What to Look For in a Digestive Enzyme Supplement
You need digestive enzymes to break down food. Yes, your body produces some enzymes, but is it enough? As you get older, your enzymatic production declines.
Digestive issues, post-meal fatigue, and stomach upset become more common. One of the best ways to keep your digestion optimal is to supplement with digestive enzymes.
Now, there are so many digestive enzymes on the market that choosing the right ones could be daunting. In this article, we’ll discuss what to look for in a digestive enzyme supplement.
There are many different types of enzymes that break down various types of food. The key is to use the right stack of enzymes. Here is a list of enzyme types that you may encounter as you shop for digestive enzymes:
- Proteases break down protein into amino acids
- Amylases break down starches into glucose
- Lipases break down fats into fatty acids and glycerol
- Enzymes break down hard-to-digest and bloat-causing sugars and fibers into single units of sugars, such as cellulase, invertase, hemicellulase, galactosidase, and more.
- Peptidase DPP IV breaks down gluten and casein
4 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Digestive Enzyme Supplement
#1 Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum Digestive Enzymes
There are many different kinds of digestive enzymes on the market. The term “full-spectrum” could refer to two aspects:
- Works at all pH levels (acidity-alkalinity) that your gut may have
- Contains enzymes that digest everything, from protein, carbs, and fats to fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols that can cause bloating or post-meal discomfort
Why Does the PH (Acidity at Which Your Enzyme Supplements Work Best) Matter?
In a perfectly healthy gut, your stomach should be VERY acidic, with pH 1 – 2. Once food exits your stomach and enters the small intestine, bile and other alkaline digestive juices turn the pH much more alkaline at 6 – 7.4. Your stomach acidity reaching your small intestine triggers this alkaline digestive juice secretion.
These pH ranges are crucial because your stomach enzymes work best at pH 1 – 2, and your small intestinal enzymes work best at pH 6 – 7.4. There are no human or mammalian (e.g. pigs or cows) enzymes that work best in-between.
Many people with suboptimal digestion have low stomach acid so their stomach pH can be 3 – 5, which makes it very hard for stomach enzymes to work effectively. Very few animal-based enzymes work optimally in this pH range, so animal-based enzymes from pigs or cows are, by definition, not full spectrum.
If you have an animal-based enzyme blend, then they’re broad spectrum. This is where plant-based or fungal-based enzymes can be much more effective.
#2 Plant-Based vs. Animal-Based
Aside from your dietary preferences, plants and fungi can make many more enzyme types that animals cannot. Plants can make systemic proteases that can get absorbed into the bloodstream and deliver systemic benefits. Fungi can make proteases and lipases that work best at various pH, and sugar-digesting enzymes that humans usually don’t make.
Therefore, if you use animal-based enzymes or even a single anti-bloat enzyme from the pharmacy without great results, a good plant-based enzyme blend might surprise you.
When buying enzymes, you want to maximize the effectiveness of your enzyme per dollar. So you want to look at the supplement facts label and see how many units of enzymes you’re getting. Look for units like enzyme unit (U), HUT, FIP, SAP, and USP.
We’ve done thousands of enzyme tests to find the strongest enzymes and design the most potent enzyme stacks.
Taking enzymes with your meals will dramatically increase the nutritional value you get from each meal. Your body will be able to break down, absorb, and utilize the nutrients.
#4 Match With Your Dietary Needs
Different meals and diets could need different enzymes. If you eat a high-protein meal, you’ll need more proteases than other enzymes. If you are keto, you need more lipase and no carbohydrate-digesting enzymes. Conversely, if you’re plant-based, you’ll most likely eat less proteins and a lot more fibers, but you need to make every gram of protein count.
This is why BIOptimizers formulated different digestive enzyme supplements, each optimized for specific diets or situations. We’re the only digestive health company in the world that has many different digestive enzyme supplements, so everyone can have perfect digestion.
|MassZymes||•For the average meal or a high protein meal: take 3 – 5 MassZymes with each meal.||•Supports smooth digestion with any meals, especially meals that are high in protein, fat, or hard-to-digest plant substances|
•Improves protein assimilation
•When taken on an empty stomach over 1 hour away from meals, it delivers systemic benefits such as supporting healthy tissue regeneration
|kApex||•For the Keto diet: take 2-3 kApex with each meal.||•Supports fat and protein digestion|
•Supports the utilization of fat for energy
•Smooth digestion and regularity on a high-fat meal
•Promotes healthy bile flow
•Supports energy levels on a low-carb diet or during ketogenic transitions
|VegZymes||•For plant-based diets: consume 2-4 capsules of VegZymes with each meal.||•Supports healthy digestion on a plant-based diet|
•High in enzymes that digest plant matter to support smooth digestion and minimize bloat on plant-based meals
•Contains systemic enzymes that deliver systemic health benefits
|Gluten Guardian||•For any meal that may have gluten: take 3 – 5 Gluten Guardian with the meal.||•Contains Peptidase DPP IV, a fungal enzyme that helps break down gluten and casein|
•Helps digest carbohydrates, sugar, and protein, especially with high-carb meals
•May relieve minor digestive discomfort from gluten or dairy in people who otherwise tolerate gluten and dairy (NOT a free pass for Celiac or severely gluten-sensitive people to eat gluten)
|HCL Breakthrough||•2-3 capsules with each meal||•Supports healthy stomach acidity, which is essential for smooth digestion, healthy gut movement, and the gut’s own immune defense|
•Supports healthy absorption of nutrients that require stomach acidity to absorb
•Supports digestion in the stomach
How Long Does It Take for Digestive Enzymes to Work?
An effective digestive enzyme supplement should deliver results immediately or within the meal that you start to take them with, especially if your bothersome symptoms happen around mealtimes.
If your digestive symptoms happen in your lower gut, such as irregularity, you may start to feel a difference after a few days. If you’re eating a large meal or have had suboptimal digestion for a long time, you may need to take more capsules to feel the difference.
Some people who have suboptimal protein digestion and absorption may start to feel a difference in their protein status after a few weeks. For example:
- Avid exercisers who notice better physical recovery
- Bodybuilders who previously struggled to gain muscles
- What is hypochlorhydria? WebMD. Accessed November 16, 2023. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-is-hypochlorhydria
- Buford TW, Cooke MB, Redd LL, Hudson GM, Shelmadine BD, Willoughby DS. Protease supplementation improves muscle function after eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(10):1908-1914. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3181a518f0
- Ishikawa-Takata K, Nagaya M, Nakazawa M, Ohta T. Exercise without digestive enzyme supplementation worsens nutritional status of frail older women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015;63(2):386-388. doi:10.1111/jgs.13263