Your 2017 Guide To Digestive Enzymes | Smarter Reviews

Your 2017 Guide To Digestive Enzymes

Our top enzyme supplements + why to avoid Amazon reviews

Your 2017 Guide To Digestive Enzymes

The old saying, "you are what you eat" isn't exactly correct. The reality is, you are what you digest. Eating health foods means little if you can't effectively absorb their vitamins and nutrients. That's where digestive enzymes come in, and they play a crucial role in making sure that you're getting those nutrients

They're necessary for breaking down large molecules from the food you eat into smaller particles that can more easily flow into your system. More specifically, they help you digest the carbohydrates, fats and proteins that you need to survive. 

After research began revealing just how integral digestive enzymes are to our bodies, enzyme supplements began shooting up in popularity. They now fill whole sections on grocery store shelves, and popular doctor shows are raving about their whole-body effects. 

Do I Really Need A Digestive Enzyme Aid?

We know that naturally produced digestive enzymes are crucial, but we decided to research whether a supplement is actually necessary, or if simple diet changes are enough to get the job done. 

We found that the depleting nutrient supply in our modern diets means that we need to squeeze the most nourishment that we can out of our food. Additionally, as we age, we produce less digestive enzymes on our own. We found that supplementing with the right digestive enzyme product can not only improve digestion, but help prevent future health issues

Research has only just begun connecting our gut health to other functions in our body, and starting with an enzyme supplement could be the way to whole-body health.

You May Benefit From a digestive enzyme Aid if You have:

  • Constipation, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, & bloating
  •  An age-related enzyme insufficiency 
  • Low stomach acid
  •  Air, soil, and water pollution in your city
  • Drinking water treated with fluoride 

As you can see, most of us could probably benefit from a digestive enzyme supplement. But digestive enzymes are confusing, and it's difficult to get a clear answer about what types of enzymes we need, the ideal serving sizes, and which formulas are most effective. There are multiple layers of complexity to consider when purchasing a digestive enzyme. 

We weren't surprised when many of our Smarter Shoppers reported regretting their first digestive enzyme purchase. With that in mind, we filtered through the clutter to find the top mistakes first-time digestive enzyme buyers make.

You May be buying the wrong digestive enzyme if: 

  •  The label lists dangerous fillers, including:
    •  magnesium stearate
    •  maltodextrin
    •  silicon dioxide
    •  Artificial colors and flavors
  •  You prioritize low price over quality. We found that many lower-priced and generic probiotic supplements don't contain the potency necessary for real results. Some shoppers had to buy multiple supplements to get the ingredients they needed, which ultimately hurt their wallets more than helped. 
  • You rely on Amazon reviews. Up to 60% of these reviews are written by individuals paid to leave positive feedback. Risking your health with reviews that are likely false is too dangerous a game to play when you’re choosing an ingestible supplement. 

The Right digestive enzyme supplement Has:

  •  Plant-based enzymes. Unlike their animal-based counterparts, these enzymes target guts with both low and moderate acidity. They also help relieve stress on your small intestine, making them generally more effective than animal-based enzymes. 

  •  Probiotics. More specifically, Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast that's crucial for dairy digestion. In the long term, it can help balance your gut.

  •  Doctor-formulation. It takes expertise to form an digestive enzyme. Look for real doctors specializing in gut health backing the supplement.

  • A good guarantee. Invest in a digestive enzyme that offers a 100% money-back guarantee that shows the company's faith in its product. 

When it comes to the enzymes themselves, make sure to choose a formula that includes the most clinically proven choices. We scoured through studies to find the top enzymes for effective digestion. 

Look for these enzymes in a full-spectrum blend:

  •  Bromelain. Sourced from pineapples, this proteolytic enzyme helps you digest proteins found in meats, nuts, cheese and grains. It's also an effective muscle aid. Look for at least 100 Gelatin-Dissolving Units (GDUs) per serving for best results. 
  •  Papain. Another crucial proteolytic enzyme for protein digestion, papain is sourced from papaya. The best blends contain both bromelain and at least 800,000 PUs of papain per serving. 

  • Protease. This breaks down protein into its basic building blocks. Our digestive tract naturally creates these, but as we age, we begin producing less of them. That said, protease is a crucial component of any enzyme aid. 

  • Amylase. This enzyme is a type of carbohydrase that breaks the starch, sugar and fiber found in grains, fruits and vegetables down into smaller molecules. Look for at least 5,000 DU of amylase per serving. 

  • Cellulase. This carbohydrase is one of the basic building blocks of the plant kingdom, and helps us digest fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, humans can't produce it naturally. We need it from either fermented foods or supplements. For the latter, look for a blend with at least 2,000 CUs.

  • Lipase. This breaks down fats like butter, cheese, olive and fish oils into fatty acids and glycerol. These then travel in blood and lymph vessels throughout our body to nourish and boost health. Try to find a supplement with at least 2,000 FIPs of lipase for the most effective results. 

