The Best Plant-Based Digestive Enzymes for a Healthy Digestive System
Bloating and gas after a great meal sucks. Especially when you're surrounded by people. It can get to the point where you're too afraid to eat out or avoid eating at social gatherings. If your symptoms become so severe, there is definitely something not right.
Perhaps you're eating a food that you're sensitive or allergic to. But it can also be due to your digestive system struggling to break down the food that you've eaten or is struggling to cope with the load. Being on a plant-based diet, if you are eating healthily, this means a lot of fiber.
If you've just become a vegan or vegetarian, it's likely that your body is still not used to all that fiber. In time your gut will adjust. But it's very uncomfortable in the meantime.These are just a few things that can cause digestive discomfort.
Usually, probiotics are recommended to help with these issues. But sometimes, probiotics are not the answer or just aren't enough. This is where digestive enzymes come in.
Not all digestive enzyme supplements are suitable for those on a plant-based diet, so we've made a list for you of the best vegan digestive enzymes.
- The Best Plant-Based Digestive Enzymes
- What Are Digestive Enzymes?
- Our Picks for the Best Vegan Digestive Enzymes
The Best Plant-Based Digestive Enzymes
1. DigestWise Digestive Enzymes by Naturenetics
Our Verdict: No Chili or Bromelain
The DigestWise Digestive Enzymes are all sourced from plants and put into a veggie cap. It contains a wide range of enzymes to help break down various foods. You simply take one capsule with water before meals.
It may help with gas and bloating especially, but it can take a few days to work. If you haven't been absorbing nutrients, give it some time to work.
The capsules contain rice flour, and calcium laurate in addition to the veggie cap and enzymes, so it has few ingredients and no harmful additives.
It doesn't contain bromelain or added chili which are common ingredients in some supplements that irritate some people's stomachs, particularly those with IBS. These may not be suitable for those who are sensitive to mold due to being derived from Aspergillus.
- To breakdown Protein*:
- Protease 40,000 HUT
- Acid Stable Protease 500 HUT
- To breakdown Fats*:
- Lipase 1,000 FIP
- To breakdown Carbohydrates*:
- Amylase 10,000 SKB
- Alpha-Galactosidase 165 GAL
- Pectinase 55 Endo PG
- To breakdown Dairy*:
- Lactase 250 ALU
- To breakdown Sugars*:
- Amyloglucosidase 10 AG
- To breakdown Fiber*:
- Cellulase 2,000 CU
- Hemicellulase 450 HU FCC (Food Chemical Codex) units measure enzyme activity
- 10 different enzymes
- 3rd party lab tested
- Free from animal products as well as gluten, sugar, yeast, corn, and soy
- 90 capsules (1-month supply if you take 3 per day)
- Likely unsuitable those who are sensitive to mold
2. MavNutrition Digestive Enzymes
Our Verdict: Digestive Enzymes Plus Completely Vegan-Friendly Probiotics
MavNutrition Digestive Enzymes has five different types of enzymes that help to digest all the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) as well as lactose and fiber. It also has added probiotics.
Despite being of the Lactobacillus strains which are often grown on dairy products which causes many vegans ethical concerns, these are not. All the ingredients are entirely plant-based.
If you prefer to stay away from additives like magnesium stearate and silica, this supplement is not for you. If you take one capsule twice a day as recommended, you will have a 1-month supply. If you need to take it with three meals, you will only have enough for 20 days.
There is also no mention of whether or not it's free from specific allergens or GMO. These may not be suitable those who are sensitive to mold due to being derived from Aspergillus.
- Makzyme-ProTM Enzyme Blend (Fungal Protease from Aspergillus oryzae, Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus plantarum) 2500 HUT / 400mg
- Bromelain 90 GDU
- Papain 2670 TU
- Fungal Lipase 1500 FIP
- Fungal Lactase 600 LACU
- Alpha Galactosidase 300 GALU
- Vegetable Cellulose (veggie capsule)
- Magnesium Stearate (vegetable source)
- Silicon Dioxide
- 5 different enzymes
- Contains probiotics
- Free from animal products
- GMP (good manufacturing process) certified
- Less than a month's supply if you need to take it with all three main meals.
- Contains additives (magnesium stearate and silica)
- No mention of whether or not it contains allergens or GMO
- Not suitable those who are sensitive to mold
3. Zenwise Health Daily Digestive Enzymes with Prebiotics + Probiotics
Our Verdict: Great Digestive Health All-Rounder
Zenwise Daily Digestive Enzymes doesn't just contain enzymes and helpful prebiotics and probiotics, but a blend of herbs and spices which include peppermint, ginger, and turmeric to reduce inflammation, stimulate digestion, and settle your stomach.
