Everything You Need to Know about Digestive Enzymes (Part 2 of 2)

Below is Part 2 of this month’s blog post on digestive enzymes. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

How do I know if I should be taking a digestive enzyme supplement?
The best way to know if you should take a digestive enzyme supplement is by having a stool test. This test measures how well you’re digesting your food and how well your pancreas is producing digestive enzymes.

Other signs and/or symptoms that you may have problems with digestive enzymes:

  • Gas and bloating after meals
  • A sensation that you have food sitting in your stomach (a rock in your gut)
  • Feeling full after eating a few bites of food
  • Undigested food in your stool
  • Floating stools (an occasional floating piece is fine, but all your poop consistently floating can be a sign something is wrong)
  • Oily or greasy looking stools (suggests undigested fat)

What kind of digestive enzyme should I take?
There are a variety of digestive enzymes on the market, including single enzyme and multiple enzyme formulas. As with all supplements, you’re looking for brands that meet the following criteria:

  • Quality/Price: Don’t buy cheap supplements. Buying cheap supplements is almost always a waste of money. They often contain pesticides, GMOs, and rarely include what’s on the label. When buying enzymes, don’t look for the cheapest brand on the shelf and stay clear of conventional grocery stores and drug stores, as they carry poor quality products. (Take a look at my post Beware of Fake Supplements for more information.)
  • Reputation: When buying any supplement, you want to make sure you are purchasing from a company with a good reputation that sells professional grade supplements, such as Metagenics, Thorne Research, and Klaire Labs. I provide an online store of high-quality, professional grade supplements which come direct from the manufacturer.
  • Source: There are three major sources for digestive enzymes.
    • Fruit sourced (isolated from papaya or pineapple): these tend to be the weakest digestive enzyme supplements and aren’t recommended for people who need more support
    • Animal sourced (pancreatin): these work really well, but are not for vegetarians or vegans
    • “Plant” sourced (from fungus): these are the most stable of all the enzymes, survive digestion well, and have a broad spectrum of action
  • Multiple enzymes: You want to see a number of enzymes listed on the label. These include proteases (which break down proteins), lipases (which break down fats), and carbohydrases (such as amylase, which break down carbohydrates).
  • Strength/potency listed: Enzymes are rated on various scales so you want to see numbers beside each enzyme showing their strength. If it’s a proprietary formula without strengths listed, be wary – this usually means a weak product.
  • Ingredients: As with all supplements, you want to see the ingredients in the product, but with digestive enzymes you especially want to see what ingredients are not in the product. If it doesn’t say “contains no:  sugar, salt, wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives,” assume it does.

When should I take digestive enzyme supplements, and how much should I take?
Digestive enzymes should be taken with food. Most people find it easiest to take them when they sit down to eat (immediately before eating), but any time while eating will be beneficial.

With high-quality products, most people need 1-2 capsules with their major meals. Most people don’t need to take any with light meals or snacks unless their digestion is severely compromised.

When you’ve found a dose that works well for you, symptoms such as gas or bloating after meals should go away. If not, try increasing your dose slowly, by one pill per meal. Take the new dose level for 3-to-7 days to evaluate how things are working.

If digestive enzymes don’t do the trick, or if you have any questions, please schedule an appointment with me. There could be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

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Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Doctor of Clinical Nutrition | Certified Nutrition Specialist