With these guidelines in mind, we scoured the market for the best enzyme supplements available today.

2017's Top 5 Digestive Enzyme Supplements 

We tested 37 different digestive enzyme supplements, and based on our 5 pillars of excellence: ingredient safety, projective effectiveness, value, return policy, and customer satisfaction, we narrowed the pool down to our top 5. 

1. Complete Digestive Enzymes Platinum 

Total Ranking

127 votes

9.6/10

A+

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.4 Avg.

    9.5/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.4 Avg.

    9.8/10

  • Value
    8.3 Avg.

    9.4/10

  • Return Policy
    8.2 Avg.

    9.7/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.3 Avg.

    9.6/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS


  • 18 plant-based enzymes
  • Probiotic strain Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Doctor-formulated
  • 100% natural, vegan formula
  • 90-day 100% money-back return policy
  • Made in the USA

CONS

  • Due to popular demand, frequently out of stock
The Bottom Line

We chose 1MD's Complete Digestive Enzymes Platinum because it's the only supplement that meets our criteria. 

Its doctor-formulated blend includes 18 plant-based enzymes that naturally help break down nutrients. We also confirmed that it contains the probiotic strain Saccharomyces boulardii to help boost digestion over the long term. The formula is free of gluten, dairy, and dangerous additives. It's also non-GMO

1MD's return policy was also more generous than others we reviewed, and their customer service department was knowledgeable and easy to reach. They confirmed that their product is made in the USA and 100% vegan. We not only felt comfortable with their ingredients and potency, but we also loved that the brand is devoted to educating the public about their health. With all this in mind, we decided to put Complete Digestive Enzymes by 1MD at the top of our list. 

*Results are based on users' personal experiences collected on this page and do not necessarily reflect typical results of using these products. Please see product website for more information.

Learn About Our Top Pick

2. Veganzyme

Total Ranking

112 votes

9.2/10

A-

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.4 Avg.

    9.5/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.4 Avg.

    8.8/10

  • Value
    8.3 Avg.

    8.9/10

  • Return Policy
    8.2 Avg.

    9.1/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.3 Avg.

    9/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Contains a high concentration of Protease 
  • Strong 180-day return policy
  • 100% Vegan, organic
  • Made in the USA

CONS

  • Most ingredients aren't as potent as competitors
  • Not formulated by a gastroenterologist 
  • Not all ingredients clearly listed on label 
The Bottom Line

The Global Healing Center is probably most popular for its Veganzyme formula, and we definitely took notice. It earns a respectable #2 position on our spot for its reputation, pure ingredients, and remarkable 180-day return policy.

Unfortunately, while it doesn't appear to contain unhealthy additives, it also isn't very potent. Minus its high concentration of protease, Veganzyme just doesn't have an effective potency per serving. Worse, it also lists a "proprietary blend," which masks whatever ingredients have been added. This unclear labeling and lack of potency made us decide to push Veganzyme to #2 on our spot. 

*Results are based on users' personal experiences collected on this page and do not necessarily reflect typical results of using these products. Please see product website for more information.

Learn More

3. Digest Gold

Total Ranking

573 votes

8.4/10

B

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.4 Avg.

    8.4/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.4 Avg.

    8.7/10

  • Value
    8.3 Avg.

    8.1/10

  • Return Policy
    8.2 Avg.

    7.9/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.3 Avg.

    8.8/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Many positive customer reviews
  • Potent enzymes
  • Free of fillers and additives

CONS

    • No probiotic strains 
    • Short return policy 
The Bottom Line

While Digest Gold by Enzymedica gets rave customer reviews, we were wary of putting it anywhere above our #3 spot. This was mainly due to their extremely limited return policy. This makes us worried that they don't have as much faith in their product as they claim. On the bright side, the product does contain a potent serving of enzymes, however, there are no probiotic strains listed on the nutrient label. All in all, while Digest Gold is a strong contender, we couldn't put it higher than #3 on our list. 

*Results are based on users' personal experiences collected on this page and do not necessarily reflect typical results of using these products. Please see product website for more information.

Learn More

4. Maximum Strength Digestive Enzyme

Total Ranking

453 votes

7.7/10

C+

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.4 Avg.

    8/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.4 Avg.

    7.7/10

  • Value
    8.3 Avg.

    7.4/10

  • Return Policy
    8.2 Avg.

    8.1/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.3 Avg.

    7.5/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Potent serving size
  • Made in the USA

CONS

  • Contains maltodextrin
  • No probiotics 
  • Some negative customer reviews
The Bottom Line

Instant Digest's Maximum Strength Digestive Enzyme comes in at #4 on our list. While it clearly listed its ingredients on its label, we were concerned to see that it included one filler: maltodextrin. Additionally, we noticed some negative customer reviews. We wanted to keep it on our list based on the fact that it's one of the few digestive enzymes made in the USA, and it's covered under the Amazon Guarantee and Worry Free Return Policy. With that in mind, we put Instant Digest at #4. 

