Health & Wellness
Reviewing The Best Digestive Enzymes of 2019
Your body uses digestive enzymes to break down the foods you eat. Today, many people take digestive enzymes supplements to improve their digestion.
Digestive enzymes have been shown to improve absorption of nutrients while relieving issues like gastrointestinal distress, bloating, stomach pain, indigestion, and gas.
Many digestive enzymes also come packed with probiotics or prebiotics that improve the function of your gut flora, giving you a healthy gut microbiome.
Buying the right digestive enzyme can be tough. Our research team analyzed the best digestive enzymes on the market today to determine which one is the right choice for you.
Garden of Life Raw Enzymes for Men and Women
Garden of Life is one of the few supplement makers on this list to offer different enzyme supplements for men and women. The two formulas have small differences, although both claim to support your digestive health by giving you a full spectrum of probiotics and digestive enzymes. Both the men’s and women’s supplements have the same ingredients but in different dosages.
The supplement also contains raw food vitamins and minerals. There are 22 enzymes in total. If you’re looking for a digestive enzyme supplement that does more than just provide your body with enzymes, then the Garden of Life Enzymes supplement may be the right choice for you. It should provide far more digestive benefits than just an enzyme or probiotic supplement on its own.
1MD claims their MediZyme enzyme supplement is a “clinical strength” supplement that provides a broad spectrum of 18 different enzymes and probiotic bacteria to aid digestion. There aren’t quite as many digestive enzymes as the top-rated supplement on our list, and there’s only one probiotic bacteria (Saccharomyces boulardii). However, this is still a powerful supplement that should help maintain good digestive health.
“Clinical strength” doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the supplement space, so we’re always skeptical when a supplement claims to be clinical strength. However, MediZyme does have good ingredients, including rarer enzymes you won’t find in many other supplements. Common enzymes like lipase, cellulase, and lactase help your body handle fats, fiber, and lactose – all of which are often responsible for gas and bloating. Other rarer enzyme supplements can improve digestion even further.
MassZymes is heavily promoted by a legion of affiliate marketers online, which is why it frequently appears on lists like this. Despite the heavy promotion, however, MassZymes provides a strong dose of enzymes even if it is slightly overpriced. Each 40 serving bottle (120 capsules) of MassZymes is priced at $39.95.
MassZymes claims their enzyme formula is “the strongest enzyme formula ever” because it provides a full-spectrum of enzymes and “more protease than any other commercially available” enzyme supplement. There are 5 types of protease and 100,000 HUTs per capsule along with 13 different enzymes. We appreciate the transparency of the label: instead of packaging everything into a proprietary blend, MassZymes has clearly listed the dosage of each individual ingredient in the supplement, allowing you to easily compare it to other enzyme supplements listed here.
MassZymes has also added AstraZyme to their formula. AstraZyme is a proprietary, all-natural plant-derived compound extracted from ginseng and astragalus. Some manufacturers add it to enzyme supplements because it purportedly boosts the bioavailability of enzymes, helping your body absorb a higher dose.
Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme System
Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme System is one of the best and most popular enzyme supplements on Amazon. It’s also reasonably priced at just $24 for a 180 capsule (180 serving) bottle. The manufacturer claims their rapid release formula can reduce gas, indigestion, and bloating using plant-sourced enzymes and herbs.
The manufacturer also emphasizes the use of whole foods rich in enzymes and plant-sourced enzymes. In total, there are 10 different plant-sourced enzymes in the formula, including amylase, glucoamylase, lipase, protease, invertase, maltase, cellulase, bromelain, lactase, and papain. There’s also a digestive food and herb blend that contains green papaya, apple pectin, ginger, turmeric, and fennel, along with a sea vegetable complex. All dosages are transparently listed, making it easy to compare Rainbow Light to other supplements.
Source Naturals Daily Essential Enzymes
The Source Naturals Daily Essential Enzymes supplement contains 8 different enzymes that claim to break down food in all stages of digestion. It also claims to target multiple body systems involved in digesting carbs, protein, fat, and fiber while also functioning in all acidity (pH) levels in the digestive tract.
One of the things unique about Daily Essential Enzymes is that the nutritional label specifically tells you what each enzyme does. The label says things like “To Break Down Fiber”, for example, and then lists “Cellulase” and “Hemicellulase”. You can easily see exactly what each ingredient does and how it could help your body.
Daily Essential Enzymes has very strong ratings on Amazon, currently scoring a 4.4 out of 5 rating with over 357 5-star reviews. It’s also surprisingly affordable. Each 360 capsule (360 serving) package is priced at around $35.
