The best digestive enzymes in supplements are the ones that work best for you! On this page, we'll review some high-quality brands but first discuss how different types of enzymes are for different foods, different digestive problems, and different goals.
When you take enzymes along with a meal, they will help digest your food, and that will give you more available nutrients, fewer gut problems, and better elimination. For more information on what enzymes do in the digestive system, see What Are Digestive Enzymes?
There are many choices in digestive enzyme supplements. Enzyme supplements can be all-purpose or specialized; they can be formulated for specific digestive problems; they can achieve digestive or therapeutic goals.
Many brands carry a range of formulations for different purposes. Other brands consist of one or two specialized formulations. Some quality brands are described below.
Formulations differ by the types of enzymes they contain.
Different enzymes digest different types of foods. These are a few important enzymes or categories of enzymes that you may see on enzyme product labels:
Protease digests proteins. Proteins are in many kinds of foods. Meat itself also requires stomach acid for digestion.
Peptidase digests gluten (a protein in wheat-related grains) and casein (a milk protein that is concentrated in cheese).
Amylase digests carbohydrates.
Lactase digests the milk sugar lactose. "Lactose intolerance" means an individual's digestive system isn't producing enough of its own lactase enzyme. A lactase supplement can solve this problem.
Lipase digests fats, including the fat in meat.
Alpha-galactosidase digests the gas-causing carbohydrates found in beans, other legumes, cruciferous vegetables, and whole grains. This enzyme in a supplement can prevent gas from these foods.
Cellulase breaks down vegetable fiber that would otherwise be indigestible; it also digests the chitin (fiber) layer that protects candida cells.
Xylanase breaks down hemicellulose, another vegetable fiber found in fibrous plant foods.
You can find more of this on the websites of major brands listed below and on the Types of Enzymes page.
Digestive enzyme supplements are generally formulated with one of three purposes:
Single purpose enzymes: With a single enzyme for a single purpose. For example, "Beano" (a brand of alpha-galactosidase) to prevent gas or lactase supplements to prevent lactose intolerance.
All-around digestive enzymes: With many kinds of enzymes for all-around digestion of most foods.
Specialized formulations: Include several kinds of enzymes that are intended to digest a type of food or solve a specific digestive problem.
A specialized formulation might address a type of foods such as fats, fatty meat, dairy products, grains, gluten, beans, raw vegetables, or an unusual category like phenolic foods. Or, a specialized formulation might be intended for a digestive problem such as the lack of a gallbladder, pancreatic insufficiency, or irritable bowel syndrome.
Enzyme supplements are used both to improve digestion and for specific therapeutic goals in seemingly unrelated conditions such as arthritis.
Digestive and therapeutic supplements are often but not always different formulations—that is, some formulations serve both goals. Others serve only one.
Examples of digestive goals: to improve digestion, to improve elimination, to reverse malabsorption, to prevent irritable bowel syndrome, or to compensate for problems of the gallbladder, pancreas, and bile production.
Examples of therapeutic goals of enzymes are to: destroy pathogens (such as viruses or fungi) in the digestive tract or elsewhere; relieve pain and inflammation; enhance or modulate immune response; destroy immune complexes; or dissolve fibrin. For more information on the therapeutic uses of enzymes, see The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapyand Enzymes: The Fountain of Life.
The following are well-regarded, high-quality brands of the best digestive enzymes.