Many people take a digestive enzyme supplement to help them break down and digest their food better.
This can lead to better absorption of nutrients and a relief from symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, like bloating, gas, stomach pain, and indigestion.
These supplements may also come with probiotics to help improve the function of your gut flora–the bacteria that live in your digestive tract and play a critical role in your overall health.
Our research team has combed through a huge range of products to come up with the 10 best options, ranked according to quality.
1. MediZyme by 1MD
MediZyme uses a robust combination of 18 different enzymes to aid digestion, along with the probiotic bacteria Saccharomyces boulardii to cut down on gas production.
The enzymes lipase, cellulase, and lactase all help cut down on fats, fiber, and lactose that are often to blame for gas and bloating.
In addition to these common enzymes, 1MD has many other rarer enzymes hand-chosen to improve digestion and nutrition. This wide range of extremely useful enzymes makes it our top pick.
Easily the best digestive supplement on the market.
With a huge range of highly customized enzymes, MassZymes is designed specifically for athletes who want to get the most out of the protein in their diet.
While the usual enzymes like lactase and lipase are present, there are also several enzymes you won’t find in any other supplements on the market.
These help you digest and absorb the protein in your diet more effectively, leading to better workout recovery and more strength gains in training.
3. Garden of Life Raw Enzymes for Men and Women
Garden of Life Raw Enzymes comes in a variety for men and women, but the differences are slight. They both have the same key enzymes, vitamins, and minerals, but just in slightly different amounts.
The real advantage of Garden of Life Raw Enzymes is the fact that the supplement provides enzymes alongside a range of probiotic bacteria and the vitamins and minerals that those bacteria need to thrive.
This way, it can serve as a reset for your gastrointestinal bacteria population, re-populating it with bacteria and enzymes that are well-suited for digesting your food and helping you absorb nutrients better.
4. Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra
Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra provides 13 different enzymes that target all the most common culprits of digestive issues.
It attacks dairy, fiber, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins with the enzymes provided in the supplement. The only things missing are the “extras” you often see in the best digestive enzyme supplements: vitamins, minerals, and probiotic bacteria cultures to enhance the body’s natural digestive abilities in the long term.
5. Zenwise Health Daily Digestive Enzymes
Daily Digestive Enzymes has nine different digestive enzymes alongside a range of herbal extracts for optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.
These include ginger, turmeric, apple pectin, and peppermint, to name just a few. It also includes a probiotic mix, but unfortunately does not disclose the precise bacteria that go into this mix, making it difficult to determine how much this will help the supplement achieve its goals.
6. Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme System
Rainbow Light provides a good blend of enzymes and herbal extracts to boost digestion and improve nutrient absorption.
With ten different enzymes, Rainbow Light can help your body process all of the most common types of foods that cause digestive issues, and with herbal extracts like ginger, fennel seed, and turmeric, you’ll be absorbing nutrients more effectively as well.
7. Source Naturals Daily Digestive Enzymes
Source Naturals makes a very targeted digestive enzyme supplement. It has eight different enzymes included in it, split into different categories to break down fat, protein, carbohydrates, dairy, and fiber.
The enzymes in this product are all solid, but they might work better if they were delivered alongside probiotics or a mix of vitamins and minerals. However, if you already get these elsewhere in your diet or supplementation routine, Source Naturals Daily Digestive Enzymes can definitely provide the missing piece.
8. MAV Nutrition Digestive Enzymes
MAV Nutrition uses special enzymes derived from fungus alongside probiotic bacteria to improve digestion of dairy, fat, and carbohydrates.
It’s a strong supplement if those are your only goals, but if your digestive issues include fiber–as many peoples’ do–you may struggle to have success with MAV Nutrition Digestive Enzymes, as it does not include cellulase or any of the other enzymes that break down dietary fiber to slow the rate at which it results in gas production.
9. Dr. Tobias Digest Plant-Based Enzymes
Dr. Tobias Digest provide a wide range of enzymes for digesting the most common causes of digestive issues, but the dosage is not always on par with what the best digestive enzyme supplements offer.
Further, it would be better if the enzymes came alongside a probiotic or a few vitamins, minerals, or herbal extracts to improve nutrient digestion. As it stands, this supplement may help with indigestion, but is less likely to boost nutrient absorption.
10. NOW Super Enzymes
NOW Super Enzymes provides a fair mix of enzymes and natural extracts to boost enzyme activity, but it’s mostly targeted at breaking down fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
It may struggle to break down large volumes of fiber from beans or vegetables, and it does not include lactase, so dairy could still cause problems.
Who should buy digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are specifically designed for people with gastrointestinal problems like indigestion, bloating, and gas. They are an important factor in determining the overall health of your digestive tract, alongside probiotics and the prebiotics that sustain them.
