The digestive system of the human body is a hugely complicated process, and enzymes are key cogs in this complex organic machinery.
A balanced diet that contains all major food groups is always essential, and the core elements of most foods are the established trinity of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Whenever we consume foods that contain the above – in addition to fibers, and even dairy – the enzymes in our body have to work to break the nutrients down and pass them through our system into the colon.
Top 5 Digestive Enzyme Supplements
Cooked and processed foods tend to eliminate the enzymes contained within, leaving the burden on those found naturally within our body to work even harder to extract essential nutrients from our food and create building blocks beneath our skin to keep our bodies operational, as well as providing the energy we need to live in the demanding modern world.
Our body's ability to create enzymes decreases with age
Of course, like most things related to the human condition, our body’s ability to naturally create enzymes begins to decrease as we age, making it vitally important that we eat healthily to gain as many as we can.
There is never any shame in gaining a helping hand to accompany diet and exercise however, and enzyme supplements are plentiful in the marketplace.
Adding a supplement can be hugely beneficial
Adding an enzyme supplement to your routine can have a hugely beneficial impact on your daily health, and you’ll notice a particular difference after eating.
Who Should Take Enzyme Supplements?
The short answer to this question is ‘anyone and everyone’, unless your doctor has provided a medical reason not to. We have described enzymes as the building blocks of the human body, and if we would never allow the brickwork of a house to erode and fall apart. Ergo, there is no reason why you should allow your organs to do the same.
The purpose of digestive enzyme supplements is to aid the pressure on the key organs when it comes to breaking down food – particularly proteins.
They help break down food - reducing pressure on the organs
If you suffer from long periods of lethargy or bloating it could be because your body is struggling to keep up with the demands placed upon it after eating, and a digestive enzyme will work wonders to prevent that from happening in the future.
The pancreas, in particular, will benefit from a steady supply of healthy enzymes and prevent unpleasant illnesses1.
IBS or Colic
Anybody living with a digestive condition such as IBS or colic may find that increasing the amount of enzymes in their body will relieve some of the pressure on their digestive tract, while a lack of iron or Vitamin D, hypochlorhydria2 and any kind liver complaint can be traced back to enzyme deficiency, as can chronic ailments such as Crohn’s Disease3.
If you suffer from any of the ailments listed above you should naturally seek medical attention in addition to taking an enzyme supplement, but you may be surprised at how potent these capsules can be in improving your day-to-day digestive health.
And even if you have a comparatively clean bill of digestive health as you read this, prevention remains better than cure. Why wait until something is broken before fixing it, when you can avoid a breakdown in the first place with a little maintenance in advance?
Are Supplements The Only Answer?
However, there is a school of thought by traditional medicine practitioners such as those following Ayurvedic, homeopathic or holistic methods, that supplementation should be controlled by first clearing out the gut of congested bacteria, changing your diet to certain foods (generally raw, but certainly completely unprocessed) and controlling the temperature that you cook your food at.
Unless your gut is cleared first, taking enzyme supplements may merely compound the problem and possibly cause even more illnesses as a consequence. Scientific research has not yet proved this philosophy, but some doctors believe that there is certainly food for thought and logic behind it.
Research is ongoing, and whilst people’s digestion in many cases can be seen to show improvement, supplements will still continue to be recommended as there are no apparent proven dangers.
Buyer’s Guide to Enzyme Supplements
There are three major enzymes involved in the digestive system of the human body.
- Protease, which is created by the pancreas and break down consumed proteins down into single amino acids before despatching them to the lower intestine.
- Lipase, which originates in the liver, mouth, stomach and pancreas and converts fat into energy.
- Amylase, which is found in saliva and breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple alternatives. Further amylase is found in the pancreas to continue to digestive journey into the gut.
Whilst all three of these enzymes are equally important for different purposes, a digestive enzyme supplement available over the counter (remember, these items are marketed and sold as supplements and vitamins, not medication) should provide a steady supply of all of the above.
Always Check Labels
Always check the label of a product to ensure that this is the case, and seek advice on the ingredients – labels can be mind-blowing to understand. Frequently the labels will show a very long list of components which the average person will fail to comprehend!
So, obviously the first thing that should be factored into the selection of a digestive enzyme supplement is the ingredients, as not all products will be suitable for vegetarians and vegans (fruit and plant extract supplements are available), or those living with lactose intolerance or other dietary limitations.
