Category Archives: Digestive Enzymes

Best Digestive Enzyme Plus Probiotic Supplements

Here’s the truth about the majority of digestive enzyme plus probiotic supplement reviews you read online: most are of them are incentivized.

In other words, the review websites get paid a commission to promote these products to you.

This brings plenty of bias into the mix and often you see the product with the highest commissions listed as the so-called best probiotic and enzyme supplements, rather than the one that is actually most beneficial to your health.

Even Amazon’s review criteria now gives higher ratings to big, established brands … so all the mega-corporations now get higher review ratings than smaller, less-known products just because they’ve been around longer.

But if you’re reading this, you probably already know that when it comes to supplements companies, bigger usually does not mean better!

Now, we also sell a digestive enzyme / probiotic supplement.

That’s why in this article, we will review some of the best digestive wellness supplements using objective criteria.

The goal is to help you objectively compare and review the top brands that our products compete with.

So we’ll look at the things that are important to most of you: i. cost, ii. servings, iii. ingredients, and iv. the top positive and negative customer reviews for each probiotic and digestive enzyme supplement.

We’ll wrap things up with some little-known tricks many of these supplement companies use to deceive you (and how to spot them) and share our criteria for finding the best capsule for you.

Here’s a complete list of topics we’ll cover in this article (click the links to skip around):

  • How to Find the Best Digestive Supplement for You

Who Should Take Digestive Enzymes + Probiotics?

Always check with your doctor first if you have an existing condition that affects your stomach or small intestine and get your enzyme levels tested. If you have the following symptoms, it’s possible that digestive enzymes plus probiotics could help.

  • Indigestion, gas, bloating, abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Low stomach acid
  • Chronic pancreatitis

When to Take Digestive Enzymes?

Most digestive enzyme and probiotic supplements should be taken with or immediately before a meal. Taking them on an empty stomach can often cause unwanted gas and bloating (the exact thing many folks are trying to get rid of).

If you take one capsule per day, take it with your largest meal. If you take two, take it with your two largest meals.

Benefits of Taking an Enzyme / Probiotic Supplement

Let’s take a look at some of the research that has been done on digestive enzymes + probiotics supplements.

First, digestive enzymes …

  • 2011 study:  When people with IBS took a combination of digestive enzymes and soluble fibers, they noticed a significant reduction in stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating.
  • 2011 study: Digestive enzyme supplementation significantly improved bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain, with a slight increasing of urgency for bowel movements.
  • 2014 study: Digestive enzyme supplements may offer a valuable alternative to gastroprokinetic drugs to relieve various common gastrointestinal complaints.
  • 2016 study: Enzyme supplementation therapy may play an important role in several digestive and malabsorption disorders, including exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and lactose intolerance.
  • 2018 study: Enzyme supplementation led to statistically significant differences in all efficacy parameters compared with placebo for people with dyspepsia (which includes symptoms such as bloating, early satiety, postprandial fullness, nausea, anorexia and heartburn, regurgitation, and burping
  • 2019 research review: A number of double-blinded placebo-controlled studies report a beneficial effect of oral enzyme therapy for patients with dyspepsia and IBS symptoms.
  • Animal studies have found that a probiotic plus digestive enzyme supplement may help lower harmful LDL and increase HDL.

Probiotics are more widely studied than digestive enzymes. See our article Do Probiotics Work? to read more.

Side Effects and Interactions

When you first start taking enzymes and/or probiotics, it’s common to experience an increase in gas and bloating.

If you experience any nausea or diarrhea that lasts for more than a day or two, it’s probably best to stop.

Allergic reactions can also be an issue for some people, such as itching, rash, stomach pain, and difficulty swallowing. If this happens, stop taking the supplements and seek medical attention

Digestive enzyme and probiotics supplements can interfere with certain medications, such as diabetes medications and blood thinners.

If you take any medications, share the list of ingredients of the product you’re considering with your doctor to ensure there are no interactions you need to worry about.

Compare 10 of the Top Digestive Enzyme Plus Probiotic Brands

Here’s a look at cost, ingredients, servings, and the top positive and negative reviews for 10 of the best rated probiotics plus digestive enzymes brands.

Zenwise Health Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics

Cost:

$17.97 for 60 Capsules

Ingredients / Servings: 

Zenwise Health Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics review

Top Positive Review:

Joseph G. Kim
5.0 out of 5 stars Miracle pills changed my life

Reviewed in the United States on August 31, 2017

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen a gastroenterologist about any of my issues, so this is all personal anecdote/observation and self-diagnosis. I am not a medical professional.

These pills have changed my life. Allow me to describe my situation before the pills:

BEFORE: I had constant/chronic/consistent diarrhea, especially immediately after eating (practically anything), so life was hell. Any meal/snack was almost immediately followed by loose stools and messy bowel movements (and gas). This made scheduling life very difficult and full of interruptions and delays. Random trips to the bathroom everywhere suck, especially when you are out with friends/people and participating in time-sensitive activities, like movies, concerts, ceremonies, social events, etc.

