Forms of Digestive Enzyme Supplements
last updated 4.5.06
Do Different Forms Affect Enzyme Effectiveness
Fortunately, digestive enzymes come in all types of forms and all can be effective. This is great because we all have different lifestyles, situations, physical issues, and personal preferences. Remember that you do not have to pick one form for all occasions. You can mix and match. Maybe using a bulk powder, chewables, or making enzyme chocolate wafers works at your home, but you take a few enzyme capsules with you when you are out. Some children have strong personal preferences on swallowing capsules, or taste of enzymes, or foods they will accept enzymes mixed in. Sometimes you will find one great enzyme product from one company and another product from another company who each produce different forms of enzymes.
The important part is to remember that enzymes work on contact with the substance they act on. Enzymes need to be in contact with the food in order to break it down. Taking enzymes, including swallowing capsules, at the beginning of eating works well for food breakdown. For systemic uses, such as controlling yeast, arthritis, etc, you take the enzymes between meals.
Most digestive enzymes come in capsules which you can simply swallow. Capsules are made either of gelatin (called gel capsules) or vegetable cellulose blend (called veggie capsules). Most supplement companies have been moving toward veggie capsules over the past 10 years for all their encapsulated supplements. Most enzyme capsules can be opened and the powder poured out. If you only use part of the enzyme powder, you can simply push the two parts of the capsule back together and save the rest of the enzymes for later.
Some enzymes are specifically intended not to act in the stomach, reach the small intestine, and be absorbed into the body. These capsules may be in sealed capsules. This may be an enteric coating of some kind. A newer type of coating is available on some enzyme products that consists of all-natural cellulose-plant based materials. This is a different coating than an older synthetic type of material which may cause health problems with regular use.
Some enzyme products are available in bulk powder. Most provide a little plastic scoop to measures out a serving. You can measure out how much you want. Bulk powder may be helpful if you always mix enzyme powder in food or drink to take it. If you use bulk powder, keeping the little dessicant pouch in the container may help protect the potency of the exposed enzymes (see above).
For transporting enzyme powder, see the section on capsules below.
Chewables are popular though and a real heaven for some. I didn't realize how widespread they were until a nutrition person told me she had been using the Ellen Culter ones for years. And chewable enzymes are popular for pets. Turns out there are hundreds of various brands of chewables with all sorts of flavors. With Biocore (National Enzyme Company) coming out with kids' chewables, the category will just grow. Here is a short-list of better quality brands:
- Biocore Kids Chewables
- BioSet Chewable Digestive Enzymes
- Houston Nutraceuticals
- Nutri-Essence Chewable Enzymes (through retailers and online)
- Ripple Effect Transformations Chewable Digestive Enzymes
- WellZymes Digestive Chewables
One tip too...keep that little white drying pouch thingy that comes with the bottle in the bottle after you open the chewables bottle. Those things are put in supplements to absorb any moisture to keep supplements dry in the bottle. With exposed enzymes, meaning enzymes outside of a capsule, the drying pouch may help keep the enzymes dryer after being continuously exposed to air when opening and closing the bottle. This will help maintain potency after the bottle is opened. When enzymes in bulk powder first came up years ago, the issue of moisture from the air accessing the enzymes and 'activiting' a small portion of product came up. A few parents noted that enzymes from the bottom of the container didn't seem as potent as when the container was first opened. This may not amount to much, but it is a easy tip to do if you find your non-encapsulated enzymes are starting to perform 'irregular'.
What tastes good varies widely by the person. Try samples of products whenever possible. For sensory sensitive people, the texture of chewables may be a problem as much as any taste issues.
Q. At least one website that says that crushed up enzymes sprinkled on or in food can cause the mouth to feel like it is burning. What's this about?
A. This may happen with chewables or when enzymes are taking in a drink. IF this comes up for you, just wash out the mouth with a non-enzyme drink after chewing the chewables just to ensure there is no residual enzyme in the mouth. What this 'burning' typically refers to is when proteases in the enzyme product start to breakdown some of the dead layer or cells on the skin surface. Enzymes do not harm good healthy tissue, but they do remove damaged, infected, or dead cells. If proteases linger on the skin surface for a prolonged period, they may remove the dead cells exposing the healthy skin below. This can lead to very temporarily irritation.