Despite being gluten-free, the company warns that this supplement is not celiac-friendly. It's rather confusing but if you do have celiac disease, it's best to avoid them. In some cases, people have experienced worse symptoms such as gas, bloating, stomach upset, and nausea.
Be sure to check all the ingredients to make sure you aren't sensitive to anything in this product.
- Advanced Enzyme System (Amylase, Glucoamylase, Lipase, Protease, Invertase, Maltase, Cellulose, Bromelain, Lactase, Papain)
- Green Papaya
- Apple Pectin
- Fennel (Seed)
- Sea Vegetable Complex (Bladderwrack, Nori, Wakame)
- Pre/Probiotic Complex (Inulin Prebiotic, Multi-Strain Probiotic)
- Vegetable Cellulose (Capsule)
- Microcrystaline Cellulose
- Magnesium Stearate
- Silicone Dioxide
- Contains 10 different digestive enzymes
- Contains probiotics and prebiotics (1 billion CFU)
- Contains helpful herbs and spices to stimulate digestion, lower inflammation, and soothe the digestive system
- Manufactured in accordance with GMP regulations
- Available in 25, 60, or 180 capsules (12.5-60 day supplies)
- Can cause symptoms of stomach upset, gas, bloating, and nausea in some people
- Not safe for celiac disease sufferers
- Contains additives like magnesium stearate and silicon dioxide
4. Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme System
Our Verdict: No Harmful Additives
Rainbow Light is a company that prides itself on making high quality vegan supplements. Along with a variety of digestive enzymes, they've also added helpful food additives including ginger, fennel, and apple pectin to help with poor digestion, bloating, and gas.
These capsules are free from all the common allergens and easy to take. You can even sprinkle it over your food. The capsules do taste a little strongly of fennel which tastes like licorice which is problematic for sprinkling if you don't like licorice.
In some people, these can cause stomach pain and bloat. These may not be suitable for those who are sensitive to mold due to being derived from Aspergillus.
- Green Papaya
- Apple Pectin
- Fennel (seed)
- Sea vegetable complex
- Peppermint (herb)
- Contains 10 different digestive enzymes
- Contains a helpful blend of fruit, herbs, spices, and sea vegetables to stimulate digestion and soothe the digestive system
- Contains no harmful additives
- No animal products or gluten, wheat, nuts, or soy
- Available in 90 or 180 capsules
- Some people may find that it causes them to bloat and experience stomach pain
- May not be suitable those who are sensitive to mold
5. Nutra Champs Digestive Enzymes
Our Verdict: Best Budget Buy
Nutra Champs Digestive Enzymes provide 11 digestive enzymes plus a helpful blend of veggies, fruit, herbs, and spices to aid digestion, soothe the gut, and lower inflammation. These capsules also contain prebiotics and probiotics to help balance your gut. All the ingredients are also organic.
The dosage in these capsules may be a bit low for some people but should work well for most. Some people may experience nausea and bloating with these capsules.
- Organic Ginger
- Organic Turmeric
- Organic Artichoke
- Organic Chicory
- Multi Strain Probiotici
- Contains 11 different enzymes
- Contains prebiotics, probiotics, and helpful foods to soothe the gut and stimulate digestion
- Free from animal products, soy, nuts, gluten, and GMO
- GMP certified and third-party tested
- 180 capsules (2-month supply if you take 3 a day)
- The dosage may be a bit low for those with severe digestive issues
- May cause nausea and bloating in some people's
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are what digest your food. Your body makes its own enzymes. Each type targets different foods:
- Amylase: Starches
- Protease (pepsin and trypsin): Protein
- Lipase: Fats
- Peptidase: Peptides (partially broken down proteins)
- Sucrase: Sucrose (sugar)
- Lactase: Lactose (the sugar in milk)
- Maltase: Maltose (partially broken down starches)
- Cellulase: Cellulose (plant cell walls)
- Bile salts: Fat globules
Digestion in a Nutshell
These enzymes are in your saliva (you start breaking down starch in your mouth already), proteins are partially broken down in the stomach by the protease and stomach acid. More enzymes are released by your pancreas to further break down protein and starch and start on the fats.
The rest is all done by enzymes in your intestines and bile salts are released by your liver to further digest fats.
