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How to Choose Quality Digestive Enzymes

All enzyme supplements are not the same. Quality, efficacy and activity are important factors to consider when selecting digestive enzyme products. High quality enzyme products should be assessed based on the following standards.

Digestive enzyme supplements are designed to be taken with each meal to complement the body’s own enzyme production to help break down food. Systemic enzymes are designed to be taken on an empty stomach so they can bypass gastric acid digestion and enter the intestinal tract. Here, systemic enzymes can be absorbed intact into the bloodstream.

Plant-based and Microbial Enzymes vs. Animal-based Enzymes

Digestive enzymes can be extracted from plant, microbial, and animal sources. Plant-based enzymes are active in a broad range of pH, which means they remain stable throughout the intestinal tract. Most enzyme supplements are extracted from natural fermentation of microbes such as bacteria, which have a narrower optimal pH range that is maintained by enteric coating. Microbial enzymes are more practical to produce and the enzyme content is easier to control. These enzymes are suited for vegetarians and do not interfere with the natural functioning of the body and therefore have no side effects. In contrast, animal-based enzymes work only in a narrow range of pH and can easily be destroyed by stomach acid.

Although each enzyme has its own specific function in the body, they tend to work synergistically when taken in combination. Because of their variety of origins and substrates, wide ranges of optimal temperatures and pH levels, increased percentage of absorption, and increased level of effectiveness, enzyme blends have a wider range of advantages than do individual enzymes. Additionally, when enzymes are taken in combination with vitamins, minerals, herbs or phytonutrients (naturally occurring nutrients found in plants) the combination improves absorption and bioavailability of the ingredients.

Unlike other supplements, the weight (mg) of an enzyme supplement carries no significance. It is not the amount but the potency, or activity, of the enzyme that really matters. Guaranteeing the ingredients are available to the body is more important than how much of a nutrient is listed on a supplement label.

Enzymes in capsule form are more available to the body than tablets. Tablets often have binding agents and a protective coating that make it difficult for the body to absorb the enzymes. Also, the processing techniques used to make tablets require extreme pressure to compress the ingredients, creating friction and high temperatures that can destroy the enzymes, rendering them useless to the body. Capsules are created under much milder conditions allowing the enzymes to stay intact and remain available to the body.