Breaking it down
Digestive enzymes are the workhorses of your digestive system. They get busy as soon as you take your first bite, and they’re involved throughout the entire digestive process, breaking down the foods you eat into smaller, more absorbable components for your body to utilize, including vital nutrients and beneficial compounds your body needs.
Many digestive enzymes can be produced in the body by the salivary glands and by the secretory cells in the stomach, pancreas and small intestines. But we’re intended to consume whole foods that are rich in digestive enzymes. In their natural, unadulterated state, many whole, raw foods contain enzymes that facilitate healthy digestion. Ideally, these enzymes mix with our saliva through the process of chewing and begin pre-digesting our food as it moves through the esophagus.
Probiotic & Gut Health Product Finder
Use this helpful guide to find digestive products just right for you.
Why we need enzymes
Realistically though, whole, raw foods are just a small portion of many people’s diets today. Processed foods contain little to no enzymes, so many of us aren’t getting the extra digestive enzyme help we need from our diet.
Our body can manufacture sufficient enzymes for digestion, but enzyme production declines as we age, and the enzymes our body produces become less efficient, so it gets tougher for our body to maintain normal digestive function without additional digestive enzymes from food or supplements.
Make sure you consider the following factors when choosing the best enzyme supplement for your needs:
- Does your enzyme formula “measure up”? Unlike most dietary supplements, which are measured in micrograms and milligrams, quality digestive enzyme supplements are measured by activity levels. If you pick up a formula in the store and every ingredient is measured in milligrams then you’re better off putting it back. Look for units of activity such as GDU (gelatin-digesting units), or other relevant activity units as an indicator the manufacturer understands what makes a truly effective enzyme formula.
- Variety and activity. More ingredients make a better supplement, right? Not when it comes to enzyme supplements. While a complete formula should contain a variety of different enzymes to digest the variety of different food components we eat, it’s not the sheer number of ingredients that make it effective, it’s the enzyme variety and their individual activity levels. A good enzyme formula should contain a variety of enzymes to help digest the various components in your diet - protein, fat, carbohydrates, legumes, and more.
- Content. As mentioned above, your diet is comprised of a variety of compounds, including protein, carbohydrates, and others. A healthy GI tract can break down virtually anything we ingest. However, modern lifestyles can result in less-than-ideal digestive function. This is where a digestive enzyme supplement can help. A good enzyme supplement provides a variety of different enzymes to assist your digestive system with the breakdown of various dietary components.
- pH Range. In addition, pH can have a big effect on an enzyme’s efficiency. During digestion the food we eat transitions through neutral, acidic and alkaline environments. A truly comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement may include a range of enzymes that are active at specific pH levels or enzymes that are active throughout a range of pH levels.
As an example, protein digestion requires that it be broken down in all three environments, and so some enzyme formulas will contain up to three types of protease that are effective at different pH ranges, including one that can maintain its activity in a highly acidic environment. Alternatively, the formula may include some plant or fungal-derived enzymes that are active throughout the digestive tract.
NOW® digestive enzyme products
With NOW’s comprehensive selection of digestive enzyme supplements and a healthy, balanced diet it’s a lot easier to ensure you’re getting the enzymes your body needs to help maintain normal, healthy digestive function.* We incorporate the latest research into our contemporary formulations, and just like every NOW product, our digestive enzyme formulas are manufactured with NOW’s laser focus on quality.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.