Digestive enzymes, as the name suggests, are needed by the body for the digestion of nutrients obtained from food sources.
They begin to work as soon as the food enters the mouth. Saliva has digestive enzymes that start the breakdown process of nutrients. The pancreas, gallbladder, and liver also release these enzymes.
At times the body is unable to produce sufficient digestive enzymes. This leads to conditions like the midriff bloating, flatulence, and loose stool (1).
Supplementation with these enzymes helps bring relief from such conditions. A prescribed dose deals with long term digestive disorders like IBS (IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which affects the large intestine (2).
Here are the 6 best digestive enzymes in various categories such as the budget ones to the best vegan alternatives, as well as, the best digestive enzymes for those who have lactose intolerance.
Our Best Picks
1. The Best Overall Digestive Enzyme – Vitapost Digestive Enzymes
2. The Best Budget Digestive Enzymes – Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes
3. The Best Digestive Enzymes With Probiotics – EnzymeMD®
4. The Best Chewable Digestive Enzymes – Now ChewyZymes
5. The Best Vegan Digestive Enzymes – Now Plant Enzymes
6. The Best Digestive Enzymes for Lactose Intolerance – Thorne Bio-Gest Digestive Enzymes
1. Best Overall Digestive Enzyme – VitaPost Digestive Enzymes
Bromelain obtained from the stem of pineapple plants, gives relief from loose motions. It delivers many other health benefits (3), (4). The enzyme amylase helps the body digest carbs. Fats are acted upon by the enzyme lipase that is released by the pancreas (5), (6). Together they can work on carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
About Vitapost Digestive Enzymes
Vitapost is a powerful combination of all three important enzymes; namely bromelain, amylase, and lipase which aids the breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins. Protease 1 and 2 are also major ingredients in each serving of this supplement.
This digestive enzyme supplement is available as capsules. Each bottle contains 30 capsules. The serving size is 2 capsules per day. It should be taken just before eating.
The dosage should not be above 6 capsules a day. The supplementation of This digestive enzyme does not require a prescription. The manufacturing company has a global presence with a distribution network in 23 countries.
What it Contains:
The main components of this supplement are bromelain – 1,000,000, PU, amylase – 10, 0000 DU, and lipase 2,500 FIP.
The units are not measurements of calories or weight but are different indications of the type of activity taken up by the particular enzyme. The different letters used show their different activities.
The ‘Food Chemical Codex’ describes these letters. Examples of such indications are lipid (FIP), protein (HUT), and starch (DU). One serving has:
- Lactase – 1000 ALU
- Cellulase – 1000 CU
- The main enzymes are bromelain, amylase, and lipase
- Lactase also a component of the supplement
- Quality ingredients sourced locally and abroad
- GMP protocol followed for production
Summary: Vitapost digestive supplement contains the important enzymes that help in the digestion of fats, carbs, and other nutrients. The best ingredients are used in the manufacturing of this product.
2. Best Budget Digestive Enzymes – Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes
A veggie capsule is a transparent capsule made from plants. It does not contain any unwanted substances. Lactase is an important element in digestive enzymes supplements (7).
About Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes
Doctor’s Best provides budget-friendly digestive enzymes supplementation. It has 90 veggie capsules in each bottle. The supplement is an all-inclusive digestive-enzyme that is highly affordable as well.
These digestive enzymes support the health of the body by reducing the need for organs of the body to make enzymes. It also contains friendly-bacteria that have many health benefits.
The product has the potency to digest fats, carbs, and proteins. It has probiotic friendly-bacteria that promote the health of the intestines. All components used in the manufacturing of this product are non-GMO. No gluten is found in this supplement.
What it Contains:
Alpha- galactosidase (500 GalU) and Beta-glucanase (65 BGU) are among the key ingredients of this digestive enzymes supplement. The vegetarian capsule is made up of modified cellulose. One serving offers you:
- Lactase – 1000 ALU
- Lipase – 3000 FIP
The formulation also contains bromelain, papain, protease, and pancreatin. The recommendation is to take one capsule with each meal or as directed by a physician.
