The Guide To Choosing The Best Digestive Enzymes For You

You can eat all the healthy food but it doesn’t mean much if you aren’t digesting properly.

Enter digestive enzymes, which can strengthen the immune system, promote weight loss, prevent inflammation, support bone, liver and overall cardiovascular health and help to smooth skin.

What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are catalysts that enable molecules to change from one form into another. They are necessary to break down macronutrients (such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) into smaller nutrient particles. This way, they can more readily flow through our systems and absorb into our bodies. While these enzymes are critical for digestive health, many of us don’t have the correct balance in our bodies.

Do I need a digestive enzyme?

Although we produce these enzymes naturally, there are a few challenges in getting enough. First, there’s a lack of nutrients in our modern diets. Then, as we age, we produce less digestive enzymes on our own. Yet another issue that affects our digestion is the air, soil and water quality in our cities. For these reasons, supplementing with the right digestive enzymes can be a huge help.

After all, undigested food in the small intestine can cause a whole host of health problems including the following:

cravings
weight gain
thyroid issues
gas/bloating
heartburn
diarrhea/constipation
dull skin
thin hair
cracked nails
fatigue
sleep issues
joint pain
depression
mood swings
migraines
rashes
eczema
psoriasis
hives

That’s A LOT to digest, isn’t it? (Pun intended.)

A Buyer’s Guide

First, look for a broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplement. This means the supplement combines multiple enzymes to cover all your needs instead of having to amass a big expensive collection of single enzymes.

Then, be wary of purchasing digestive enzymes with a bunch of fillers, like artificial colors and flavors. Instead, look for natural herbal blends with ginger, fennel or peppermint. You will also want to prioritize the quality of the enzyme you purchase over the price. (Better to pay more for digestive enzymes that work than spend less money on a product that doesn’t actually perform.)

The right digestive enzyme supplement will typically use plant-based enzymes. These enzymes help target gut health with very low to moderate acidity. They can also help relieve stress on your small intestines, making them inherently more effective than animal based enzymes.

As always, a good rule of thumb is to look for enzymes with science backed evidence supporting its health claims. Check for real doctors specializing in gut health to back the enzyme you are intending to purchase.

Types of Enyzmes

When shopping around, here are the specific key enzymes to look for in broad spectrum blends.

Bromelain

Best Enzyme For: Inflammation, Stiffness, Joint Pain

This enzyme is sourced from pineapples (which are also a great digestive aid). It helps aid in the digestion of proteins found in meat, grains, nuts and cheeses. You can read all about this star enzyme in our in-depth article on it here.

Papain

Best Enzyme For: Pain, Diarrhea, Sore Throat

This enzyme is sourced from papaya and is also crucial for protein digestion. It helps break proteins down into peptides and amino acids and is best combined with bromelain.

Protease

Best Enzyme For: Digestion, Immunity

This enzyme helps to break down protein into basic building blocks. Ironically, our digestive tract creates these building blocks naturally, but we start to produce less of them as we age. Hence, why I recommend taking a digestive enzyme that includes this specific enzyme.

Amylase

Best Enzyme For: Starch Breakdown

This enzyme does a ton of work! It breaks down the starch, fiber and sugars found in fruits, vegetables and grains into smaller molecules. It is also called a carbohydrase, which is produced in the pancreas and salivary glands to help break down carbohydrates into simple sugars.

Cellulase

Best Enzyme For: Indigestion, Constipation, Gas, Bloating

This is also a carbohydrase and it is one of the basic building blocks of the plant kingdom that helps us digest fruits and vegetables. This enzyme is not one humans can produce naturally, so we must get it from fermented foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut, probiotic yogurt or kombucha, or from supplements.

Lipase

Best Enzyme For: Fat Digestion

This enzyme breaks down fats like olive and fish oils, but also butter and cheese, into fatty acids and glycerol. These acids then travel into blood and lymph vessels in our bodies to help boost our health.

How should I use digestive enzymes?

Keep in mind, not everyone needs digestive enzymes, but if you are experiencing any of the aforementioned issues regularly, they can provide intense relief for symptoms. Ideally, take your digestive enzymes just before a meal. If that seems difficult to remember, you can take it at the end of a meal as well, or leave it out on the table when you eat as a reminder to take it during the meal. If you have a history of stomach ulcers, you should consult with your primary care physician before taking any enzymes.

Ideally, it is best to store your digestive enzymes in a cool, dry place where there is limited exposure to moisture. It doesn’t have to be a refrigerator, but ideally a spot that is 77 degrees or cooler.

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