Kim is a board-certified holistic health coach, healthy living and cleanse consultant, and studied under Dr. Andrew Weil and Walter Willet.
Should You Take Digestive Enzyme Supplements?
If you are suffering from symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, gas, irregularity, or heartburn, you may have an enzyme deficiency. The deeper cause is dependent upon each person's individual circumstances, but digestive enzyme supplements may specifically alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms. They can also help you with other non-digestive related problems such as lack of energy.
You can support your health and beauty by obtaining enough digestive enzymes to help your body function efficiently. That includes:
- Eating as many raw vegetables and fruits as possible.
- Chewing food slowly to ensure enzymes will be released—yes, there are enzymes in your mouth!
- Eating foods that are high in probiotics and enzymes, such as raw sauerkraut.
- Taking a high-quality, vegetable-based digestive enzyme supplement.
The Role of Enzymes in the Body
To fully understand the benefits of digestive enzyme supplements, you need to understand what exactly enzymes do in your body.
There are many different types of enzymes, so I will give you a quick biology tutorial that focuses on the digestive enzymes. For more in-depth information, read Dr. Barbara Bradley Bolen's discussion.
- Enzymes are important proteins in your cells. They are catalysts that help speed up every chemical reaction in your body. Without them, you would not be able to breathe, swallow, eat, or digest food.
- All of the vitamins and minerals you eat and all of the hormones your body produces need enzymes to work properly. That means your energy level, your ability to utilize vitamins and minerals, and even your immune system are dependent on enzymes.
- Food contains natural enzymes, which can be fully obtained if eaten raw.
- Enzymes are classified into three categories: digestive, food, and metabolic.
- Metabolic enzymes occur throughout your organs, and your digestive organs produce digestive enzymes.
Let's focus on the two enzymes that are associated with our digestive system, which have one major function—to help digest food!
How Enzymes Aid Digestion
In a perfect body, you would slowly chew enzyme-rich foods, such as raw vegetables and fruits. The food would enter the stomach, laced with digestive enzymes that help to "predigest" your food. The enzymes help break down the food and move nutrients to where your body needs them the most.
Hydrochloric acid then inactivates all of the enzymes and starts to break down the rest of the meal. This nutrient-rich food concentrate continues into the small intestine, where it is broken down further by more digestive enzymes. The end of digestion is completed when nutrients are passed through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, our body isn't perfect, and there are factors that affect this process!
- As we age, we lose some of our "enzyme reserves." One of the reasons may be a lifestyle problem associated with poor diet.
- When food is cooked at a temperature of 120 degrees or higher, it destroys virtually all of the food's naturally occurring enzymes.
The majority of us eat foods that are cooked, such as sauteed vegetables and boiled potatoes. We may try our best to eat raw salads and fresh fruit smoothies, but realistically most of our foods are cooked at high temperatures. This means that even the vibrant and colorful vegetables we eat become severely deficient in those important enzymes.
This is where digestive enzyme supplements come in. By taking a supplement before each meal, you are replacing some of those lost enzymes.
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes Supplements
- Relief from ulcers
- Relief from gas and bloating
- Alleviation of food allergies
- Decreased indigestion and heartburn caused by too much acid in the stomach
- Increased energy levels from your body's reduced effort of digestion
Still Not Convinced? Try This Experiment!
There is an easy experiment you can do to see the benefit of enzyme supplements for yourself!
- Prepare two bowls of instant oatmeal.
- Crush 2-3 digestive enzyme capsules into one of the bowls.
- Wait about 30 minutes.
The bowl with the digestive enzyme will look watery, while the untreated bowl will still look lumpy and sticky. The concept shown here is that the oatmeal with the enzyme has been "predigested" and would have an easier time getting through your system, reducing the stress and effort of your digestive organs.
What to Look for When Buying Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzyme supplements are typically sold as pills. I recommend buying a vegetable-based supplement that contains all the enzymes listed in the table below.
These aren't the same enzymes that humans produce during normal digestion. However, many of them serve similar functions. They act as a predigesting tool that helps you digest food more efficiently.
|Enzyme||Aids Digestion of|
Carbohydrates and Starches
Warning: Please be cognizant of popular but unsupported claims on the internet. Digestive enzyme supplements should not be used as a weight loss tool.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 20, 2015:
Kim, this is real interesting to know. Very helpful and useful.
Sharice from Rhode Island on July 27, 2013:
I'm going to have to try the brand featured in your hub after I'm done with my Jarrow Formulas capsules. I find that those are hard to swallow. I'm not good at swallowing pills and I'm not sure if there really effective. Anyway enough about me! Great hub!
Kim Lam (author) from California on June 23, 2012:
Thanks Marcy for your vote!
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on June 23, 2012:
This is so interesting - and so helpful to those of us who sometimes feel our systems are messed up from a lack of balance. I've tried natural yogurt before, and it really does help, by the way. Voted up and up.
Kim Lam (author) from California on June 16, 2012:
Thanks prasonline, your coments are much appreciated.
Hi Nettlemere! While both probiotics and enzymes are needed to support your digestive system, they are both different in terms of function and composition. Probiotics are "live" friendly bacteria that help BALANCE the bad and good ones in your stomach. However, they don't break down the foods that you eat so you can absorb all those nutrients. (That is solely the role of digestive enzymes) Probiotics are found in yogurts and fermented food...and they are beneficial to your digestive system too so it's good to take both! (I do!) Thanks for the great comment! :-)
Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on June 16, 2012:
Interesting and well explained. I hadn't come across the idea of pure enzyme supplements before, but have noticed a proliferation of probiotic yogurts and drinks in the UK which I think are supposed to serve a similar function.
Prasanna Marlin from Sri lanka on June 15, 2012:
Great article! explaining Benefits of Digestive Enzymes Supplements
Very Interesting! thanks for sharing this! Voted up