Dr. Tobias Digestive Enzymes
Dr. Tobias’s Digestive Enzymes supplement provides plant-based enzymes with aspergillopepsin. The supplement claims to support digestion using 18 different plant-based enzymes that help you digest multiple food groups. It may also reduce post-meal gas and improve the body’s ability to digest difficult foods.
For years, Dr. Tobias’s enzyme supplement was sold under the name “Dr. Tobias Digest Plant-Based Enzymes.” The supplement recently rebranded to Dr. Tobias Digestive Enzymes.
All ingredients are transparently listed on the label, including the specific dose of all 18 enzymes. It’s all packaged into a convenient vegetable capsule. A package with 60 capsules (60 servings) is priced at a reasonable $17 on Amazon.
MAV Nutrition Digestive Enzymes
MAV Nutrition uses a mix of fungus-derived enzymes and probiotic bacteria to improve your body’s digestion of dairy, fat, and carbs. One of the few drawbacks of this supplement is that it doesn’t have any ingredients (like cellulase) that break down fiber.
Other advertised benefits of the supplement include relief from gas and bloating, relief from constipation, better energy levels, better gut health, and even improved cognition.
Aside from its lack of fiber-related enzymes, MAV Nutrition’s Digestive Enzymes is a very good supplement. It currently has a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 on Amazon with over 1,300 customer reviews. It’s also priced at a very reasonable rate: a bottle with 60 capsules (60 servings) will cost $22.
NOW Super Enzymes
NOW makes a wide range of nutritional supplements. Their Super Enzymes supplement promises many of the same benefits as others on our list: it claims to boost enzyme activity and help your body break down fat, protein, and carbs.
It doesn’t have quite the same ability to break down fiber as other supplements on this list. NOW Super Enzymes also has an ingredient we don’t see with many other enzyme supplements on this list: ox bile extract, which provides cholic acids. Each 180 tablet (180 serving) bottle is priced at around $20 on Amazon.
Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra
Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra is one of the pricier options on our list. On Amazon, a 180 capsule (90 serving) bottle of Pure Encapsulations is priced at $52.
The supplement provides a stronger dose than many other enzyme supplements on this list. it also claims to boost nutrient absorption and support digestion by providing your body with 13 different digestive enzymes. Although the supplement is generally well-rated (4.3 stars on Amazon), some reviewers found it wasn’t worth the higher price compared to other options.
Enzymedica Digest Gold with ATPro
Enzymedica Digest Gold with ATPro is a popular enzyme supplement that provides a powerful dose of 14 different enzymes, including enzymes that will help you break down fat, carbs, dairy, fiber, and more.
It’s not as cheap as other enzyme supplements on this list, but Enzymedica claims their formula is the “#1 selling enzyme brand” in America. We can’t find info to support that claim, although it’s certainly one of the better enzyme supplements on the market.
Douglas Laboratories Ultrazyme A Polyphasic Enzyme Complex
Douglas Laboratories makes an enzyme complex formulated with bile and active digestive enzymes that help your body break down fat, protein, and carbs. It’s priced at a reasonable $25 for 60 tablets (60 servings).
If ox bile extract sounds weird to you, then rest assured that it’s a common ingredient found in other digestive enzyme supplements (although yes, it does sound weird). The NOW Super Enzymes supplement we mentioned above also uses ox bile. Ox bile extract supplements are particularly popular for those without a gallbladder whose bodies may struggle to make their own bile.
Zenwise Health Daily Digestive Enzymes
Zenwise Health’s Daily Digestive Enzymes supplement contains enzymes along with a range of prebiotics and probiotics. There are also a handful of herbal extracts that are similar to what you would find in detox teas or juice cleanses, including ginger, turmeric, apple pectin, and peppermint, among others.
One of the issues with Zenwise is that the manufacturer refuses to disclose any individual dosages inside the supplement. We know the exact dose of extracts like green papaya (30mg) and turmeric (15mg). However, the 10 different enzymes are all packaged into a mysterious 350mg “Advanced Enzyme System” blend, with no way to see the individual breakdowns of any enzymes inside. The prebiotics and probiotics are also packaged into a proprietary 233mg formula that includes inulin and a “multi strain probiotic”. We don’t know the dosages of the prebiotics and probiotics, but we also don’t even know the types of probiotics included.
If the lack of transparency doesn’t bother you, then Zenwise Health Daily Digestive Enzymes provides a low dose of enzymes at a reasonable price (around $30 for 60 servings).
