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How Do I Choose the Best Digestive Enzyme Supplement?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

You should choose a digestive enzyme supplement based on your individual needs, so it will be necessary for you to determine which enzymes you may be deficient in. If you have a specific condition, such as lactose intolerance, you may want to take an enzyme specifically for that. Some studies have shown that taking a multi-enzyme formula may be beneficial for most people, especially those who do not eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Digestive enzymes are substances in the body which help break down the food you eat. They also help the body utilize these foods by allowing it to absorb vitamins and minerals effectively. Without these enzymes, foods cannot be properly digested. This can lead to stomach upset and malabsorption of nutrients which are needed for good health.

Digestive enzyme supplements.
Digestive enzyme supplements.

One way to determine the best type of digestive enzyme supplement is to speak with your doctor. This is especially important if you are having specific symptoms which may be caused by an enzyme deficiency. There are numerous disorders in which the body cannot process certain food types properly. If one of the offending foods is eaten, it can lead to digestive discomfort, malaise, and sometimes malnutrition.

Some enzymes can be especially beneficial to the digestive system.
Some enzymes can be especially beneficial to the digestive system.

To find foods which are causing the problems, you should eat a restricted diet and then slowly reintroduce one food group at a time back into your eating plan. If you begin having symptoms with a particular food group, you have likely found your culprit and should be tested for an enzyme disorder. Make sure you stick with each new food group for several days before introducing another, as it can sometimes take time for symptoms to appear.

If you are determined to have a deficiency or sensitivity to a particular food group, you should take the correlating digestive enzyme supplement to help you better digest the foods within that group. For instance, amylase helps break down carbohydrates and lipase breaks down fats. Keep in mind that trouble digesting certain foods is not the same as a food allergy. If you are allergic to a particular type of food, you should avoid eating it.

Some studies have shown that many individuals are deficient in several enzymes and may benefit from a broader digestive enzyme supplement. These are supplements which contain several enzymes in one pill to give you a broader range of benefits and to help you digest all food groups more efficiently. Although most enzymes are found in food, processed foods and cooked foods lose them as they are heated or altered. It is often unrealistic to adhere to a totally raw and unaltered diet, so enzyme supplementation may be a good solution.

Other digestive enzyme supplements are meant to provide extra enzymes which are not necessarily naturally found in the body. For instance, there are over the counter supplements which contain enzymes which allow the body to digest gas causing substances more effectively, thus reducing intestinal gas. These are generally not meant to be taken daily, but rather only before the offending foods are consumed.

Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- There are more comprehensive enzyme supplements out there. There isn't just one type of enzyme that breaks down one type of food. There are different kinds. For example, pancreatin breaks down protein too. Amyloglucosadise breaks down carbohydraes and hemicellulase breaks down fiber. So the more enzymes a supplement contains, the better it will be for digestion overall.


@ysmina-- I'm not an expert on this topic but it sounds like your supplement covers everything. Protease enzymes digest protein, lipase enzymes digest fat and amylase digests carbohydrates. So taking a supplement that has all three is a good option for those who don't have a specific deficiency in one enzyme, but could benefit from a supplement.

Of course, the dose is important too. For example, a multi-enzyme supplement may not be enough for someone with a severe deficiency in lipase. It's a good idea to get a supplement that just has lipase in this case since the dose will be higher.


I take an enzyme supplement that contains amylase, protease II and III, lactase, cellulase and lipase. Is this a good comprehensive supplement?

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