Supplements that contain digestive enzymes mimic the effects of natural digestive enzymes that occur in our bodies and assist us in digesting and absorbing food. Manufacturers claim these products are helpful for a wide array of health conditions and are available over-the-counter.
Using this Digestive Enzymes overview, you can learn about the most common types of digestive enzyme supplements and decide whether they are right for you.
Guide on Different Types of Digestive Enzymes
In 1948, when the Physician’s Desk Reference was published, digestive enzyme supplements and digestive aids were mentioned as being effective. Twenty types of over-the-counter enzymes have been available for nearly 30 years. However, the way the body breaks down nutrients is governed by three main groups. In addition to being produced naturally by the body, these enzymes can also be purchased as over-the-counter supplements. These enzymes include:
- Amylase. The pancreas and salivary glands produce an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates and starches into sugar.
- Protease. The pancreas produces this enzyme, released into the body’s small intestine. Amino acids are formed from proteins.
- Lipase. Fats are converted to glycerol and fatty acids by lipase, produced in the stomach and pancreas.
Three digestive enzyme supplements based upon bovine and porcine enzymes are available in supplement form. Enzymes derived from plants and microbes are also available.
These supplements are also available in two variations: non-enteric-coated and enteric-coated. The slow release of enteric-coated pills prevents them from degrading in the stomach. Choosing a coated pill may mitigate side effects such as nausea and upset stomach.
What are the Important Benefits of Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes may complement traditional treatment for diseases such as pancreatic cancer, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis. Taking these products may even ease the symptoms associated with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the small intestine.
A digestive enzyme supplement can make dairy products more enjoyable for people who have lactose intolerance, one such condition in which the body cannot digest the sugars in milk.
Lactase is a digestive enzyme produced in your small intestine that helps you break down certain sugars [in dairy],” explains Dr. Bedford. He recommends taking digestive enzymes before eating a meal in supplement form.
When food enters the stomach, you want the enzyme to work right away. Taking one before and one during a meal is advised if you’re eating a large meal.”
Digestive enzymes: side effects, safety, and dosage
Dr. Bedford warns that digestive enzymes have some risks, including constipation, cramps, or nausea. Dr. Kahn believes they are safe supplements for most – and can be used in treating gastrointestinal conditions – but is wary about taking them. Without a prescription, Bedford recommends avoiding over-the-counter supplements.
He says it is most important to speak with your doctor regarding your concerns and let them run some basic tests on you before taking any enzyme supplements.
Sources of Digestive Enzymes in Nature
There are also natural ways to increase your enzyme intake, according to Dr. Bedford, if you suffer from digestive problems like bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Here are some suggestions:
Dr. Bedford says that even healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables contain digestive enzymes to aid in digestion. Furthermore, he recommends consuming fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, in addition to a low-fat diet.
What’s the main difference between digestive enzymes and probiotics?
Enzymes and probiotics are sometimes confused. Though, they have very different effects on digestion. Probiotics are live organisms present in your gut and contribute to the growth of good bacteria. Supporting the work your enzymes do, they help keep your digestive tract healthy. Probiotics cannot break down food components or be digested since they lack enzymes.
The presence of an imbalance or abnormal bacterial overgrowth in your intestines could cause symptoms similar to an enzyme deficiency, such as bloating or gas.
Do they seem to be safe?
Digestion enzymes can be purchased over the counter, and they are generally safe if taken as directed.
The bloodstream seems to be affected by bromelain, an enzyme supplement sourced from pineapples. Because of this, people taking blood thinners should not use excessive amounts of bromelain.
Several sources state that it is important to note whether digestive enzyme supplements are made from animal or microbial sources since this influences their potency.
What is your method of taking them?
Enzyme production decreases as we age. Genetics, stomach viruses, and stress can also damage the digestive enzyme reserve of the body.
The best way to take digestive enzymes is to consult your doctor before taking any supplement. You may be prescribed prescription-strength enzymes by your doctor.
Choosing a supplement: precautions
You should always check for additional ingredients in a supplement before buying or taking it, especially if you have food sensitivities. The likelihood of a supplement containing soy, dairy, or gluten is low unless it explicitly states that it does not.
It is important to note that digestive enzymes can vary greatly in quality and price. To ensure that the product is worth the price and will deliver the desired enzyme level, it is best to discuss dosages and measurement units with a trained health professional.
These supplements should always be taken with food. It is best to take digestive enzymes before eating or right before eating if you have IBS.
When enzyme deficiency is diagnosed, prescription digestive enzymes are often prescribed. Digestion enzymes aid the body in absorbing nutrients from food. Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy is the only FDA-regulated enzyme replacement therapy. Amylase, lipase, and protease are components of PERT, the medication your doctor prescribes. These enzymes aid in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
In terms of treating digestive distress, digestive enzyme supplements appear to be fairly safe interventions. Your symptoms may not significantly change, however. You should always seek your physician’s approval before taking an over-the-counter supplement.