Without the right digestive enzymes at the right concentration, your body won’t be able to effectively digest the key macronutrients in the foods you eat: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
To this end, digestive enzymes could be useful if you notice gastrointestinal problems after you eat, particularly if they happen with meals particularly high in one macronutrient.
Digestive enzymes are also potentially useful supplements if you are taking a probiotic to improve the health of your intestinal tract, as the two can work hand in hand to help your body better process the food that you eat.
Most research into the uses of digestive enzyme supplements has focused on people with specific medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, who seem to benefit from increasing digestive enzyme levels.
While they may not directly lead to weight loss, digestive enzymes could also be useful when on a restricted diet, because dysregulated digestion and gastrointestinal health have been associated with obesity.
How we ranked
To make our digestive enzyme rankings, we first trawled the market for all enzyme-focused supplements. Our first criteria to weed out low-quality products was to mandate that digestive enzymes be a central focus of the supplement.
Generic “digestion” supplements that included small amounts of one or two enzymes did not make the cut. We also did not consider primarily probiotic-focused supplements that had a few digestive enzyme ingredients.
Next, we eliminated products that did not have at least one enzyme to help digest each of the three primary macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein).
While there’s a place for supplements that focus only on a single enzyme, such as lactase for people who are lactose intolerant, the scientific evidence on digestive enzymes is clear: if you want high quality results, you need a supplement that delivers multiple different enzymes.
This also makes sense from the viewpoint of desiring a flexible supplement that will work with a variety of diets. Just like a carb blocker won’t help you lose any additional weight if you are already on a keto diet, a digestive enzyme that focuses primarily on lipase (which digests fat) won’t be very useful for you if you are on a low fat diet.
From here, we looked at the breadth and depth of the supplement ingredients. More enzymes were better, as long as they contributed to digestive health and didn’t dilute the key ingredients too much.
We put critical importance on the presence of cellulose, lipase, and lactase, as these are the enzymes which many users will benefit the most from. Other useful ingredients, such as probiotic bacterial strains, and trace minerals or vitamins that contribute to digestive health.
Finally, we looked at whether each supplement had a clean and minimal supplement design, without any unnecessary binders, fillers, stabilizing agents, or coloring agents.
A digestive enzyme supplement can help you digest your food better. Digestive enzymes are compounds derived from plants or animals that help your body digest food more effectively, as well as helping it absorb more nutrients.
Digestive enzymes can help with bloating, gas, and indigestion caused by a wide range of foods. The specific enzymes you should look for in your digestive enzyme supplement depend on what type or types of food cause the greatest problems for you.
In short, a digestive enzyme supplement can help you digest your food more effectively, leading to greater nutrient absorption and fewer gastrointestinal symptoms.
The decision process is also a bit different if you are looking primarily to boost your nutrient absorption or to improve your digestive health overall.
Certain nutrients cause more digestive problems than others. Usually, people have digestive problems when they eat meals (especially large ones) that contain high concentrations of a few nutrients that cause trouble.
A good digestive enzyme supplement can help you digest fat, fiber, and dairy, which could be causing your digestive problems.
If you have gas, bloating, or indigestion, a digestive supplement could be the answer.
Enzymes are special cells that your body uses in your digestive tract to break down compounds that you couldn’t otherwise digest. These digestive enzymes work in concert with your gut flora–the healthy probiotic bacteria that live in your stomach and intestines–to break down the food you eat.
Each enzyme has a specific task: there is an enzyme to break down the kind of sugar found in dairy, another to break down fats, and yet another enzyme to break down dietary fiber. But what happens if your body doesn’t have the enzymes it needs?
The result is gastrointestinal problems, from bloating and gas to stomach pain and indigestion.
A high quality digestive enzyme supplement will provide specific enzymes that target the most common causes of gastrointestinal problems related to food digestion.
Lactase can help you digest dairy. In the case of diary, the specific enzyme of choice is lactase. It helps digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk, yogurt, ice cream, and other dairy products.
While many dairy products are very healthy, a large proportion of people–more than half the world’s population, according to one study (1)–lack the necessary enzyme to digest lactose.
Can lactase help you digest dairy more effectively? The answer, according to a study by nutrition researchers at the University of Minnesota, appears to be yes (2).
In an authoritative review article, the authors recommend a number of strategies for dealing with gastrointestinal issues caused by dairy products.
A digestive enzyme supplement, as long as it contains lactase, can successfully reduce or even eliminate symptoms related to poor dairy digestion. However, it does need to be taken in close proximity to the meal, because the enzymes must be in your stomach at the same time as the food that contains dairy.
A similar phenomenon has been observed with high-fat meals and the enzyme lipase. While every healthy person has the enzymes required to digest fats, you may not have enough to process large amounts of fat at once.
