the necessary micronutrients. If this happens, you will automatically have a nutritional deficiency as it’s preventing your body from getting essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals. A digestive enzyme will replenish your stomach acid or help the little amount of acid in there to work efficiently enough that the low levels don’t affect you negatively.
- Help with aging
As mentioned above, everyone gets older and as you age your digestive enzymes production will inevitably age with you, decreasing their availability. Negate this with a consistent digestive enzyme supplement and you shouldn’t see any detrimental changes as your grow older and wiser.
Types of digestive enzymes
There are a few different types of digestive enzymes, and each work a little differently. It’s good to know which ones benefit what so that you can pick types that work best for you. Use that as your starting point for selecting a digestive enzyme supplement from the masses available on the market right now. Here are some of the main digestive enzymes and what their function is:
- Amylase – Breaks down starches
- Cellulase – Breaks down fibers in fruits, veggies, grains and seeds
- Lactase – Breaks down lactose which is the sugar in milk
- Lipase – Breaks down fats
- Malt diastase – Breaks down carbohydrates
- Protease – Breaks down proteins
- Invertase – Breaks down sugars
Different sources of digestive enzymes
These digestive enzymes will be best for anyone who has conditions like pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Animal sourced digestive enzymes generally come from the pancreas or stomachs of pigs or cows, functioning only at higher pH levels. So if you’re looking for a digestive enzyme to help solely with digestion woes, this may not be the best source for you.
Fruit sourced digestive enzymes generally come from two places. One is bromelain from pineapple which assists with breaking down proteins and has anti-inflammatory superpowers and the second source is papain from papaya which works best to break down all proteins and has anti-inflammatory functions.
These are said to be the most effective digestive enzymes because they function well across a wide range of pH levels. Plant sourced enzymes usually come from yeast and fungi and are excellent at surviving your harsh stomach acid.
How to purchase the best digestive enzymes
So now you understand what they do and where they come from, here’s a little checklist for when you go to pick out your perfect digestive enzyme supplement:
This is important, you need a range of different enzymes to ensure you’re getting as many benefits as possible. Look out for amylase, cellulase, lactase, lipase, protease, peptidase, invertase and more. The more different types, the better.
On the label of your supplement, the active enzymes in each serving should be listed next to enzyme codes. It may be a little confusing but basically aim to avoid supplements that don’t specify how many active enzymes are in each serving as you don’t know what you could be getting and it may not carry the potency you need.
As a guide, plant sourced enzymes are the most effective, but do a little research into which source suits your health needs best.
The best digestive enzyme supplements will also include extra nutrients, vitamins and minerals that will assist with additional digestion improvement and overall health. If you can, try to grab one with them included. However, if not, just be sure to steer clear of any products that contain unnecessary fillers and allergens. Be sure to pick a supplement with more than 95% purity.
The 11 best digestive enzymes in 2020
Ready to get your body into top digestive mode and start reaping the health benefits? We hope so, because here are our top 10 digestive enzymes of 2020 to get you excited about great health!
#1 – Editor’s Choice
EnzymeMD By 1MD
18 plant based enzymes
EnzymeMD contains 18 premium plant based enzymes developed by a board certified MD specialising in gastroenterology. As mentioned above, plant based enzymes are the most effective type of digestive enzymes.
Includes added probiotics
EnzymeMD also includes Saccharomyces boulardii, a potent probiotic strain which aids in digestive function, can strengthen the immune system and reduces bloating and gas. In addition it helps stimulate the production of endogenous enzymes which can further aid in digestion.
EnzymeMD does not include gluten, dairy or harmful additives or synthetic fillers. It is vegetarian and 100% non-GMO. You can find the best available price for EnzymeMD direct from 1MD’s website below. It also comes with a 90 day money back guarantee so you can feel confident trying it out without the risk.