So Why Do You Need a Digestive Enzyme Supplement?
As you saw, the whole digestive tract has a role to play. It could be that one or more organ is not working as it should. Without enzymes, or if your body doesn't make enough enzymes, your gut will not be digesting your food properly.
You could be missing out on nutrients which are crucial for your body to work the way it should.
Not everyone requires a supplement, but if you are experiencing digestive problems and probiotics aren't helping on their own, taking a digestive enzyme supplement may be helpful.
Sometimes, the gut just needs a little help while it heals or repopulates all the good bacteria. Here are some of the situations where you may find them helpful:
New Vegans and Vegetarians
To give you an idea, the average American eats around 15g of fiber per day. That's a whopping 10g less than the 25g recommended for women, and an even more shocking 23g less than the 38g recommended for men.
The average whole foods plant-based diet provides around 38g of fiber or even more, plus additional key nutrients.
Your digestive system if you were eating a Standard American Diet, aptly abbreviated to SAD, was geared towards dealing with that diet. It might have the right amount of probiotics or enzymes to deal with this new load of fiber.
Anyone who has become a vegan after being an omnivore will tell you that digestive woes sadly are typical during the transition phase.
But digestive enzymes can save you a lot of discomfort. Your body needs to be able to do this on its own so staying on these digestive enzymes for a long period of time or for each meal can keep it from adapting, but they can make a world of difference if your symptoms are severe in the short-term.
Leaky gut is something that is still a little controversial in the medical community but is starting to be recognized more and more. Leaky gut is when the lining of your gut is impaired and some of the bacteria and toxins in your gut escape through the intestinal wall and enter your bloodstream.
In some studies, a leaky gut has been linked to autoimmune disorders like celiac's and type 1 diabetes, but many say that it's also the cause of fatigue, joint pain, hormonal imbalances, depression, etc, in some people.
Causes of Leaky Gut:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Chronic stress
- An unhealthy diet full of processed and fatty foods lacking fiber and nutrients
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Infections such as H.pylori and E.coli
A combination of prebiotics and probiotics can help to heal the gut (as well as avoiding the foods that you are sensitive to and eating healthily) and digestive enzymes can help as a leaky gut often doesn't digest food well causing nutrients to pass through undigested.
Food Sensitivities and Food Intolerance
If you eat food that doesn't agree with your digestive system, whether you have an intolerance (which can be really harmful as in the case of celiac's) or a sensitivity, you cause inflammation in your gut. This not only can cause leaky gut, but it can make it harder for your intestines to absorb nutrients.
Digestive enzymes can help you out as you start to heal your gut and may help you to digest the foods that you can't, for example, lactase helps you digest dairy.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) is when your pancreas doesn't produce enough enzymes to digest your food properly.
It can be caused by years of heavy drinking, having high triglyceride (blood fat) levels, or autoimmune diseases such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, or Shwachman-Diamon Syndrome.
Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, foul smelling bowel movements, losing weight without trying, and feeling full all time.
Digestive enzymes can help to supply your body with the enzymes that it can't make on its own. If you suspect that you do have EPI, speak to your doctor as he or she will need to carry out tests to confirm it and so that you can receive treatment if you do, in fact, have it.
If you have an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis), avoid the supplements with probiotics as these may be harmful to you.
Concerns About Using Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are not harmful, even if you don't need them. But taking them when you no longer need them or taking them for long periods of time if you didn't need them in the first place can cause your body to stop registering that it needs to make digestive enzymes on its own.
Unless your doctor puts you on them for medical reasons, take them for no longer than a few months. Once your digestive troubles stop, see if you can go on without them, and if not, use them for a little while longer and then see.
Some people may also find that these supplements make things worse and not better. You may be sensitive to something in the supplement or one of the enzymes themselves since many of them are proteins (something without any protein can't be an allergen).
If you find that you do keep struggling and see no improvement or can't cope without them, seeing your doctor is a good idea just to make sure that you don't have a food sensitivity or some other problem that may need to be treated medically.
Note: If you are on blood thinning medication like warfarin, stay away from supplements containing bromelain as it also thins your blood.
Digestive enzymes can make a world of difference to those struggling with digestive problems. These issues can take the joy out of life and no one needs to put up with that. A healthy diet and the use of a plant-based enzyme supplement can help you out.
Our Picks for the Best Vegan Digestive Enzymes
Have you tried any of these brands? Let us know which you think are the best vegetarian digestive enzymes.