A 1999 study in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences had healthy volunteers consume a high-fat meal, either with or without a digestive enzyme supplement, and observed the incidence of bloating, gas, and fullness over the next several hours (3).
The researchers found that the digestive enzyme significantly reduced symptoms of poor digestion, and was associated with a reduction in specific chemicals in the breath that are indicative of poor digestion in the stomach.
One of the most important enzymes for digesting fats appears to be lipase, which digests lipids (known more colloquially as fats). If high-fat meals cause digestive problems, be sure your digestive enzyme contains lipase.
In the case of high fiber meals, the go-to enzyme appears to be cellulase. It’s an enzyme that attacks the long molecular chains that make up fiber, which otherwise ends up being a breeding ground for gas-producing bacteria. When they ramp up their metabolism, the result is bloating, gas, and stomach pain (4).
Digestive enzyme supplementation might be helpful for people with type two diabetes. Digestive enzymes are naturally produced in the pancreas, which also happens to be the place that your body produces insulin.
When insulin production is negatively affected, such as is the case in type two diabetes, the ability of the pancreas to produce other enzyme may plausibly be limited as well. One research paper published in 2017 in the Journal of the Association of Physicians in India argues that supplementation with certain digestive enzymes can help better control blood sugar (5).
However, since it’s not clear how a digestive enzyme supplement may react with any other medication you are taking for type two diabetes, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about what enzymes, if any, you may benefit from before starting a supplementation routine.
Multi-ingredient digestive enzyme supplements improve symptoms of indigestion. While there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence indicating that digestive enzymes can improve your body’s ability to effectively digest the food you eat, that research had not been directly put to the test until an experiment that was published in 2018 in the Journal of Medicinal Food (6).
In it, 40 people with indigestion were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or a multi-ingredient digestive enzyme that included protease, lipase, cellulase, lactase, and amylase. All of the participants took their assigned capsules for a period of 60 days, during which the researchers assessed the severity of their symptoms with a series of validated questionnaires.
At the study’s conclusion, the researchers analyzed the results and found that the digestive enzyme supplement resulted in significant improvements in all five of the outcome metrics compared to the placebo supplement.
The fact that the results were consistent across all five measures of indigestion, which ranged from a simple 0 to 10 scale to in-depth questionnaires on digestive symptoms, is a strong sign that digestive enzymes are a reliable and effective way to treat indigestion.
As we’d expect from what we already know about how different enzymes contribute to the digestion of different substances, it’s likely that the multi-ingredient nature of this digestive enzyme supplement contributed to its success compared to the placebo.
Since digestive enzymes are derived from natural sources–and the best digestive enzymes are often derived exclusively from plant sources–the risk of any side effects is rather small.
In very rare cases, some doctors have reported cases of allergic reactions to specific enzymes in digestive enzyme supplements. One such report surfaced in 1996, but again, this is quite rare and appears to be specific to the source of the plant or fungus that produced the enzyme, not the enzyme itself (7).
If you experience burning or swelling in your throat, there might be an ingredient in your digestive enzyme supplement that your body is allergic to.
It’s very difficult to come up with broad recommendations for digestive enzyme dosage, since the amount you need is going to depend on your baseline level of enzymes, the amount of problematic compounds (e.g. dairy, fat, or fiber), and the dosage of the enzymes that break down these compounds in your digestive enzyme of choice.
You can start with the manufacturer’s recommended dosage, and if you are still having digestive issues, you can increase the dose.
If it still doesn’t work, you might be better off with a different supplement that has a different enzyme profile.
Timing is also critical: you should take your digestive enzyme in close proximity to meal-time; otherwise the enzymes won’t be in your stomach ready to do their job at the right time.
Q: Do digestive enzymes really work?
A: According to the most recent research, yes, digestive enzymes are effective at reducing gastrointestinal symptoms when compared to a placebo (8).
The only “catch” to this is that to get this effect, you have to take a digestive enzyme supplement every day, and it can take up to a month for the benefits to become significant.
Still, for something that’s pretty safe and easy to use, digestive enzyme supplements seem to be an effective and useful way to reduce indigestion, bloating, and other gastrointestinal problems.
Q: Are digestive enzyme supplements bad?
A: As far as supplements go, digestive enzymes are pretty safe. In extremely rare cases, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to digestive enzymes, but for the vast majority of people, digestive enzymes are simple, safe, and easy ways to reduce symptoms of indigestion that are attributable to your body not having the ability to quickly and effectively break down certain nutrients in your food.
Q: Can digestive enzymes help with weight loss?
A: While there’s no direct evidence thus far that shows that a digestive enzyme will, by itself, generate weight loss, there does seem to be a connection between digestive enzymes and probiotic bacteria, which in turn have been implicated in causing or preventing weight loss.
