A Dietitian Picks the Best Digestive Enzymes

By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

From time to time, most people will feel bloated and gassy after meals. However, some experience chronic digestive discomfort after eating certain foods like dairy products or beans, to name a few. In these cases, digestive enzymes can help the body breakdown food better leading to better absorption of nutrients and reduction of such symptoms.

With the abundance of gut health products on the market, choosing a digestive supplement that’s right for you can be a challenge. Unless you receive a prescription from your doctor, how can you know which digestive enzyme supplement will work best?

Best Overall Digestive Enzymes

Zenwise Health Digestive Enzymes Plus Prebiotics & Probiotics

Zenwise Health Digestive Enzymes Plus Prebiotics & Probiotics contains a potent formula of enzymes to help digest 20 of the top hard-to-digest foods. It may help improve bowel movements, relieve constipation, and reduce gas, bloating, and digestive discomfort.

Summary of Zenwise Health Digestive Enzymes:

Best Plant-Based Digestive Enzyme Supplement

MAV Nutrition Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics

MAV Nutrition Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics is a plant-sourced digestive enzyme supplement contain both a digestive enzyme blend as well as three probiotic strains for ultimate digestive health support.

Summary of MAV Nutrition Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics:
  • Plant-based blend of fungal lipase, fungal lactase, and protease as well as bromelain, papain, and alpha galactosidase
  • Three Lactobacillus probiotic strains
  • GMO Free, Gluten-free, Vegetarian and keto-friendly
  • Third-party tested, Made in the USA and Good Manufacturing Practice certified (GMP-certified)

Best Tasting Plant-Based Digestive Enzyme Supplement

American Health Original Papaya Enzyme

American Health Original Papaya Enzyme is a plant-based, after-meal digestive enzyme supplement. It is a chewable supplement that aims to help improve nutrient digestion and absorption.

Summary of American Health Original Papaya Enzyme:
  • Consume after-meal vs before meal making it easier to remember for some
  • Contains amylase, protease, and papain, which help to digest starches and proteins
  • Vegetarian-friendly formula
  • Free of gluten, yeast, wheat, milk, milk derivatives, lactose, soy, egg, and grapefruit
  • No added preservatives, sodium, or artificial colors

Best Lactose Intolerance Support Digestive Enzyme Supplement 

Schiff Digestive Advantage Lactose Support Probiotic

Schiff Digestive Advantage Lactose Support Probiotic aims to support those with digestive conditions like lactose intolerance that can cause painful gut health symptoms.

Summary of Schiff Digestive Advantage Lactose Support:
  • Contains the milk sugar enzyme lactase
  • Also includes the patented BC3⁰ probiotic blend
  • No preservatives or artificial flavors
  • OK to store at room temperature

What You Need to Know

If you’re having trouble choosing a digestive enzyme supplement, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

1) Consider which type of digestive enzyme you need

There are several types of common digestive enzymes:

  • protease breaks down protein
  • amylase which breaks down starches
  • lactase digests lactose, or milk sugar
  • lipase plays a role in digesting fats
  • alpha galactosidase breaks down the fibers in beans and other vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. These foods contain compounds that can cause gas in some people.

To figure out which digestive enzyme you need, keep a food diary in which you write down what you eat and drink and how you feel. Keep this log for a few days as it can help you determine which foods are causing your symptoms.

Also, seeking the advice of a registered dietitian or gut health doctor can help you determine your intolerances and the source of your digestive problems.

Once you know which foods bother your gut, you can make an informed choice of which digestive enzyme that may help reduce your symptoms.

 2) Pick a Brand You Can Trust

It’s important to read the label of supplements to assure they contain ingredients that have been proven effective throughin fighting your symptoms and supporting your natural digestion.

 3) Check Product Reviews for Possible Product Issues or Side Effects

Reading product reviews from outside sources which are not associated with the product’s company will help you see consumer experiences from taking the supplement. Some sources also have forums where you can ask questions. These reviews can help you learn if there are any common side effects.

 4) Check for Plant-based vs Animal-based Products

Digestive enzymes, depending on the enzyme, can come from either plant-based or animal-based sources. For those who follow a meatless diet, this information is especially important. Some digestive enzyme supplements come from animals like pig pancreases. These supplements need a special coating to survive stomach acids and make it to the small intestine. Therefore, in such products, you will need to look for such coatings to judge potential effectiveness of the product.

Digestive enzymes can help support digestion in those that may be lacking in certain enzymes. It’s important to choose a product that is trustworthy, and contains ingredients that have been well-researched and are bioavailable. Typically, such products are also supported by positive consumer reviews.

Why Take Digestive Enzymes?

Gut health issues like bloating and gas can cause discomfort that can impact the way you feel inside and out. Eating foods that contain even a small amount of certain compounds can cause painful digestive tract symptoms. For some people, being more active and drinking more water can help reduce such symptoms. However, for others, symptoms that come from lactose intolerance can be reduced by taking a digestive enzyme. 

For such people, their body may not produce the crucial digestive enzymes that are needed to break down certain compounds or may not make them in sufficient amounts. In turn, such foods will ferment in the gut and cause uncomfortable pressure, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. For those people, taking a daily digestive enzyme to break down food can be a simple and effective remedy.

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