- Contains probiotics
- 18 plant based enzymes
- No additives
- 90 day money back guarantee
- Only one probiotic strain included
#2 Zenwise Health Digestive Enzyme
This digestive enzyme supplement tops our list because of the awesome amount of added extras it’s got to give you the most robust digestion possible. Not only has it got a great mix of enzymes in it, but it’s also got 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) of probiotics and the prebiotic, inulin. These will all work together to perfect your digestion and immune system whilst the fennel, ginger, peppermint, tumeric and more added goodies will compliment the mix nicely.
Put the spring back in your step
Because this supplement will take the stress off your digestive system by assisting it with its primary functions, your body will be using less energy to digest your foods. This means that all that extra energy will be conserved and you will feel more balanced and alert.
- 10 different enzymes
- 1 billion CFU of probiotics plus prebiotics
- Plant based digestive enzymes
- Contains turmeric, peppermint, fennel and more
- Over 5000 customer reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star overall rating
- Money back satisfaction guarantee
- Once capsule with every meal
- Doesn’t specify active units of digestive enzymes
#3 NOW Super Enzyme
Variety is the spice of life
This product from NOW is formulated with bromelain, papain, ox bile and pancreatin. This means you’re going to have a diverse range of enzymes from both plant and animal sources. Amylase, protease and lipase are all included along with some calcium for bone health.
Many customers have started taking this supplement after their gallbladder was removed and can no longer help with digesting fatty foods. This can result in all kinds of digestive issues like diarrhea and chronic constipation. However, reviewers report that this product has helped them immensely with regulating their digestion, heartburn and bowel movements.
- Contains good amount of enzymes from different sources
- Great price
- Once capsule with every meal
- Almost 2,000 reviews on Amazon with an overall 4/5 star rating
- Not as many different enzymes as other brands
#4 Dr. Tobias Enzymes for Digestion
Covering all bases
Dr. Tobias has created a digestive enzyme supplement that ensures all different types of food are able to be broken down into micronutrients efficiently. The enzymes in this product cover fats, gluten, fiber, plant cell walls, carbohydrates, sugars and proteins. Nothing is too much for this exceptional product. Additionally, the long list of enzymes, 18 in total, is detailed on the label with the amounts of each enzyme included – very helpful for those who need to know exactly what’s in their capsule.
Contains dairy, soy and wheat
This is unfortunate for anyone who is intolerant to any of these ingredients. Some customers in the reviews section on Amazon report the product upsetting their allergies and have had to discontinue use. It’s also disappointing to see the bottle clearly states it is gluten free even though it contains wheat.
- 18 different enzymes to digest all food types
- Not gluten free (contains wheat) although it states otherwise
- Contains maltodextrin, soy and dairy
#5 Source Naturals Essential Enzymes
If you’re looking for a digestive supplement that fits in with your vegetarian lifestyle, then this is an option for you. All 8 enzymes, including a vegetarian version of pancreatin, are going to be able to break down your carbs, fats, proteins, fibres and milk sugars. So you’ve got a full spectrum without compromising your vegetarian commitment.
Capsules can be opened
The capsules in this product can be easily opened, so if you’re someone who has trouble with swallowing pills you can simply sprinkle the contents of a capsule onto your meal and consume your digestive enzymes that way.
- 8 different enzymes
- Easily opened capsules
- Gelatin capsules means product not vegan friendly
#6 American Health Chewable Super Papaya Enzyme Plus
Chewable for your convenience
Some of us don’t like the idea of swallowing pills, so American Health has come up with a digestive enzyme product with papaya. There’s 6 different enzymes and a hint of papaya fruit. Plus there’s chlorophyll and peppermint oil to negate any kind of bad taste or breath from chewing these tablets.
Three tablets after every meal
The instructions on the bottle indicate that you should be chewing three tablets after every meal. For the normal person, this means you’ll be having 9 tablets a day. This may be hard to remember and tedious to keep up with, so be sure to consider this before purchasing.
