You’ve cleaned up your diet. You focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, organic when possible, lean meats, non-GMO, with no artificial ingredients or preservatives, and avoid sugar like the plague. All this for weight control and to be as healthy as possible. Congratulations. However, equally, perhaps even more important than what you eat is what your body digests. Your clean diet is not serving you if you can’t digest and absorb the vitamins and nutrients from the foods you ingest. That’s where digestive enzymes come in. So, what are the best digestive enzymes, and which one is right for you? Let’s take a look!
The Role Of The Digestive System
Digestion and absorption of the foods we eat, the breaking down of food into small molecules, occurs in our digestive system. Digestion is a complex process that converts these foods into energy and waste products. It provides the energy required for all the processes that take place in our bodies. The process takes place in the gastrointestinal tract, a long, connected, tubular structure that starts with the mouth and ends with the anus.
Food is propelled through the system, broken down by enzymes and hormones into usable particles; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and absorbed along the way. Once nutrients are broken into small enough molecules, they are absorbed through the wall of the small intestine into the bloodstream and then delivered throughout the body. Our body is extremely efficient and handles the process without much thought on our part.
When you experience heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux, the process is not operating optimally, possibly due to a lack of digestive enzymes. As we age, our bodies produce fewer digestive enzymes. Further complicating this is the fact that farming practices over the years have depleted the quality of vitamins and minerals in the soil, meaning that less of these crucial micronutrients are in the foods we eat.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Naturally occurring digestive enzymes help break down food so we can soak up nutrients. They are a group of enzymes responsible for breaking down macromolecules into smaller building blocks for absorption. The major enzyme-producing systems in the human body are the:
- Salivary glands
- Small intestine
Below are the three primary types of digestive enzymes and the nutrients they target:
- Lipases – fats and oils
- Proteases – proteins
- Amylases – carbohydrates such as starch and sugars
If the body is unable to produce enough digestive enzymes naturally, food molecules are not digested properly. This can slow the digestion process and lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as lactose intolerance.
What Are Digestive Enzyme Supplements?
Digestive enzymes are nutritional supplements, typically in capsule or chewable form, that contain a combination of different digestive enzymes. Many of the more popular brands, such as Nucific Bio-X4, also include a probiotic to support the good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. A typical blend of enzymes might consist of:
Enzyme supplements are known to provide relatively fast relief when eating foods that commonly irritate the stomach.
In this article, we will detail what to look for in a digestive enzyme supplement, discuss the purported benefits, and provide an unbiased opinion on their efficacy. We’ll also recommend several brands with formulas supported by scientific research.
Benefits Of Taking Digestive Enzyme Supplements
If you suffer from gas, bloating, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, or acid reflux, digestive enzymes may provide relief. Clinical studies indicate that a multienzyme, a blend of digestive enzymes, is effective in addressing symptoms such as flatulence, bloating, belching, fullness, and postprandial distress in participants.
Other benefits include:
- Increased energy as you are utilizing your food properly
- A healthy inflammatory response
- May influence body weight
Supplement manufacturers will add the following benefits in their marketing:
- Prevention of leaky gut
- Better mental focus
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced IBS symptoms
We are less convinced about these purported benefits, although there is a great deal of interest in better understanding the gut-brain connection. Claiming to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition or the symptoms of a medical condition, with a supplement, is strictly off-limits according to the FDA.
Will Digestive Enzymes Work for Me?
Every person’s body is different, and there is no one size fits all regimen for addressing digestive issues. However, anecdotally and scientifically, a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme has been proven effective in addressing many of the digestive problems cited in this article. Further, we have personal experience with some of these issues and are favorably impressed with our body’s response when using a digestive supplement.
Digestive Enzyme Supplement Alternatives
The first place most people turn when experiencing heartburn is to an over the counter antacid. Antacids are great for providing fast, short-term relief, but they don’t address the underlying problem.
If symptoms persist, the next step is to visit your medical professional. His/her first recommendations will no doubt be based on lifestyle and dietary decisions, getting regular exercise, avoiding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), reducing coffee consumption, eliminating high-fat foods, alcohol, and tobacco. Another option is for your doctor to prescribe prescription-strength enzymes if he finds you are digestive enzyme deficient.