- Contains friendly- bacteria
- Wholesome digestive enzyme supplement
- Vegetarian capsules
- Free from gluten
Summary: The budget-friendly digestive supplement contains all ingredients that help in the breakdown of food. Only non-GMO ingredients are used in the making of this product.
3. Best Digestive Enzymes With Probiotics – EnzymeMD®
EnzymeMD digestive enzymes supplement has all the necessary ingredients to enhance gut health. The ingredients are doctor-formulated.
The inclusion of probiotics supports the breakdown of many hard-to-digest foods. Each capsule has a brand-named probiotic called S.boulardii.
Probiotics support the gut bacteria that are present in the intestines. It carries out functions that improve the health of the body. It also has 18 other digestive enzymes.
One bottle has 60 vegetarian capsules. The supplement is dairy-free, 100% non-GMO. It does not contain gluten. The digestive enzymes are plant-based and can be consumed by vegans.
What it Contains:
The supplement has alpha-amylase, bromelain, peptidase, glucoamylase, protease, papain, cellulase lipase.
The other ingredients are rice flour and vegetable cellulose capsule. One serving has:
- Saccharomyces boulardii – 420 mg
The supplement has to be taken 20 minutes before a meal or as directed by a physician.
- Includes probiotics
- Plant-based digestive enzymes
- Doctor-formulated components
- Free from gluten
Summary: The product has all the needed components that make up for a very effective digestive supplement. It is a complete plant-based digestive enzymes supplement.
4. Best Chewable Digestive Enzymes – Now ChewyZymes
Pills or capsules may pose difficulty in swallowing for some people. A better option would be to take supplements in a chewable form.
The likable taste of chewable supplements makes it popular. These enzyme supplements are acted upon by digestive enzymes produced in the body. This is a favorable supplement form.
About Now ChewyZymes
The berry-flavored chewable digestive supplement can be consumed by adults and children. The tablets are vegetarian and vegan friendly. It is free of soy and dairy products.
It does not contain wheat, fish, egg, shellfish, and tree nut ingredients. The product has received an NPA A-rated (Natural Products Association), GMP certification. The certificate means that a high level of following GMP rules has been reviewed.
Every aspect of the production of this supplement has been tested for its formulation, power, and consistency in delivering what it claims.
These chewy enzymes are a keto-friendly product. The natural berry flavor of this product is liked by both the young and the adult population.
What it Contains:
The chewable enzymes contain amylase and protease that are taken from Aspergillus oryzae. One serving offers:
- Lactase – 1000 ALU
- Lipase – 500 FIP
It also has invertase and diastase. The other components of this supplement are fructose, maltodextrin, citric acid, beet powder, and magnesium stearate.
Each bottle contains 45 tablets. The recommendations are 2 tablets for adults and 1 tablet for children. It should be taken either during a meal or before eating.
- Received a high-quality standard rating
- Can be consumed by vegetarians and vegans
- Contains a natural berry flavor
- Keto-friendly product
Summary: Now chewy enzymes are made from natural ingredients. The production of this supplement has been verified for its quality standards.
5. Best Vegan Digestive Enzymes – Now Plant Enzymes
Digestive enzymes derived from fruits and vegetables are considered pure and most beneficial.
Bromelain obtained from pineapple is a digestive enzyme that is widely used in supplements. It is extracted from the stem of pineapple plants (10).
Papain is obtained from the papaya fruit. It aids in improving digestion and is also used to treat diarrhea.
About Now Plant Enzymes
This vegan digestive enzyme supplement is a blend of important ingredients. The product has obtained the NPA A-rated GMP certification. It has also been certified 21 CFR part 111 by the FDA.
The certificate qualifies the standards used in the manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and operations of dietary supplements.
Now Plant Enzymes are free from soy. It is kosher and keto-friendly. It does not contain artificial flavors and colors. This supplement is only for adults.
What it Contains:
Each bottle contains 240 capsules. The product has protease, amylase, lipase, lactase. The other ingredients are microcrystalline cellulose, hypromellose, calcium laureate, and silicon dioxide. One serving has:
- Papain – 6000 (FCC PU)
- Bromelain (5,000 FCC PU)
With each meal, one capsule should be taken. People who are allergic to enzymes extracted from papaya and pineapple should avoid this supplement.