If you have any kind of dietary requirement or medical condition, seek advice from your doctor before investing in a course of supplements.
Food Chemical Codex Label
Aside from the origin of the contents, the next most important statistic to look out for on a digestive enzyme supplement label is the Food Chemical Codex (FCC) unit score4.
The higher this score, the faster the supplements will work in breaking down food (for example, if you were to devour a meal of red meat then take a supplement with an FCC protease score of 1,500 and your partner used a different capsule with a score 3,000, their supplement will break down the protein contained within the meal twice as quickly).
When Should It Be Taken
Finally, look into when your supplement should be taken. It’s more than likely that you’ll be looking into a solid capsule for oral consumption, but some supplements will claim that they should be used on an empty stomach several hours before eating.
The most effective enzyme supplements will instruct you to take them before, with or immediately after food, as this ensures they will be absorbed into your bloodstream with the nutrients of your meal and thus take effect significantly faster.
Always follow instructions provided (to the letter of the law) and if you do notice any unpleasant side effects, cease taking the supplement and consult your doctor immediately.
What Are The Best Enzyme Supplements?
Please see below for a list of ten of the most highly regarded enzyme supplements that are currently available for purchase. These supplements are currently available online, with excellent reviews and ratings.
1. NOW Foods Super Enzymes
NOW Foods is a world-wide brand with a wide variety of best selling products. This supplement has protease, lipase and amylase in it - covering all based.
- Allergy-friendly: No dairy, eggs or gluten.
- It has betaine hydrochloride that helps break food.
- It has all 3 major enzymes.
- Strong taste despite being capsules.
- Pills are a little large for some people.
- Works with small-medium sized meals. You may need to take more if you re intending to have a large meal.
2. Zenwise Labs Advanced Formula
Zenwise' Health's Advanced Formula comes with a combination of plany based enzymes, Inulin Prebiotic and 1 billion CFU of multi strain probiotics to promote a happy digestive system.
- Contains a specialized blend of Amylase, Glucoamylase, Lipase Protease, Invertase, Maltase, Cellulase, Bromelain and Lactase enzymes
- Also includes green papaya which has been shown to help digestive issues.
- It also contains pre and probiotics which are also essential to a good functioning system.
- Contains tumeric which can cause worse symptoms as some people have an allergic reaction to it.
3. Source Naturals Essential
Source Natural's Essential enzyme blend is a Bio-Aligned formula that contains a wide array of enzymes that break down proteins, fats, milk sugars, fiber, and carbohydrates in a wide pH range. This is what makes it very effective.
- Contains a wide array of enzymes including protease, amylase and lipase.
- No vegetarian - some bottles suggest it is. The capsules are gelatin.
- Easy to open if you can't swallow pills.
4. American Health Multi-Enzyme
American Health is a leading manufacturer in America and has a range of quality products. It's enzyme formulation includes papaya which is known for its abilities in helping aid digestion.
- Powerful after meal spplement
- Includes peppermint and chlorophyll to freshen breath and reduce bad after taste.
- Vegetarian formulation
- Contains no gluten, wheat, lactose, eggs, or preservatives
- Some people do not like the taste despite its additional ingredients to help this.
- Mint flavor is not for everyone.
7. Garden of Life
Garden of Life's formula includes 13 digestive enzymes as well as 29 powdered fruits and vegetables blended. It also includes 120,000 units of papain. It has no artificial flavors or sweetners and the tablets are chewable making them easy to take. The supplemeit is also vegan certified too.
10. Vimerson Health
Vimerson Health’s Digestive Enzymes is made in GMP-certified facilities in the USA. It’s formulation is a blend of natural enzymes and probiotics. It has many of the same ingredients as other products on this list – however what stands out is that it has lactase. Many other products do not seem to contain this. Vimerson’s supplement also somes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee – so if you find this particular capsule doesn’t work for you, you are guaranteed a refund and can go try something else out!
The use and creation of enzymes is such an essential component of a healthy human body that is no compelling reason why supplements should not be added to your daily routine – the benefits are obvious and numerous. Any of the above brands are highly regarded and will improve your digestive health no end, and are worthy of adding to your shopping basket on your next online excursion.