Should You Take Digestive Enzymes?

If you've ever experienced indigestion, bloating, gas, stomach pain, or diarrhea, it may be because you have a shortage of digestive enzymes, which assist the body in breaking down food. Enzymes are secreted along the gastrointestinal tract where food is broken down, allowing nutrients to be absorbed by the blood. When there's a shortage of digestive enzymes, undigested food may pass from the small intestine to the large intestine, leading to problems like indigestion, bloating, gas, stomach pain, or diarrhea. Digestive enzymes may also help reduce the severity of allergic reactions to food and assist in digesting protein, fats, and carbohydrates, allowing you to eat foods that normally cause gas. If you suffer from mild digestive disorders, talk to you doctor to see if over-the-counter digestive enzyme supplements could be helpful to you and which ones are most effective for your digestive problem. Digestive enzyme supplements worth a try include:

  • Amylase: This digestive enzyme aids in the digestion of carbohydrates, such as white flours, whole grains, and other starches. Amylase also helps to break down complex sugars, including lactase and sucrose. Taking amylase supplements may help reduce symptoms associated with food allergies.
  • Beano®: This over-the-counter digestive aid contains the sugar-digesting enzyme that the body lacks to break down the complex carbohydrates found in gassy foods including cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower; whole grain breads, nuts, seeds, and beans. Beano® comes in liquid and tablet form. Sprinkle five drops over the food giving you trouble or take one tablet before eating to break down the gas-producing sugars. Just keep in mind that Beano® is not effective on gas caused by lactose or fiber.
  • Lactaid® and Lactrase®: As you get older, you may find that you have an increasing intolerance for milk and milk products, which can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. Lactaid® and Lactrase® are available in both caplet and chewable tablet forms without a prescription. Taking lactase supplements just before eating helps digest foods that contain lactose. You may also want to try lactose-reduced milk and other products, such as Dairy Ease®, which are available at many grocery stores. Usually, there are no side effects from these supplements, although in some instances, people may experience an allergic reaction such as rash, hives, or difficulty swallowing if enzyme supplements are taken in excessive amounts.