- Acquired quality standard certifications
- 240 capsules in each bottle
- Contains lactase
- Kosher and keto-friendly
Summary: Now Plant Enzymes contain important digestive enzymes that have shown evidence of being beneficial for the breakdown of food. No artificial substances are added to the supplement.
6. Best Digestive Enzymes for Lactose Intolerance – Thorne Bio-Gest
Betaine hydrochloride may help in digestion for everyone in general and especially for those who have less stomach acid. It is needed for the breakdown of nutrients (11).
About Thorne Bio-Gest
Thorne Bio-Gest Digestive enzymes are made from the purest of ingredients.
Pepsin and pancreatin are major ingredients in this supplement. These two components are lactose-free and undiluted, unlike some other supplements (12).
Each bottle has 180 capsules. It does not have gluten. It is free from eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts. It does not contain soy, yeast, fish, shellfish, or any dairy component.
No artificial flavors are added to the product. Thorne Bio-Gest has established its presence in the supplement market for more than 30 years.
The products manufactured by this company are tested for its safety, quality standards, and effectiveness.
What it Contains:
One or two capsules is the daily recommended intake, or as prescribed by the physician. Just one serving includes:
- Betaine hydrochloride – 480 mg
- L-Glutamic acid hydrochloride – 480 mg
The supplement also contains pancreatin (porcine) – 140 mg, ox bile concentrate – 80 mg, pepsin (porcine) – 70 mg.
The other ingredients are hypromellose, leucine, and silicon dioxide The pancreatin in each capsule contains a minimum of 15, 750 USP amylase, 14,000 USP protease, and 2,450 USP lipase.
People who have peptic ulcers need to check with their physicians before using the supplement.
- Tested for safety, quality standards
- Purest ingredients used
- The company established over 3 decades
- Free from gluten, dairy, and soy
Summary: The cleanest ingredients are used in the making of this digestive enzyme supplementation. Each container has 180 capsules.
Benefits of Taking Digestive Enzyme Supplement
Certain factors such as age, increased stress, or poor nutrition can slow down enzyme production. This means that the food you eat doesn’t break down properly.
Digestive enzyme supplement is of great help under these circumstances. It can boost your body’s natural digestion when it is needed.
Some of the benefits of taking digestive enzyme supplement are:
Helps in Better Digestion
If your body slows down your digestive enzyme production, it means the food that you eat is not digested properly. This results in your body not getting enough nutrients. Improper digestion can also put unnecessary stress on your digestive tract.
Digestive enzyme supplements that are plant-based and derived from microbes help support your digestion, thus preventing multiple digestive disorders.
Helps in Better Nutrient Absorption
Better digestion means enhanced nutrient absorption. These digestive enzyme supplements boost the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller molecules so that they can be absorbed easily.
Helps Reduce Digestive Problems
Bloating is a common digestive problem usually caused by certain foods. Complex carbohydrates such as beans, vegetables, and grains are some of them which are difficult to digest.
Enzymes such as alpha-galactosidase and cellulase break down these complex carbohydrates into simpler forms, thus reducing conditions like gas, bloating, and stomach pain (13).
Similarly, lactose present in milk and milk products commonly cause gas and bloating in some. Almost 68% of the world’s population suffer from lactose intolerance. Digestive enzymes such as lactase help reduce symptoms of poor dairy digestion.
Reduces Acid Reflux
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal sphincter (GERD) is a kind of digestive disorder where the stomach’s content travels back into the esophagus. This causes heartburn. Digestive enzyme supplements have helped reverse this by emptying your stomach.
Provides Relief from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a group of intestinal disorders that causes inflammation or destruction of the digestive tract leading to sores and narrowing of the intestines. It can be extremely painful and in some cases can be fatal. Symptoms include diarrhea, bleeding ulcers, bowel obstruction, and anemia.
Digestive enzyme supplements such as pancrelipase (PEZ), have been found to be effective in reducing IBS symptoms. PEZ is a combination of lipase, protease, and amylase which are produced by the pancreas.
