Digestive Enzymes – What are they & Why do we Need them?

OK, Melissa what are digestive enzymes and why do I need them? Do I even need them? To answer the question quickly….

What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are proteins that help digest the fats, carbs and protein in the foods you eat.  Digestive enzyme supplements can help you absorb certain foods more efficiently.

Do you need them?

YES…. I always say we need them is because none of us take the time to chew our food the recommended 32x before swallowing.. or how many of us actually chew our food until your mouthful of food is liquefied or lost all of its texture? NOT ME… I have tried, and it just seems gross…  

If you have ever eaten processed food, you need digestive enzymes.


If you have a food intolerance you need digestive enzymes.

  For those of you that like a more detailed scientific answer…. here’s my best attempt at explaining it without it being confusing. Digestive enzymes are made throughout your body. They break down food into amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, simple sugars and nucleic acids.  They can take stress off of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and small intestine by helping break down difficult foods
  • Essentially, they help break down larger molecules into more easily absorbed particles that the body can use to survive.
  • The macro-nutrients are broken down into molecules small enough to be carried in the bloodstream and boost metabolism to ensure it runs effectively.
  • They keep your stomach and intestines from being agitated. An agitated and uncomfortable stomach after mealtime-and beyond–is just too much time spent in frustration-not to mention the often-resulting low daytime energy and insufficient rest at night.

Who Should Take Digestive Enzymes?

My opinion is everyone can benefit from them. Due to the vast amount of processed foods we eat and the depleting nutrient supply in our diets along with the rise of chronic disease, a little extra help couldn’t hurt any of us. Some of the health conditions that make for a good reason to supplement are:
  • leaky gut
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • diverticulitis
  • malabsorption
  • diarrhea/constipation
  • acid reflux, gas, bloating,
  • liver disease
  • Iron/B12/Vitamin D deficiency

Now you know who should take them and why… what are the best ones to take?

Of course, I have a favorite one and if you want to know the one I use, please feel free to send me a quick note and I will share that… but also do your research. When looking for a supplement use the guidelines below and you will have a pretty good start.  
  • First be sure to look for a full-spectrum enzyme blend for general digestive improvement.
  • Choose a blend with herbs such as peppermint. Peppermint stimulates the production of bile to aid in the digestion of fats.
  • Proteases (also called proteolytic enzymes) helpyou convert proteins into amino acids.  They play a key role in conditions of inflammation and bloating, and support both the circulatory and immune systems.
  • Glucoamylase decreases bloating and digestive irritation, and effectively convert starch from common foods like potatoes, corn, and wheat into glucose, thus reducing gas and the feeling of fullness after eating.
  • Amylase enzymesbreak down starches.

Check This Out!

When I first started using digestive enzymes, I wanted to re-create what they possibly were doing in my stomach. I mean, how exactly would I know if taking this supplement actually did anything. It’s inside my stomach, I can’t see it. I can just feel less bloating and my poop was better… so yeah it worked but I wanted more. I love scientific or well my version of scientific experimenting and proof. In order to get that little bit of proof. I took what was left from my dinner one night and tested it. We had steak, which is fairly hard for our stomachs to digest so, I figured it was a good one to test. Now I realize I cannot recreate our stomach acid, but this at least tells me what the supplement does just by itself. I put 2 pieces of steak in a small cup. Then I covered them with water. I opened the digestive enzymes capsule I use and poured it on top of one of the steak samples, while leaving the other in just water. I let it sit 24 hrs and then found the neatest thing ever! Check out my experiment in the video below! It’s super cool!  
  I also did this experiment with chicken nuggets and it had the same effect. Those were even more liquified!  

Can I get digestive enzymes from just food?

Yes, technically you can from RAW foods, however like I said earlier, we eat entirely too much processed food and not near enough raw food. Raw food diets are difficult to maintain. Also, the amount of enzymes present in raw food is such that it would take many hours to adequately digest the food, and raw food does not necessarily contain all the enzymes needed. Enzyme supplements are a concentrated form of food enzymes that you may add to any diet so breakdown of food will occur at a faster rate.  

If I decide to get a digestive enzyme, when is the best time to take it?

Ideas on this vary. Each supplement will have a recommended protocol. I typically wait 20 to 30 minutes after swallowing my enzyme supplement since they are contained in vegetable-based capsules before I  eat.  The vegetable capsules take longer to dissolve in the stomach. Waiting before eating allows time for the capsule to dissolve and sufficiently release the enzymes into the stomach. However, I have found that within the first few bites of the meal or just before mealtime works just as well. If you forget, go ahead and take the enzymes during the meal and even at the end of the meal. The important point is to take the enzyme, which works on contact. Food stays in the stomach for up to 90 minutes, therefore, introducing enzymes anytime during the meal will still provide benefits.  

Final Thoughts

Other than a good probiotic, few supplements will have a greater impact on your feeling of well-being and gut than digestive enzymes. Thank you for taking the time to read my suggestions on digestive enzymes. If you want to read more about gut health and ways to restore it you can check out my blog here. Please let me know in the comments below, do you take digestive enzymes? How have they helped you?