You might think all digestive enzymes supplements are made alike. However, that’s not true: digestive enzyme supplements vary widely based on their ingredients, dosages, price, and other factors. We considered all of these factors and more when compiling our rankings above:
Number of Enzymes: All of the supplements listed above have at least 8 enzymes. Different enzymes break down different foods within your body. Lactase, for example, breaks down dairy. When a digestive enzyme supplement has more enzymes, it means it helps you digest a greater range of foods. We avoided general digestion supplements that contained only 1 or 2 enzymes.
Dosage: Packing 24 enzymes into your supplement isn’t necessarily a good thing. We only used supplements with adequate doses of enzymes – like doses that had proven to be effective in scientific studies.
Macronutrient Digestion: The supplements above contain different enzymes. However, we only picked supplements that had at least one enzyme to help digest each of the three major macronutrients (carbs, fats, and protein). Many of the enzyme supplements above had ingredients to help digest fiber and dairy, but not all.
Probiotics and Prebiotics: Probiotics and prebiotics are valuable bacteria that help digest and extract nutrients from the food in your intestines. Many of the digestive supplements listed above contained probiotics and prebiotics, which should make them more powerful all-around digestive supplements.
Other Ingredients: Some of the enzyme supplements above contained additional ingredients like ox bile extract. Ox bile extract may sound weird, but it’s a valuable ingredient for certain types of people. People without a gallbladder, for example, struggle to make their own natural bile. Supplements with ox bile extract aid their digestion.
Additives: Finally, we looked at the delivery type of each digestive supplement. Did it use a non-vegetarian-friendly gelatin capsule? Did it come packed with unnecessary binders, fillers, stabilizers, or dyes?
Who Should Buy Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes can be used by virtually anybody. Some people take a digestive enzyme supplement because they’ve had trouble with indigestion, bloating, and gas.
Others take a digestive enzyme because they have gastrointestinal issues or some chronic illness. Some have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for example, and rely on digestive enzyme supplements. Many of the studies on digestive enzyme supplements have focused on those with chronic illnesses.
Some people take a specific digestive enzyme – like lactase – to help them digest foods like dairy. If you haven’t had dairy, for a while, but you want to start eating ice cream again, then you may want to take a lactase supplement.
Others believe digestive enzyme supplements can help them lose weight.
Ultimately, your body needs enzymes to digest the foods you eat. Enzymes break down the food in your system. Without the appropriate enzymes, your body struggles to digest anything. Everybody needs enzymes.
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes have been extensively studied. They play a crucial role in overall human health. Your body requires enzymes to digest foods. Without adequate enzymes, your body struggles to extract nutrients and break down food.
Digestive enzymes can help with bloating, gas, and indigestion caused by a wide range of foods. If you feel bloated and gassy after eating dairy, for example, then you may want to take a lactase supplement. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down dairy, helping it pass through your GI tract more easily. Lactase helps digest lactose, which is just a sugar specifically found in milk, yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy products. Lactase also enhances nutrient absorption, helping your body get maximum benefits from the dairy you’re consuming.
Certain nutrients can also cause more digestion problems than others. If you eat a meal high in fat, carbs, or protein, for example, then your body may struggle to digest it. That’s why all of the digestive enzyme supplements listed above contain at least one enzyme to digest fat, carbs, and protein.
How do enzymes work? Enzymes are just special cells found in your body’s digestive tract. Your body uses enzymes to break down compounds that your body cannot naturally digest. Digestive enzymes work in tandem with your gut flora – the healthy probiotic bacteria in your GI tract that break down foods. Together, probiotics and enzymes play a crucial role in your gut health and digestion.
Different enzymes have different roles in the body. One enzyme targets fat as it moves through your digestive tract, for example. Another enzyme targets sugar or fiber.
Imagine what might happen when your body doesn’t get the enzymes it needs. The food is passing through your GI tract whether you like it or not, but your body cannot break down the specific ingredients in the food. This can lead to bloating, gas, stomach pain, and indigestion.
The powerful digestive benefits of lactase were observed in this study from the University of Minnesota, where researchers found that lactase could significantly reduce or even eliminate symptoms related to poor dairy digestion. To enjoy these benefits, researchers recommended taking the lactase supplement just before or after consuming dairy, because lactase needs to be present in your stomach at the same time as the foods containing dairy enter your stomach.
Many people struggle to digest high-fat meals. It may be because you have too little lipase. Every healthy person has some lipase within their body to digest fat, but you may not have enough lipase to break down a particularly fatty meal all at one time. Lipase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lipids – or fats.