However, there are some key questions that we don’t have answers to yet: how do probiotic bacteria benefit from the presence of certain digestive enzymes? Does a lack of specific enzymes in sufficient amounts lead to a disruption in the gut microbiome? Would these changes lead to weight loss or gain?
Soon, we’ll likely have research that answers these questions, but until then, the connection between digestive enzymes and weight loss remains vague.
Q: What are some natural digestive enzymes?
A: In some sense, all digestive enzymes are “natural” in that they are produced by the human body in some amount.
However, the most important natural digestive enzymes for managing problems like indigestion include lipase, which breaks down fat; proteases, which break down protein, and lactase, which breaks down the otherwise-indigestible lactose in dairy products.
While some people (70% of the world population, in fact) stops producing lactase after infancy, it’s hard to argue that it’s not ‘natural.’
Q: What are the best digestive enzymes?
A: The best digestive enzymes for gastrointestinal health are the ones that are linked directly to digesting the kinds of nutrients you encounter most often in your diet.
For most people, these are lipase, lactase, and cellulase, which (respectively) help your body break down fats, lactose, and fiber.
If you notice that foods that are high in fat, dairy products, or fiber tend to aggravate your indigestion or other gastrointestinal symptoms, that’s a sign that you might stand to benefit from a digestive enzyme supplement that provides at least one of these key enzymes.
Instead of getting a supplement that delivers just one, though, the latest research indicates that taking a multi-ingredient digestive enzyme supplement is a better strategy.
Q: Where are digestive enzymes produced?
A: Your digestive enzymes are naturally produced in your pancreas, a important organ that’s connected to your digestive tract.
The pancreas also produces important hormones including insulin, which regulates blood sugar. As you might guess, there’s a connection between pancreas function and digestive health, which is illuminated by research showing that digestive enzyme supplementation may be able to improve blood sugar control among people with type two diabetes.
While this research is still preliminary, it nevertheless suggests that there is a connection between your overall health and the quality and health of your digestive tract, and hence your digestive enzymes.
Q: How do you use digestive enzymes?
A: If you are taking digestive enzymes specifically to deal with a particular kind of food (like taking lactase for dairy), you should take your digestive enzyme right before your meal.
However, the latest research on using digestive enzymes takes a different approach: instead of only taking a digestive enzyme when you think you’ll need it, the new strategy is to take them every single day, to make sure you have a constant supply of digestive enzymes to process the foods you take.
Research has found that, for at least up to 60 days, this strategy can create significant improvements in symptoms of indigestion compared to a placebo.
Q: How long does it take for digestive enzymes to work?
A: In terms of digesting a single meal, digestive enzymes should start working within five to ten minutes. Enzymes don’t need to be absorbed by your body at all; they are already prepared to break down food as soon as the capsule breaks open, which (in a high quality digestive enzyme supplement) should only take a few minutes.
However, when it comes to actually improving symptoms of indigestion and other gastrointestinal problems linked to digestive enzymes, it can take up to 30 days for digestive enzymes to start working.
In the clinical trial published in 2018 which demonstrated the effectiveness of multi-ingredient digestive enzyme supplements on symptoms of indigestion, improvements compared to placebo did not become statistically significant until at least 30 days into the study (9).
Q: How can you increase digestive enzymes?
A: While eating a healthy diet and losing weight are simple ways to increase your body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes, by far the easiest way to directly increase the level of digestive enzymes in your body is with a good digestive enzyme supplement.
A multi-ingredient supplement will increase the concentration of many different enzymes in your body all at once, making it easier to digest a variety of foods. A single-ingredient enzyme supplement, such as lactase, for example, will only improve your ability to digest dairy.
Q: How do digestive enzymes interact with probiotics?
A: Probiotics are possibly the hottest research topic in nutrition right now, and the connection to digestive enzymes is easy to see.
Once you eat something, digestive enzymes start to break it down, but so do probiotic bacteria. Sometimes, the interaction is synergetic, like when both lactobacillus bacteria and lactase act on the sugars that are in dairy products like milk.
However, the interplay between these two methods of food digestion is complex and, so far, poorly understood. It does seem that having a healthy and robust population of healthy bacteria is good for your digestive enzymes, and vice versa, but beyond this it’s difficult to state specifics.
A good digestive enzyme can be a lifesaver if meals rich in diary, fat, or fiber are giving you digestive issues.
If you’re plagued with gas, bloating, and indigestion after consuming dairy, make sure your digestive enzyme supplement contains lactase.
If you think it’s high fat meals that are causing problems, a supplement containing lipase is a good bet. And for fiber, cellulase appears to be the enzyme of choice.
Beyond this, there are also many other helpful enzymes which can break down carbohydrates, protein, fat, dairy, and fiber, which is why the best digestive enzymes on the market have a broad range of enzymes included and will be equally useful for different digestive problems.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 digestive enzyme recommendation, click here.