*Results are based on users' personal experiences collected on this page and do not necessarily reflect typical results of using these products. Please see product website for more information.

Learn More

5. Super Enzymes 

Total Ranking

263 votes

7.0/10

C-

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.4 Avg.

    7.2/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.4 Avg.

    6.9/10

  • Value
    8.3 Avg.

    7.6/10

  • Return Policy
    8.2 Avg.

    6.7/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.3 Avg.

    6.8/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10


PROS

  • Great customer reviews

CONS

    • Contains magnesium stearate and other dangerous fillers
    • Non-vegetarian capsule
    • Unclear return policy 
The Bottom Line

We weren't sure abut putting Super Enzymes by Now on our list, but we felt compelled to based on rave customer reviews.  Unfortunately, this supplement does contain dangerous fillers, including magnesium stearate. Super Enzymes doesn't appear to be vegetarian, which can definitely be a drawback. It also doesn't offer a very high potency of enzyme, and the label doesn't list any probiotic strains at all. We also had a hard time finding their return policy, and when we did, it wasn't very clear. That said, we didn't want to put Super Enzymes any higher on our list than #5.  

*Results are based on users' personal experiences collected on this page and do not necessarily reflect typical results of using these products. Please see product website for more information.

Learn More

Citations

  1. Digestive Enzyme Supplementation in Gastrointestinal Diseases, Gianluca Ianiro, Silvia Pecere, Valentina Giorgio, Antonio Gasbarrini, and Giovanni Cammarota, Curr Drug Metab. 2016 Feb; 17(2): 187–193. Published online 2016 Feb. doi: 10.2174/138920021702160114150137

  2. Patel RS, Johlin FC Jr, Murray JA. Celiac disease and recurrent pancreatitis. Gastrointest Endosc 1999;50:823-7.

  3. Hegnhoj J, Hansen CP, Rannem T, et al. Pancreatic function in Crohn's disease. Gut 1990;31:1076-9.

  4. Suarez F, Levitt MD, Adshead J, Barkin JS. Pancreatic supplements reduce symptomatic response of healthy subjects to a high fat meal. Dig Dis Sci 1999;44:1317-21.

  5. Nakamura T, Tandoh Y, Terada A, et al. Effects of high-lipase pancreatin on fecal fat, neutral sterol, bile acid, and short-chain fatty acid excretion in patients with pancreatic insufficiency resulting from chronic pancreatitis. Int J Pancreatol 1998;23:63-70.

  6. Taylor CJ, Hillel PG, Ghosal S, et al. Gastric emptying and intestinal transit of pancreatic enzyme supplements in cystic fibrosis. Arch Dis Child 1999;80:149-52.

  7. Patel RS, Johlin FC Jr, Murray JA. Celiac disease and recurrent pancreatitis. Gastrointest Endosc1999;50:823-7.4. Gullo L. Indication for pancreatic enzyme treatment in non-pancreatic digestive diseases. Digestion1993;54(suppl 2):43-7.

  8. Suarez F, Levitt MD, Adshead J, Barkin JS. Pancreatic supplements reduce symptomatic response of healthy subjects to a high fat meal. Dig Dis Sci 1999;44:1317-21.

  9. Layer P, Groger G. Fate of pancreatic enzymes in the human intestinal lumen in health and pancreatic insufficiency. Digestion 1993;54(suppl 2):10-4.

  10. Stevens JC, Maguiness KM, Hollingsworth J, et al. Pancreatic enzyme supplementation in cystic fibrosis patients before and after fibrosing colonopathy. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1998;26:80-4.

  11. Oades PJ, Bush A, Ong PS, Brereton RJ. High-strength pancreatic enzyme supplements and large-bowel stricture in cystic fibrosis. Lancet 1994;343:109 .

  12. Campbell CA, Forrest J, Muscgrove C. High-strength pancreatic enzyme supplements and large-bowel stricture in cystic fibrosis. Lancet 1994;343:109-10 .

  13. Milla CE, Wielinski CL, Warwick WJ. High-strength pancreatic enzymes. Lancet 1994;343:599 .

  14. Jones R, Franklin K, Spicer R, Berry J. Colonic strictures in children with cystic fibrosis on low-strength pancreatic enzymes. Lancet 1995;346:499-500 .

  15. Powell CJ. Pancreatic enzymes and fibrosing colonopathy. Lancet 1999;354:251 .

  16. Systematic review and meta-analysis of Saccharomyces boulardii in adult patients, Lynne V McFarland, World J Gastroenterol. 2010 May 14; 16(18): 2202–2222. Published online 2010 May 14. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v16.i18.2202

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