May Help Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects the large intestine and can cause digestive problems such as bloating, gas, and constipation. Digestive enzyme supplements help break down complex food to simpler substances and lactobacilli and probiotics present in them help with indigestion.
May Help People with Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin is produced in the pancreas and is the digestive enzyme that regulates your glucose metabolism. In the case of people suffering from type 2 diabetes, the ability of our body to produce sufficient insulin is reduced.
Studies have shown that digestive enzyme supplementation can help better control blood sugar (14).
Summary: Digestive enzyme supplements have shown to help deal with several gastro-intestinal and digestive problems and can help reduce the severity of IBS and IBD.
The Dosage Instructions for Digestive Enzymes Supplements
The general dosage of digestive enzymes supplements is based on the quantity and type of food consumed. It is not dependent on the age or weight of the user (15).
It is advisable to start with only one capsule of the supplement. The label on the product states the serving size. Different supplements of these enzymes are produced for different tasks in the body.
The dosage consumed should be able to break down all the food eaten in the 60 to 90 minutes when present in the stomach together.
A physician can help determine the right dosage based on the specific needs of the individual. Experimenting with necessary care will help in finding the right dosage of digestive enzymes.
Summary: Initially only one capsule should be consumed to check if it is effective. A physician’s recommendation will be helpful.
The Side-Effects and Risks of Digestive Enzymes Supplements
Most forms of over-the-counter digestive enzyme supplementation are considered safe when its use is directed by a physician. However, some side-effects of consuming digestive enzymes may occur.
Diarrhea, abdominal cramping or pain, headache, neck pain, and nasal congestion are some of the side-effects. A doctor’s advice will be helpful, as the benefits of these supplements are greater than the chance of severe reactions.
People who are taking medicines for blood thinning should avoid continuous use of digestive enzyme supplements (16).
It is important to check the sources of these enzymes as some of them are made from animals or microorganisms (17). If any kind of reaction continues for a long time you should contact your doctor or pharmacist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is an Enzyme Supplement Needed When Fresh Foods Have Them?
Enzymes present in fresh foods will take a longer time for proper digestion. These foods may not contain all the required enzymes.
The supplements offer a concentrated form that can be added to any diet for faster digestion. These products are beneficial especially for people who consume high amounts of cooked or processed food.
What is the Best Time for Taking These Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes can be taken before meals, during or at the end of the mealtime. It works when it is in contact with the food that stays in the stomach for up to 90 minutes.
Vegetable capsules take longer to dissolve, so taking them for at least 20 to 30 minutes before eating can be more beneficial.
Are There any Side-effects to Children Taking Digestive Enzymes?
Some reactions such as an increase in bowel movement and gas production may take place. There are chances that the child may become hyperactive and more sensitive to pain.
It is important to consult a physician before starting on a course of digestive enzymes for children.
How to Choose a Good Digestive Enzyme Supplement?
A good digestive enzyme breaks down the nutrients that are most common in food items. Those that are high in fat, dairy, or fiber increase indigestion. Lipase, lactase, and cellulase that digests them are found in good digestive enzymes supplements.
Can Pregnant Women Take Digestive Enzyme Supplements?
Digestive enzymes are very helpful during pregnancy. It helps for faster movement of food from the stomach to the intestine.
But please consult your doctor before taking any supplements. The product label should be checked to ensure the ingredients used in the product are safe for the mother and baby.
The Final Note
The use of digestive enzymes to treat conditions like indigestion is becoming popular. Prescribed supplements treat more severe disorders such as IBS.
However, studies in the use of its over-the-counter supplementation require more data. Most manufacturers of digestive enzyme supplements ensure the exclusion of soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, gluten, and other allergens.
Many fruits like pineapples, papaya, avocado, kiwifruit, mango, and banana are the natural sources of digestive enzymes. With proper checks conducted on the content and verification of ingredient sources, supplements of digestive enzymes are increasingly being used today.
It is advisable to check with your physician before starting on a course of digestive enzymes. A consultation becomes necessary if you are on other medications (18).