The fat-breakdown effects of lipase were observed in this study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences in 1999, when volunteers consumed a high-fat meal with or without a digestive enzyme supplement, then monitored volunteers’ bloating, gas, and fullness over the next several hours. The group that took the digestive enzyme lipase supplement had significantly reduced symptoms of bad digestion.
Meanwhile, other people struggle to digest high-fiber meals. If you have too much fiber, for example, then you might experience high levels of bloating and gas. Cellulase is the most popular digestive enzyme to take for breaking down fiber. Without adequate levels of cellulase, fiber passes through your digestive tract and creates a breeding ground for gas-producing bacteria, creating bloating, stomach pain, and gas. With cellulase, your body can break down fiber and safely pass it through your system.
Many of the digestive enzymes listed above also contain protease. Some even contain multiple types of protease. Protease is a digestive enzyme that helps break down protein. If you eat a protein-rich meal after not eating protein for a while, then you may not have sufficient levels of protease to digest that meal.
The protein-breakdown effects of protease have been observed in multiple studies. This paper does a good job of summing up 11 different studies on protease. In one study from 1978, for example, taking a dietary protease supplement significantly increased levels of proteolytic enzymes (enzymes that break down protein) within the body.
Amylase can also be found in many of the digestive enzyme supplements above. Amylase is a protein that breaks down carbohydrates and starches. Without amylase, your body will struggle to break down high-carb or starchy meals.
This study published in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology in 2011 showed that taking digestive supplements could increase amylase enzyme activity within the human body, making it easier for your body to break down carbs and starchy foods like wheat powder or rice powder.
Another study actually connected amylase enzyme activity to a healthier body mass index (BMI). It’s one of several studies to link healthy enzyme activity to weight loss. In this study published in BMC Medicine in 2017, researchers found that there were “strong associations between AMY1 or AMY2 activity and lower BMI”. AMY1 refers to salivary amylases while AMY2 refers to pancreatic amylases. Because these ingredients “hydrolyze” starch, it can increase the breakdown of starch and carbs within the digestive system, inhibiting weight gain.
A lot of research on digestive enzymes has focused on those with illness or disease.
This study published in the Journal of the Association of Physicians in 2017, for example, found that digestive enzymes could be helpful for those with type 2 diabetes. Digestive enzymes are produced in the pancreas, which is also the organ that produces insulin. When your body’s insulin production drops – as is the case when you have type 2 diabetes – it may inhibit the pancreas’s ability to create other nutrients as well. Researchers theorized that using certain digestive enzymes could help diabetics better control blood sugar levels.
We’ve established that many of the individual digestive enzymes are great at breaking down specific foods. But can those enzymes really work together to achieve complementary effects? Or do they cancel each other one?
Fortunately, other studies have reinforced the idea that multi-ingredient digestive enzymes are better for reducing indigestion than single-ingredient digestive enzymes.
The benefits of multi-ingredient digestive enzymes were observed in this study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2018. In that study, researchers separated 40 people with indigestion into two groups. One group took a placebo while another group took a multi-ingredient enzyme supplement containing protease, lipase, lactase, cellulase, and amylase. Both participants took the supplement for 60 days.
At the end of the study, researchers concluded that the digestive enzyme supplement resulted in significant improvements in all five measures of indigestion compared to a placebo. Participants were asked to measure their indigestion out of 10 based on five crucial indicators. The group that took the multi-ingredient enzyme supplement reported significant improvements in all five of the indigestion indicators.
Side Effects of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are generally well-tolerated. There have been few major side effects in any studies on digestive enzymes to date.
Digestive enzymes are almost always derived from natural sources. Typically, they come from plant sources. This minimizes the risk of side effects even further.
In the rare cases where side effects have been reported, it’s typically because of an allergic reaction to specific enzymes in a digestive enzyme supplement. One study from 1996 suggested that this effect could be linked to the plant or fungus that originally produced the enzyme – not the enzyme itself.
In other words, if you’re allergic to the plant from which the enzymes are derived, then it’s possible for certain parts of that plant to make their way to the final product. Few people seem to be allergic to the enzymes themselves.
Nevertheless, allergic reactions do occur. Keep note of any burning or swelling in your throat after taking an enzyme supplement. There may be a specific ingredient that your body is allergic to.
Recommended Dosage of Digestive Enzymes
We recommend following the manufacturer’s dosage on your digestive enzyme supplement. Dosages and ingredients can vary widely between digestive enzymes.
We also recommend keeping track of which foods give you the most trouble. You may not need to take a lactase digestive enzyme supplement, for example, if you already consume dairy regularly without feeling bloated or gassy. Based on your food habits, you may need to raise or lower your dose of digestive enzymes.