- Fruit sourced enzymes
- 6 different enzymes
- Peppermint and chlorophyll to stop bad breath/taste
- Up to 9 tablets a day
#7 Dr. Matthew #1 Digestive Enzymes
Focus on lactose intolerance
Love cheese, milk and all things dairy but hate the repercussions? Well Dr. Matthew’s digestive enzymes are claimed to be 6x more effective for lactose digestion than other brands. So you may be able to have your cheesecake and eat it too (pardon the pun).
Money back guarantee
If you’re not happy with this product at anytime, the company will refund your money with no questions asked. So you have a hassle and risk-free opportunity to try these digestive enzymes out.
- Money back guarantee
- 19 different enzymes
- 1 capsule per meal
- More expensive than other brands
#8 Seeking Health Lactase Drops
4 years and older
Does your child suffer from lactose intolerance? This product can be used with children as young as 4 years old to help them relieve their symptoms and enjoy their food, this might be exactly the relief you need for your little tike – and you can use it too! The lactase in this product is the only digestive enzyme included so you’ll get targeted results for breaking down lactose, the sugar in milk.
Instead of capsules or tablets, this product comes in a dropper bottle. The recommended dose is 7 drops per pint (just under 2 cups) of milk. The dropper form will make it much easier to give to children as you can simply put it in their food or drink and they may not even notice, fingers crossed.
- Can be used on children and adults ages 4 and up
- Dropper for convenience
- Targets lactose intolerance
- One enzyme for targeted results
- 3-4 drops per cup of milk
- Doesn’t help with other digestive issues
#9 Mav Nutrition Digestive Enzymes
Eat out with confidence
If you’re a fan of going out and enjoying a rich, hearty meal every now and then, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. However, your body may not be so happy with you afterwards, especially if the meal was high in fats and fiber which can be especially hard for the body to break down if you have a digestive enzyme deficiency. This product will optimize your digestion so you don’t have to suffer after a great meal.
There’s a small hit of probiotics included in Mav Nutrition’s digestive enzyme cocktail. You’ve got 6 different enzymes and 3 beneficial strains of probiotics to boost your digestive benefits.
- Contains probiotics
- 6 different enzymes
- Minimal fillers
- 1 capsule per meal
- Doesn’t specify amount (CFU) of probiotics
#10 Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme System
Extra digestion support
Looking for a little extra something? Rainbow Light has you covered with this vegan, plant-sourced digestive enzyme product. They’ve included fennel, turmeric, ginger and peppermint to soothe any tummy troubles you might be experiencing. Plus 10 different digestive enzymes for a good level of diversity.
This product caters for those of us living a vegan lifestyle. You can experience the benefits of digestive enzymes working to keep your digestion balanced and ease any discomforts you may have after eating.
- 10 plant based enzymes
- Contains natural digestion boosters like fennel, turmeric and ginger
- 1 capsule per meal
- No money back guarantee if unsatisfied
#11 Garden of Life Vegetarian Digestive Supplement for Women
Targeted for female health
Here’s an excellent product from Garden of Life that caters specifically for women. This powerhouse digestive supplement contains a huge 22 digestive enzymes, 5 billion CFU of probiotics and a raw food blend with vitamins and minerals essential to everyday health. You’ve basically got everything you need in one supplement from a super reputable brand with a heap of great products. You can’t go wrong.
All the good stuff and none of the bad
No binders or fillers, no dairy, gluten-free, vegetarian and raw. Start with one capsule with every meal and if needed, you can increase this to three capsules with every meal for extra support (don’t exceed 9 capsules a day).
- 1 capsule per meal
- 22 different enzymes
- 5 billion CFU probiotics
- Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants included
- Gluten and dairy free
- Only targeted for women
Did you find what you were looking for?
If not don’t fret. Probiotics can also assist with digestive health. Here are some specific probiotic supplements that may help:
Dr. Paula Cortiñas
Paula Graduated from the medical School of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. She is a gynecologist, reproductive endocrinologist (Universidad de Alcalá, España) and human reproductive biologist (Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas). She is also the Professor of Postgrade of Gynecology Oncology and has been the co-ordinator of the Reproductive endocrinologist section of the Sociedad de Obstetricia y Ginecología de Venezuela since 2012.