Digestive enzymes are gaining attention in the supplement market as many people are trying them in hopes of improving their digestion. If you’re curious about what digestive enzymes are, the potential benefits they offer, and some of our recommendations for the best supplemental vegan digestive enzymes, this article is for you.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
A digestive enzyme is a biological catalyst that helps you digest your food. Your body produces its own digestive enzymes, which are primarily made by your pancreas and released throughout your digestive tract, from your saliva to your intestinal walls.
When digestive enzymes are released, they help break down large molecules of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in the food you’ve eaten into smaller compounds that can be more easily transported, absorbed, and used by the body.
If the pancreas doesn’t make enough digestive enzymes, this can result in the malabsorption of nutrients. Someone experiencing malabsorption can become prone to nutrient deficiencies and gastrointestinal symptoms, like bloating and diarrhea. Other environmental and lifestyle factors, including getting older, may also reduce the enzymatic reserves that we naturally have.
So, supplemental digestive enzymes may be used to help improve digestion. For instance, doctors may prescribe them for individuals who have diagnosed conditions that often come with malabsorption risk, like cystic fibrosis or pancreatitis. They may also be recommended for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or similar digestive conditions.
However, digestive enzymes can also be purchased over-the-counter by anyone curious to see if they will help improve digestive complaints like diarrhea, indigestion, increased gassiness, or bloating after eating.
These kinds of supplements generally contain several types of enzymes. For instance, amylase to digest carbohydrates, lipase to digest fats, and proteolytic enzymes or proteases (like papain and bromelain) to digest protein.
If you’re concerned about your digestive health or are wondering whether a digestive enzyme is appropriate for you, it’s always best to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
Top Picks At a Glance
- Best Overall: Global Healing VeganZyme
- Best With Soothing Herbs: Hum Flatter Me
- Best Single Capsule: MaryRuth’s Ultra Digestive Food Enzymes
- Best With Probiotics: ZenWise Digestive Enzymes with Prebiotics + Probiotics
- Best Chewable: Garden of Life Organic Digest +
What to Look for in a Vegan Digestive Enzyme
Many digestive enzymes are plant-based, so you should have plenty to choose from. When comparing digestive enzyme products, consider the following:
- Extra Ingredients: Avoid supplements that have artificial colors, flavors, or added sweeteners as these are unnecessary and don’t provide any health benefits.
- Broad-Spectrum or Full-Spectrum: Digestive enzymes that have this verbiage in their name contain multiple types of enzymes. Even if it doesn’t state this in the name, you can tell by looking at the ingredient list to see if it contains enzymes for multiple purposes. This is a good thing because one enzyme isn’t going to be able to do everything. For instance, an enzyme for fats isn’t going to help break down protein.
- Third-Party Tested: As with all supplements, it’s a good practice to choose ones that bear an official third-party testing seal whenever possible. This indicates that the supplement has been independently tested for things like quality, safety, and ingredient verification. Some reputable seals to look for are NSF International, USP, and ConsumerLab.
Our Top Picks
If you’re looking for a vegan digestive enzyme to try, consider the options below along with our search criteria.
As always, speak with your healthcare provider before adding any new supplement to your routine to make sure that it’s safe and appropriate for you.
This product is a full-spectrum proprietary blend of 20 digestive enzymes to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. It’s free from artificial and animal-derived ingredients, using organic rice hulls, organic gum acacia, ORMUS supercharged minerals, and a vegetable cellulose capsule. You also won’t find gluten, soy, GMOs, harsh chemicals, or alcohol used in the manufacturing of this product.
Each 120-capsule bottle of VeganZyme will last 30 days when used as directed, taking 2 capsules per day before a meal.
VeganZyme has plenty of positive reviews. Some customers have noted success just taking 1 capsule before a meal, though this can vary between individuals.
Flatter Me is a full-spectrum blend of 18 full-spectrum digestive enzymes. It’s intended to help break down macronutrients when eating as well as soothe bloating.
The ingredient label on the bottle is nicely organized so it’s clear to the consumer which enzymes in the formulation are used to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, as well as fiber and milk sugar (lactose) if you consume dairy.
This product also contains an herbal blend, which includes ginger and peppermint leaf to help support healthy digestion, as well as fennel seed to help soothe digestion and support nutrient absorption.