Sometimes if a child is taking enzymes in a drink, he gets the drink on his upper lip, like a milk mustache. If he doesn't wipe his mouth off, proteases can linger and he can get what looks like rash there. Just make sure the person wipes their mouth off if they drink in this way. Using a straw will also take care of this. The same sort of thing can happen in the mouth if you chew on raw pineapple or papaya fruits (proteases in these fruits).
Liquids - Drinks
Dry enzyme powder whether from a capsule or bulk powder can be mixed into any drink. Chewables and tablets can be crushed and mixed into drinks, but these may not mixed completely do to any binders present.
Enzymedica offers a new type of enzyme powder called Kid's Digest (available May 1, 2006) which needs to be mixed in an acidic liquid (like orange juice, lemonade, grape juice, etc). It contains bicarbonate and is an effervescent much like Natural Calm magnesium is a powder that effervesces in liquid. The effervescent faciliates the immediate dispersal of the enzymes in solution. In addition, the bicarbonate may help those with acid stomach. Kid's Digest contains xylitol which has antimicrobial properties as well as adds a sweeter taste to the product. I'm told that mixing in plain water alters the taste and is not recommended. Since this is a new product with a new technique for delivering digestive enzymes, this site will add and update information as it becomes available.
Enzymes are usually not sold as a liquid in a bottle because water 'activates' the enzyme activity. The potency would not last long in the bottle once water comes into contact with the enzymes.
Pancreatic Enzymes - no other ingredients
Pancreatic enzymes are derived from pig or cattle sources (also written as ox bile). These are like our own pancreas produced enzymes. Pancreatic enzymes are not as stable at wide ranges in pH or temperature and are destroyed by stomach acid. Thus, there are usually enterically coated and not active in the stomach. However, they do work and have been used clinically for a long period of time.
If you cannot have any fruit-derived or fungal- derived enzymes due to serious allergies (or other reason), here are some over-the-counter products that are pancreatic enzymes ONLY:
- Twinlabs Pancreatin
- Solgar Pancreatic Enzymes
Many of the products with pancreatic enzymes also contain some fruit or fungal-derived enzymes in the blend as well. There are some prescription pancreatic enzymes which doctors can write prescriptions for. The best known of these are Creon or Vikoase pancreatic enzymes. Insurance might cover these if a doctor writes a prescription. If anyone knows of other only pancreatic enzyme products please let me know and I will add them this resource.
Three brands of pancreatic enzymes that the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recommends:
- Creon by Solvay Pharmaceuticals
- Ultrase by Axcan Scandipharm, Inc.
- Pancrease by Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals
Pancreatic Enzymes - with other ingredients
There are quite a few enzyme products which contain pancreatic enzymes. Most of these are also blended with plant and/or microbial enzymes. Because of the pancreatic portion, these enzymes are usually enterically coated to protect the pancreatic enzymes. The plant and microbial enzymes in these products would not be active in the stomach. Wobenzym enzymes are long-standing and well-studied examples of this group of enzymes. These products are sold over-the-counter.
Fruit-derived Enzymes Only
This refers to supplemental containing only enzymes derived from fruit plant:
||Fruit enzyme comes from
Bromelain and papain can be bought individually in stores. They are also common ingredients in many enzyme products. Actinidin and ficin are used rarely. Bromelain is best known for its aid in reducing inflammation in the body. Papain is also used for inflammation in addition to aiding digestion and stomach upset. These fruit-derived enzymes, also commonly called 'the fruity enzymes', may not be tolerated by individuals sensitive to phenols or salicylate foods. These enzymes are also cross-listed reactive to with latex allergy. If you have a latex allergy, avoid these enzymes.
see List of enzyme products without fruit-derived enzymes
see Feingold/Failsafe diet programs