Timing is more important than dosage for digestive enzymes. To maximize the effects of digestive enzymes, the enzymes need to be in your stomach at the same time as the food you’re digesting. Take an enzyme supplement immediately before or after a meal for maximum effect.
FAQs About Digestive Enzymes
Q: How do digestive enzymes work?
A: Digestive enzymes are cells that break down specific foods in your digestive tract. Lactase, for example, breaks down the protein ‘lactose’ that is common in milk, yogurt, and other dairy products. Other enzymes break down carbs, fats, and proteins, helping your body digest foods that it would otherwise be unable to digest.
Q: Do I need to take a digestive enzyme supplement? Doesn’t my body produce enzymes naturally?
A: It’s true. Your body produces digestive enzymes naturally. You already have plenty of enzymes within your digestive tract. However, you may want to take a digestive enzyme supplement to boost levels of digestive enzymes in your body. You might have enough lactase enzyme to break down a splash of cream in your coffee, for example, but not enough lactase enzyme to break down an entire milkshake.
There’s also evidence that your body stops producing certain enzymes if you go without a specific food for a long period of time. Your body may have fewer lactase enzymes, for example, if you haven’t eaten dairy in two months.
Q: Will digestive enzyme supplements hurt digestion?
A: Most research indicates that digestive enzyme supplements will enhance digestion and inhibit bloating, gassiness, and other symptoms of indigestion. In all major studies performed to date, digestive enzymes have been well-tolerated. Few side effects have been reported at all.
Q: Do I need digestive enzyme supplements if I already take probiotics?
Probiotics and prebiotic supplements are both very popular. However, they’re completely distinct from digestive enzymes. Both play a crucial role in the digestion process. Many of the digestive enzyme supplements above contain both digestive enzymes and probiotics. If you want to maximize digestion, you may want to take both.
Q: Why is there ox bile in my digestive enzyme supplement?
A: Most digestive enzyme supplements use entirely plant-sourced ingredients. Two of the enzyme supplements above, however, contain an ingredient you may not have expected to see: ox bile extract. It sounds gross. However, ox bile extract is a popular supplement for those whose bodies cannot produce enough bile naturally – like those who have had their gallbladder removed.
Q: What are the best digestive enzymes?
A: There are plenty of different digestive enzymes. The most popular digestive enzymes, however, are the ones that break down common macronutrients. Those include protease (which breaks down protein), amylase (carbs), lactase (dairy), lipase (fats), and cellulase (fiber). Some of the supplements above had 20+ digestive enzymes that can help break down these ingredients in different ways.
Q: Where are enzymes produced?
A: Your body produces digestive enzymes naturally in the pancreas. The pancreas also produces insulin. Some research shows that diabetics produce fewer digestive enzymes than non-diabetics because they have worse pancreas function. This is why some doctors recommend taking a digestive enzyme supplement to improve blood sugar control among those with type two diabetes.
Q: How do I take digestive enzymes?
A: Most digestive enzyme supplements above come in the form of a capsule or tablet. You swallow that capsule or tablet right before your meal. Then, the enzymes are in your stomach and digestive tract as you eat the meal, helping you break everything down.
Q: Are digestive enzyme supplements just a short-term solution?
A: Digestive enzyme supplementation appears to work in both the short-term and long-term. Digestive enzyme supplements go to work immediately to help break down food you just consumed. However, research has also shown that regular digestive enzyme supplementation can increase enzyme levels and reduce indigestion over a 60 day period compared to a placebo. In this study, researchers found that the major benefits of digestive enzyme supplementation were observed after 30 days.
Q: Can I increase digestive enzymes without taking a supplement?
A: Digestive enzyme supplements are an easy and effective way to raise digestive enzyme levels in the body. They flood your body with high levels of enzymes immediately. You may be able to raise enzyme levels naturally by slowly integrating new foods into your diet. If you have trouble digesting milk, for example, then you may want to add a splash of cream to your coffee to gradually re-introduce dairy to your body.
Q: Are digestive enzyme supplements expensive?
A: Digestive enzyme supplements are relatively affordable. You should be able to get a 30 to 60-day supply of digestive enzyme supplements for $20 to $50. As with any supplements, there are some premium brands that cost more and budget brands that cost less.
Digestive enzymes play a crucial role in digestion. Without enzymes, your body can’t break down fat, carbs, protein, dairy, and other components. Some patients can benefit by taking a digestive enzyme supplement, which floods your body with high levels of digestive enzymes to break down different foods. Science has shown that digestive enzyme supplements can significantly reduce symptoms of indigestion.