Directions are to take 2 capsules per day divided between 2 meals. For most people, this could look like 1 capsule before each of your two largest meals of the day.
Each bottle contains 60 vegan capsules and should last for 30 days if used as directed.
Hum Nutrition also has registered dietitians on their staff who are able to answer questions, offer advice, and provide a detailed nutrition report for you.
This is an “extra strength” vegan broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement that contains a wide array of enzyme blends to break down fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and lactose.
The product states that it is intended “for digestion, including occasional issues such as bloating, gas and discomfort.” It’s considered an ultra version of MaryRuth’s regular Digestive Food Enzymes because it contains the enzymes in the proprietary blend in much higher amounts.
In addition to digestive enzymes, this product also contains a blend of nutrients, including thiamine, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, and manganese, which may offer additional benefits to your gut microbiome.
It also contains amla (Indian gooseberries), an antioxidant-rich plant that supports healthy digestion, as well as phytase, which breaks down phytic acid during digestion and can help enhance mineral absorption.
Users are directed to take 1 capsule before each meal that they feel they need digestive support. Each bottle contains 60 capsules, so it could last you anywhere from 20-60 days depending on how frequently you use them.
This is a broad-spectrum product formulated with a variety of digestive enzymes.
Additionally, it contains prebiotics like inulin, as well as a 10-strain probiotic blend that includes various strains of Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacillus. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in your gut, and supplementing them can help support a healthy bacterial balance. Prebiotics are essentially the food for probiotics and further support gut health.
This formulation also includes a sea vegetable complex of bladderwrack extract, wakame, and nori, which may offer additional prebiotic benefits.
Lastly, each capsule contains papaya fruit powder, apple pectin, ginger root powder, fennel seed powder, turmeric root powder, and peppermint leaf extract. These compounds may offer further gut health benefits by way of soothing the digestive system and supporting healthy digestive physiology.
The product states it contains Reliably Alive probiotics, meaning that you don’t need to refrigerate them like you would many other products.
Users are directed to take 1 capsule before meals as needed. It can be purchased in either a 60-count, 100-count, or 180-count bottle.
This is a USDA Organic whole-foods derived digestive enzyme product. It contains a blend of 29 organic fruits and vegetables and13 vegetarian digestive enzymes.
The formulation also contains organic whole plants, such as banana, mango, beet, kale, green bell pepper, and red cabbage, which provide further natural digestive enzymes.
One chewable tablet also provides 125 mg of organic acacia powder, which is primarily soluble fiber that can help further support overall gut health by favorably altering gut bacteria.
This product is hypoallergenic, free from gluten, soy, and dairy, and does not contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, fillers, binders, or preservatives.
As these are chewable tablets, they’re also made to taste good using organic pineapple and banana flavors.
The directions for use are to chew 1 tablet after a meal or snack to help soothe digestive issues.
Garden of Life has been around for a long time and has a good reputation in the supplement market. They are also the first supplement company to be Certified Carbonfree by Carbonfund.org, meaning that this product is certified carbon-neutral.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’ve been experiencing changes in your digestive health or experiencing symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, increased gassiness, or difficulty fully digesting certain macronutrients, a digestive enzyme supplement may help. The best way to know whether you should try one is by speaking to your doctor.
The best way to help boost your own digestive enzyme reserves is to consume a wide variety of plant foods that contain natural proteases, amylases, and lipases. Examples include pineapple, papaya, mango, avocados, bananas, kiwi, ginger, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh.
While digestive enzymes may not offer the same results for everyone who uses them, plant-based enzymes are a great option as they’re the most potent. The majority of enzymes on the market are vegetarian, as they contain more active units across a broad range than other types. Plant-based enzymes will also be gentler on the digestive tract than animal-derived ones, which helps make them more effective.
While results may vary between individuals, digestive enzymes tend to work faster than many other supplements. In fact, many people find that they work almost right away when taken before a meal, noticing a difference in digestive symptoms.
There is no standard dosage for digestive enzymes. The amounts in products are generally based on the amount of food eaten, rather than on the individual using it, though these products are not typically intended for children. Plus, most products contain a mixture of multiple types of digestive enzymes that may be present in varying amounts. Follow the dosage instructions on the product you choose and speak with your healthcare provider before using it.