Digestion issues plague an estimated 17% of all Americans. Digestive enzymes, proteins in your body that break down and help digest food, play an integral role in digestion.
Over the past few years, enzyme supplements are increasing in use for ailments such as bloating, heartburn, and even depression.
With over ten different enzymes found in different parts of the digestive tract, determining which digestive enzyme supplements to take can be confusing.
For most people, taking an enzyme supplement has something to do with your gut. After all, this is where most of your digestion takes place. But before you look for the best digestive enzyme supplements, be sure to consult your doctor and rule out other health issues first.
Digestive enzymes benefits can vary widely depending on which enzyme you take.
The Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
The best digestive enzymes are dependent on many factors, such as your overall health, genetic risk factors, age, weight, and more.
For instance, digestive enzymes for leaky gut and enzymes for chronic fatigue are entirely different proteins. With supplements, enzymes for leaky gut might be plant-based, whereas chronic fatigue supplements might use animal-based enzymes.
The pancreas makes most of your digestive enzymes.
At one time, digestive enzyme supplements were typically for people who did not make enough of their own. Cystic Fibrosis, chronic pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer result in low enzyme levels. If you suffer from those issues, then enzyme supplements are potentially life-saving.
But now, many digestive enzyme brands exist to provide relief for many different issues besides pancreatic insufficiency. IBS, indigestion, arthritis, muscle soreness, and other joint pain are just some of the ailments treated with digestive enzymes.
While there are many different digestive enzymes, there are a few that are found more often in digestive enzyme supplements. Amylase, lipase, and pepsin break down sugars, fats, and proteins, respectively. Other enzymes have more specific jobs, such as lactase, which breaks down lactose.
What are the best digestive enzymes? It depends. Every gut is different. On the other hand, everyone uses digestive enzymes to break down food. When food is broken down, it allows the body to absorb nutrients. Over time, however, enzymes in the digestive tract decrease.
A reduction in digestive enzymes, or a deficiency, can result in serious health problems. The pancreas, which secretes most of these enzymes, delivers enzymes to the small intestine. If it cannot transport enough enzymes, and the right enzymes, food in the small intestine will not get digested properly, or at all.
Enzyme supplements come from different sources: animals, plants, and microbes. Enzyme supplements from animals are often involved in breaking down proteins and contain the enzyme pepsin, amongst others.
Plant-based enzymes contain proteolytic enzymes, often found in fruit like papaya, to break down proteins and gluten. Digestive enzyme supplements for leaky gut often contain plant-based enzymes. Regular intake of these supplements at mealtimes can help you maintain digestion and prevent gut inflammation.
Vegans favor supplements with microbial-sourced enzymes because they assist in the digestion of plant-based diets. Enzymes from microbes also complement the production of enzymes in the pancreas.
Digestive enzyme supplement side effects can, and do, occur. Choosing the wrong supplement can counteract existing enzymes in your body, making you feel worse. Side effects range from upset stomach and dizziness to nosebleeds and vomiting. As well, those allergic to particular animals should use caution around animal-based supplements.
The best digestive enzyme supplements should work in concert with your body to maintain gut health or solve a particular ailment. Let’s take a closer look at the best digestive enzyme supplements, below.
Our Top Picks
Zenwise Health digestive enzyme supplements are plant-based enzymes designed for digestive maintenance. Zenwise encourages proper digestion via the improvement of food breakdown in the small intestine. In turn, energy levels and nutrient uptake increase.
Zenwise Health also contains prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are living bacteria from an organism such as yeast. Taken as a supplement, they aid digestion and replenish any good bacteria that your body loses.
Supplements that mimic the best digestive enzymes also have prebiotics. The bacteria that make up probiotics need food to do their jobs. Prebiotics are the food for those bacteria. Often found in the form of fiber and foods such as bananas, prebiotics enhances the performance of probiotics.
Manufactured in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) facility, Zenwise Health is entirely plant-based. This product is also for men and women as a dietary supplement for gut health, energy improvement, and immune function.
Lastly, Zenwise Health contains all of the major enzymes and recommends one capsule before each meal. Each bottle contains 180 capsules, so it lasts about two months if you follow a regular three meal a day program.
The digestive enzyme benefits of amylase, protease, and lipase are their ability to break down carbs, proteins, and fats in the small intestine. Pancreatin, which contains these enzymes, is the main ingredient in Now Foods Super Enzymes product.
