Believe it or not, what you put on your plate is only one component to consider when it comes to the health of your diet. In fact, if you don’t get a good mix of the best digestive enzymes to support the digestion and absorption of the nutrients in your meals, it doesn’t make much of a difference what foods you fill up on.
So do digestive enzymes really work? Why are they important? And what are the most effective digestive enzymes? Here’s what you need to know.
The 10 Best Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzyme are a group of enzymes used by the body to break down macronutrients — such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins — into their individual components to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Older adults and people with certain health conditions and digestive problems often lack in the key digestive enzymes needed by the body.
So what are the best digestive enzymes? Each type of digestive enzyme plays a specific role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients in the body. Here are 10 of the best digestive enzymes, plus how each one functions in the body:
- Amylase: Found primarily in the saliva, amylase helps break down starches into simple sugars to facilitate digestion.
- Alpha-galactosidase: Needed to break down starchy, hard-to-digest foods, including gas-causing ingredients like beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.
- Cellulase: Responsible for the digestion of cellulose, a type of fiber found in the cell wall of many types of plants.
- Glucoamylase: Helps break the bonds of common dietary starches to help form simple carbohydrates.
- Invertase: Aids in the hydrolysis of sucrose, or table sugar, into fructose and glucose.
- Lactase: Catalyzes the breakdown of lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk and milk products.
- Lipase: An enzyme produced by the pancreas that helps your body digest and absorb fats.
- Peptidase: Responsible for splitting peptide protein chains into individual amino acids.
- Phytase: Facilitates the digestion of phytic acid, which is a natural compound found in plant seeds as well as nuts, whole grains and legumes.
- Protease: Helps break long chains of proteins into smaller units known as amino acids.
Digestive Enzymes Benefits + Best Digestive Enzymes for Certain Conditions
- Boost Nutrient Absorption
- Support Digestive Health
- Prevent Gas and Bloating
- May Reduce Symptoms of Acid Reflux
1. Boost Nutrient Absorption
Even if you follow a healthy, well-rounded diet, it’s unlikely to make much of an impact if your body is unable to properly extract the nutrients from your food. Digestive enzymes can help enhance nutrient absorption by supplying your body with the enzymes it needs to fully break down what you put on your plate. Not only can this help prevent nutritional deficiencies, but it may also potentially help boost energy levels, enhance immune function and optimize overall health.
2. Support Digestive Health
One of the top digestive enzymes benefits is its ability to support digestive health by keeping your gastrointestinal system running smoothly. It may also aid in the treatment of common issues like leaky gut. Leaky gut is a condition characterized by decreased intestinal permeability, resulting in increased inflammation as particles and toxins flow from the intestines into the bloodstream. Supplementing with some of the best digestive enzymes for leaky gut could help optimize nutrient digestion to decrease inflammation and irritation of the gut lining. This can preserve intestinal permeability to prevent symptoms.
3. Prevent Gas and Bloating
Certain enzymes like alpha-galactosidase, lactase and cellulase are often considered some of the best digestive enzymes for IBS as well as the best digestive enzymes for gas, bloating and stomach pain. All three types help break down specific foods that are difficult for many to digest, including legumes, fiber-rich veggies and dairy products. If you commonly experience adverse side effects after consuming these foods, taking a digestive enzyme may be a good option to decrease bloating and gas.
4. May Reduce Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is a common condition that often causes symptoms like acid reflux, heartburn and regurgitation. Digestive enzymes can help speed up the emptying of the stomach, which could prevent the backsplash of acid into the esophagus to reduce acid reflux. Although there is limited research available on the effectiveness of digestive enzymes for acid reflux, it may be a beneficial addition to your routine alongside diet and lifestyle modifications.
Worst Digestive Enzymes
Unfortunately, not all digestive enzymes are created equal. In fact, certain supplements are pumped full of cheap fillers to cut costs at the expense of overall quality. Supplements should also contain a blend of different enzymes rather than one or two specific types, and the amounts should be listed in FCC activity units, which are a measure of potency. Note that this is different than the weight, which is typically listed in milligrams or micrograms. This is because specific enzymes have differing levels of potency, which are not related to the respective weights of the enzymes.
How to Get the Best Digestive Enzymes
You may be wondering: How can I increase my digestive enzymes naturally? There are plenty of natural digestive enzymes found in food sources, including in fruits and fermented foods. In particular, pineapples, mangoes, papayas and avocados are all high in digestive enzymes, as well as many of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
You can also opt to take a digestive enzymes supplement instead, which can supply several of the digestive enzymes that you may lack in a quick and convenient capsule form. Typically, the best-rated digestive enzymes are produced from natural sources, such as plants or animals. They may also contain other ingredients to support digestion, such as ginger or peppermint. In some cases, you may also find supplements that contain the best probiotic with digestive enzymes to promote overall gut health and support the gut microbiome.
Be sure to buy from a reputable retailer and skim through the best digestive enzymes reviews to make sure you get a high-quality product. Additionally, look through the ingredients list and steer clear of supplements with fillers or added chemicals that may do more harm than good.
The best time to take digestive enzymes is with your meals to help optimize digestion. Taking them just before you eat is ideal, but you can also use them up to 20–30 minutes prior to your meals.
Although digestive enzymes can be beneficial for many, it’s best to consult with your doctor if you have any chronic conditions or health problems. Working with a trusted health care professional can help you determine which digestive enzymes you may need and if any other medications or treatments are necessary for you.
Additionally, while digestive enzymes are usually well-tolerated and associated with minimal adverse symptoms, they may cause digestive enzymes side effects like diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and gas. Be sure to use as directed to avoid negative side effects and consider decreasing your dosage if symptoms persist.
Read Next: Top 10 Leaky Gut Supplements
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