Posted on by Village Green Nutrition Team
More and more research is coming out about the importance of digestive health, as people commonly struggle with digestive issues. Taking digestive enzymes and other GI support supplements can help your body function the way it should.
Choosing the right type of digestive enzyme for your body and your needs can be challenging, however. This guide explains what they are and why you may need to supplement, plus helps you select the best ones for you.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes occur in the body in saliva, various organs such as the gallbladder and liver, and in the cells on the surface of the intestines. They break down macronutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and promote the digestion of these nutrients by turning them into substances the digestive tract can absorb.
Digestive enzymes are actually thought of as the “key to digestive health.” You could be eating the healthiest diet in the world, but if you are not digesting your food properly, it can have an affect on all kinds of long-term health problems, such as:
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Liver problems
- Pancreas problems
- Ulcerative colitis
The digestive system houses 60% to 70% of the immune system, so digestive problems can impact immunity over time. Enzymes allow the body to break down food, absorb nutrients (including vitamin B and vitamin D), and keep you healthy. They also help support a stronger immune system and positively impact weight loss, healthy skin, stronger bones, proper liver function, and overall health and wellness.
Do I Need to Take Digestive Enzyme Supplements?
It is important to always consult a medical professional before starting any new supplements or medications. A doctor can tell you whether supplements may help with common symptoms of digestive enzyme deficiencies, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Excess gas
- Difficulty absorbing essential nutrients
Your body may be having trouble digesting foods if you experience any of these symptoms. It is important to speak with a doctor or nutritionist to find out the best enzymes for your individual health.
What to Look For When Choosing the Right Digestive Enzymes
Finding the right digestive enzymes can be a challenge. Knowing what to look for can help ensure high quality. Also, look for the following key factors to make the right choice for your health:
1. Plant-Based Enzymes vs. Animal Enzymes
Animal-based enzymes, or pancreatic enzymes, are formulated from the pancreas of an animal. They need to be “enteric-coated” to protect them and allow them to survive the stomach’s acidity. Plant-based enzymes, on the other hand, have a broad pH range, which is optimal for working in the acidic environment of the stomach.
2. Natural Formulas
Many digestive enzyme brands will fill their products with artificial colors, flavors and additives. Look instead for formulas that include natural and effective digestive aids, such as ginger, peppermint or fennel. These all-natural ingredients can help support digestion without any added fillers or toxic substitutes.
3. Science-Backed Results
Enzyme supplements that have been well-researched by reputable sources are the most likely to provide the best benefits for your digestive needs. Look for manufacturers that formulate their supplements based on clinical research.
Learning the details will help ensure that you are taking a quality supplement for your personalized health and digestive needs. Assistance from an expert might be needed when looking for the right digestive enzymes.
When Should You Take Digestive Enzymes?
The best time to take digestive enzymes is right before a meal, as this is the time that the enzymes will be most effective in preparing your digestive tract. Taking them during a meal or right after will also work. Be sure to store your digestive enzyme supplements in a cool, dry place to keep them potent and effective.
Understanding Digestive Enzyme Breakdown
Digestive enzymes break down the food we eat, and different enzymes serve different purposes. Here are the three types of enzymes and the different nutrients they work on.
Protein is difficult for some people to digest. Proteases are enzymes that break down protein. Papain and bromelain are two proteases that support this digestive process.
- Protease breaks down protein into essential building blocks and supports immune function.
- Papain breaks down protein into peptides and amino acids and also eases bloating and constipation.
- Bromelain eases digestion through its anti-inflammatory properties and may support joint health, as well.
Supplements containing combined protease and papain or a highly concentrated bromelain digestive supplement are excellent options for supporting the body’s digestion process when it comes to breaking down protein.
Some people have difficulty digesting carbohydrates, but amylase, lactase and cellulase can help.
- Amylase assists in digesting starches by breaking down fiber and sugar into smaller molecules.
- Lactase is what breaks down lactose, a sugar predominantly found in dairy products. Those who are lactose-intolerant experience gas and indigestion when eating dairy products.
- Cellulase is an enzyme that breaks down cellulose (plant cell walls). We don’t produce this enzyme naturally, so we need to get it through ingestion.
Taking an all-in-one supplement for digesting carbohydrates, which also supports the pancreas, can help reduce digestive symptoms due to processing difficulty.
Lipase breaks down fat into fatty acids, as well as glycerol. These are important because they are what make up our cell membranes and provide energy. Taking a highly concentrated lipase supplement can be key to helping support the breakdown of fats and having a healthy digestive function.
Another important component to keep in mind when selecting supplements for digestive support is hydrochloric acid (HCl). The stomach secretes HCl when food enters it. HCl prepares this food for digestion, particularly proteins, and kick-starts the enzymes to break it down.
You can support the functions of the enzymes by taking betaine HCl supplements. Hydrochloric acid may affect the lining of the stomach in some people, however, and it can lead to an ulcer. It is always safest to consult a medical professional before taking hydrochloric acid supplements or any other digestive aids.
4 Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Selecting the right digestive enzyme supplement depends on the type of digestive issues you are experiencing. While some people have a hard time processing protein, others may struggle with digesting carbohydrates or fats. Log the food you eat, along with your symptoms, to determine when your symptoms spike and if they may be related to the way your body processes those specific foods. Here are four excellent digestive enzyme supplements.
Comprehensive Enzyme Formula
Digestive enzymes are vital to the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. Pathway Superzymes contain powerful digestive enzymes such as amylase, protease, lipase, pepsin, bromelain and papain for the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. This formula also includes betaine hycrochloride and ox bile, for enhanced support in emulsifying fats and breaking down proteins.
This soy-free, dairy-free enzyme contains 500 mg of bromelain, straight from pineapples. Bromelain is key to breaking down protein into amino acids.
This certified gluten-free, non-GMO digestive enzyme is made from whole papaya fruit, which is rich in papain and protease. These enzymes are essential to protein absorption.
This potent plant-based enzyme supplement also helps digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It promotes optimal levels of pancreatic enzymes as well, which tend to diminish with age.
There are so many different types of digestive conditions, and sometimes it can be difficult to figure out which enzyme is best for you. Consulting with a doctor or licensed nutritionist is important to figure out what your body needs for optimal health and wellness.
Our Experts Can Help Find the Right Enzymes for You
Taking supplements for your individualized health is vital for meeting your health care goals and achieving optimal wellness. Village Green Apothecary has the expertise to help you choose the right digestive enzymes. Contact our team of nutritionists to discuss your options and develop an individualized plan to pursue your health goals.
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