While many of these enzymes come from plant-based sources, such as papaya and pineapple, the product is not strictly plant-based. Now Foods contains ox bile. Ox bile is actually from an ox. This animal product assists in the stimulation of bile production. Bile helps dissolve fats you’ve digested.
Now Foods is not made with any gluten, fish, soy, dairy, or wheat. Although it is from a GMP facility, this supplement may come from under the same roof as other products containing those allergens. Therefore, if you have an allergy to any of the above ingredients, then you should seek alternative supplements.
A bottle of Now Foods contains 90 capsules. Recommended daily intake is at every meal, so a bottle should last about a month. While prices vary, this product costs about ten cents a capsule, which makes it a cheaper option compared to similar products.
Now Foods is a straightforward enzyme supplement. There are no probiotics or prebiotics, just enzymes that your gut needs to function efficiently. With animal and plant-sourced ingredients, this product aims to provide the best digestive enzymes for a low cost.
Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes are a vegetarian product. The capsules are “veggie caps.” The ingredients contain 14 different enzymes, including amylase, lipase, and protease.
One aspect of Doctor’s best that stands out is that it contains lactase. Lactase, as the name might suggest, is a digestive enzyme that helps break down lactose. Lactose is in dairy products, which many people have trouble digesting. If left undigested, lactose goes into the colon and causes an array of health problems.
Gluten-free and non-GMO, this product is one of the more sustainable products available. Doctor’s Best also contains Bacillus Subtillis, a healthy gut bacterium that assist with digestion.
The enzymes in this product are the “full spectrum” of digestive enzymes. In addition to the traditional enzymes found in most supplements, there are extra enzymes that help break down vegetables, grains, legumes, and sugars.
On the other hand, despite the vegetarian label, Doctor’s Best does not list the specific source of each ingredient. The label only indicates which enzyme the supplement contains, not the source.
The price of Doctor’s Best is slightly higher than other comparable supplements. At around twenty cents per capsule, this product lasts about a month if used with every meal.
Enzymedica touts its “most advanced enzyme formula” on the label, and if the ingredients are any indication, it stands out compared to other products.
There is no clear research to back up their #1 seller claim – it currently ranks #17 on Amazon. However, Enzymedica does contain a nutrient called ATPpro, a proprietary ingredient designed by Enzymedica. ATP in your body helps supply energy to cells and assists in breaking down food in the GI tract.
ATPpro provides additional ATP for your body to supplement your digestion. Enzymedica claims that age or improper diet can overload your body’s supply of ATP, necessitating extra ATP.
Sustainability is top of mind for many consumers today, and Enzymedica delivers in that category. The product is vegan, kosher, and non-GMO. It also claims there are no fillers – what you see on the label is what you get.
Although the label claims “no fillers,” it says nothing about the manufacturing of the product. That means Enzymedica is not a GMP company. Also, the production of this product might have cross contamination. If it does not explicitly say on the label, then consumers with allergies shouldn’t take any chances.
The average price of this product might be a turn-off to some. At nearly thirty cents per capsule, Enzymedica Digest Gold does not come cheap.
21st century is a gluten-free supplement that is one of the cheapest on the market. At only eight cents a capsule, 21st Century Digestive Enzymes provide a low-cost option.
Many supplements provide similar or even the same, enzymes in their products. 21st Century is no exception. However, this supplement has a unique blend proprietary to the company. In addition to amylase, lipase, and protease, the proprietary ingredient includes cellulase and maltase.
While cellulase is often in digestive enzyme supplements, it is frequently found by itself. Cellulase helps break down plant material. Maltase, also within 21st Century’s unique blend, helps break down sugars in the small intestine. Put both together in one ingredient, and you have a group of enzymes focused on improving digestive function.
Although this product is not expensive, it still contains many of the same enzymes found in more expensive products.
However, this product is not non-GMO. It is also not vegan or vegetarian. The sources for each enzyme are not on the label. There is also no information regarding the manufacturing of this product.
If you are on a budget and looking for a digestive health enzyme supplement, then 21st Century might work for you. With little to no information about where the ingredients come from, discerning supplement users should be wary. Also, if you have allergies, then this product should be avoided as it offers no guarantees regarding contamination.