bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Digest this: the truth about digestive enzyme supplements

1 Comment

Over the years I have heard of people taking digestive enzyme supplements to aid digestion. A quick google search for “digestive enzymes” yields a long list of websites peddling various digestive enzyme supplements yet no legitimate evidence to support their use. The average person does not need these supplements.

In case you were wondering, digestive enzymes act to breakdown specific nutrients in food (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates). For example, lipase breaks down fat and amylase breaks down carbohydrates.

It is possible for an individual to be deficient in digestive enzymes, however, unless you have an underlying condition causing the enzymatic deficiency it’s a waste of your money to buy and consume digestive enzyme supplements. The most common enzymatic deficiency is lactase deficiency. Those who have lactase deficiency are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose and are known as “lactose intolerant.” Generally people with this condition will avoid foods containing lactose (or risk gastric pain, gas, and diarrhea) or take a lactase pill before consuming these foods. Sufferers of conditions which damage the pancreas such as pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis may also be deficient in digestive enzymes. That being said, most people do not suffer from pancreatic enzyme deficiency and have no need for digestive enzyme supplements. Your body releases these enzymes as part of the natural digestive process. The only digestive supplement that might be beneficial to much of the population is Beano as we all lack the digestive enzymes necessary to digest the sugar (oligosaccharides) in beans. However, the more frequently you eat beans the less gassy they’re likely to make you.

I’ve also heard mention of the importance of food enzymes. These are present in all raw foods and are really of no importance nutrition-wise. They are broken down during the digestive process like any other protein. There are other good reasons to include raw vegetables and fruits in your diet, such as destruction of heat sensitive vitamins. However, there is no need to go to an entirely raw food diet.

Author: diana chard

I'm a registered dietitian living in Nova Scotia, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

One thought on “Digest this: the truth about digestive enzyme supplements

  1. I’ve heard that adding grated fresh ginger while cooking bean dishes (like a bean soup or stew) reduces gas significantly.

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