Will My Body Still Make Its Own Digestive Enzymes?
When using digestive enzyme supplements, your body will continue to create them naturally on its own. You won’t be dependent on digestive enzymes, but they will give your body’s natural digestion a boost when you need it.
Do Digestive Enzyme Supplements Really Work?
Harvard Health tells us that according to recent marketing research, global digestive enzyme sales are expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2025. They go on to say, “But don’t be too quick to reach for them. Some of them are clearly beneficial in certain situations. But enzyme supplements also are often used in situations where there is little evidence that they do any good.”
One of the most common objections to supplementation is that the body can produce all the digestive enzymes it needs. We would counter that stress, poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and a food supply with depleted nutrients can be catalysts for enzyme shortages and a strong rationale for supplementation.
Best Digestive Enzyme Supplements
When picking the best enzyme supplements, we adhered to the following criteria:
- First, we made sure the product is manufactured in a certified cGMP facility (Good Manufacturing Practices)
- We looked for full-spectrum blends including clinically proven enzymes; Lipase, Protease, Amylase, Cellulase, Bromelain, and Papain
- We found brands that use plant-based enzymes where feasible
- We sought transparency – products which listed the dosage of each enzyme, with no proprietary blends
- We looked for companies and brands that have independent third-party testing for quality
- Each of the recommended brands offers a money-back guarantee – demonstrating the manufacturer’s confidence in the product
Here are our picks for your consideration. Note: we have no bias or affiliation with any of these products:
Renew Life DigestMore Ultra Enzymes
First, we love the company. Renew Life was purchased in 2016 by the Clorox Company, owned in turn by Proctor & Gamble. Renew Life earns our trust in doing business the right way. They are very conservative with their structure-function claims, and we assure you, any claims they make will be substantiated by science, or Clorox would not allow it.
The product is made with naturally derived, plant-based enzymes, a full spectrum blend containing Protease, Cellulase, Amylase, Lipase, Lactase, and Invertase. Although proprietary blends are included, the dosages of each component are indicated on the package. The company also makes a probiotic product, called Renew Life Probiotics. All Renew Life products are made in the U.S. in a certified cGMP facility.
Reviews are stellar for effectiveness.GET THE BEST PRICE ON RENEW LIFE
Now Super Enzymes
Another company we trust. Now has been in business as a family-owned and operated, Midwestern company since 1968. Of course, their manufacturing facility is cGMP certified. Note the transparency of the Supplement Facts panel on the right. Each ingredient is identified, and the dosage is indicated. And notice a broad spectrum of enzymes, including those with the most clinical trials.
This soy-free, made without gluten, and Keto friendly product represents a great value in the category at less than $20 for a thirty-day supply.
Garden of Life, Dr. Formulated Enzymes Organic Digest +
Another nationally known brand, Garden of Life, with products formulated by Dr. David Perlmutter, a board-certified neurologist, and expert in the human microbiome. In addition to a broad-spectrum plant-based formula, this product contains a proprietary blend of twenty-nine different organic fruits and vegetables. Yes, we said proprietary blend; however, each enzyme is identified, and the dosage is evident in the Supplement Facts panel.
This pick is a delicious Tropical Fruit Punch chewable to be taken after meals and is gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free.
For Added Gut Health Try Stacking your Enzymes with a Probiotic
Each of our picks come from companies that specialize in digestive health, marketing probiotics as well as digestive enzymes. We highly recommend stacking a probiotic product with your enzymes for added gut health support. Need help finding a good one? Use our guide to the best probiotic supplements.
To Summarize: Do Digestive Enzyme Supplements Work?
If you suffer from occasional bloating, gas, or heartburn, we think supplementing with a digestive enzyme is appropriate. Start with a minimal dose and titrate up based on your tolerance. Although digestive enzymes are generally considered safe, their side effects can be similar to the symptoms you are treating.
If you do decide to take enzymes, we highly recommend a company and brand such as those represented in our picks, one that is reputable, scientifically formulated, quality tested, and with a money-back guarantee.