My symptoms resembled IBS-D (irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea), although never officially diagnosed, and/or leaky gut syndrome, and/or SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). To be honest, I feel like the current state of digestive disorder diagnosis is not well understood/developed and rather weak and even gut doctors can’t consistently and definitively pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with these kinds of cases with reliable accuracy (in my observations). Many articles and accounts of others with IBS-like symptoms generally have ambiguous or unknown causes and limited understanding of what exactly is wrong, and the treatment options are limited and ineffective, like simply avoiding trigger foods, which is not really a cure.

My trigger foods were greasy/fatty foods and any milk dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheeses, whey, lactose, etc., and as milk products are practically everywhere in Western foods in various forms, this made filtering what I eat and grocery shopping a nightmare. Even things like Pringles or chips have hidden milk products in them (Lactose, whey), and obviously classic American past times like pizza (cheese), pies (cream, butter), cheesecake (cheese, cream), coffee drinks e.g. cappuccino, mocha, latte, etc. (milk), milkshakes (milk), ice cream (milk, cream), cheese snacks (cheese, whey), etc. had to be completely eliminated from my life. FML; indeed, the future outlook of the rest of my life with respect to dietary pleasure & nutrition was looking rather grim, since milk products to provide important calcium & protein nutrients.

My issues started about 3-4 years ago and have been gradually worsening since.

Now, this pill is about as close to a cure as I could have hoped for!

AFTER: Taking a pill before eating any significant meal/snack, I can essentially eat/drink whatever I want now, without any of the symptoms described above. My bowel movements have become very regular, predictable, and controllable i.e. no longer have urgency. My stool is solid and of healthy shape/color, and I almost never have to worry anymore about what I eat or the consequences thereafter.

I can enjoy all the trigger foods I couldn’t before, including greasy/fatty foods and milk dairy products, without having to worry about the aftermath anymore.

Truly, a miraculous life savior in the form of pill.

Again, as I am not a medical professional nor have seen a gastroenterologist about my issues before, I don’t know exactly what it is either in my gut or in these pills that result in such magical, miraculous recovery, but my guess is some combination of the digestive enzymes + probiotics in the pills are greatly helping to regulate the mess that is my gut. Why my gut was such a mess before (or is without these pills) I have no clue. I have many guesses like severe lactose intolerance, IBS-D, leaky gut, SIBO, gluten intolerance, etc. — just about everything under the sun as the symptoms of many of these digestive conditions overlap and are similar. I think that’s why it’s even difficult for the current medical practice to work with these conditions, as even IBS (as I understand) is less an explicit diagnosis on the presence of particular symptoms/markers than it is kind of the give-up answer after eliminating other potential causes.

I’ve tried several other products before these pills and have had little success. My initial guess for my issues was predominantly lactose intolerance, so I’ve tried lactase enzyme pills and Lactobacillus Acidophilus probiotics that are supposed to help digest lactose. Although they did help a little bit, they never truly eliminated all my symptoms, whereas these pills have (so far in about 2 months time since I started taking them). So, lactose intolerance wasn’t the only problem (if even a problem); clearly, I had issues with other substances in foods.

Since day 1, even pill 1, I IMMEDIATELY noticed a beneficial effect, so these pills definitely have potency, are robust, and immediately effective.

Hopefully within my lifetime, medical advances can cure me more permanently such that I don’t need these pills, but until then, I will gladly take these pills before every meal and basically become dependent on them for life. Zenwise Health, please continue to make these pills for the next 100 years okay? Thanks!

Value-wise, it’s a great deal. $25 for 180 pill bottle, so if you eat 3 meals a day, the bottle lasts you 60 days or 2 months; if you eat 2 meals a day, that’s 3 months. ~$25 per 2-3 months is totally reasonable.

Even if you don’t have major digestive issues like me, I still think the digestive enzymes/probiotics contained in these pills can do wonders for your digestion & gut. The concept behind them is to achieve/maintain supreme gut health and regularity. I do believe the unique combination of enzymes and probiotics in these pills accomplish that.

Current medical/scientific understanding of the complex interactions/relationships between our gut, brain, body, and the millions of bacteria/microorganisms in our guts is limited, so it’s still unclear exactly why certain substances/probiotics work for some people and do little for others (while others don’t need any external assistance at all), but it’s certainly worth a shot if you’re suffering!

It’s a minor inconvenience to have to carry around the pills everywhere I go, but for what they give me: the ability to digest any/all foods effectively, regulate my bowel movements, enable proper nutrient absorption, and allow me to enjoy all my favorite cheesy dairy products again, it is SO WORTH IT.

Okay, I rambled way too long here — just goes to show how much these pills have changed my life. Zenwise Health, again, you guys are amazing for developing this miracle formula. Please continue to make these for decades to come — I gladly support you.

Top Negative Review:

Reta
1.0 out of 5 stars Changed formula gave horrible symptoms

Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2020

I purchased the product on the right last month after a long battle with bloating/irregularity/digestive issues. The product worked so well. I no longer felt bloated or constipated after EVERYTHING I ate, and (unlike a Super Enzyme product I’d tried at the suggestion of a health professional earlier) it did NOT make me feel gassy/bloated.

I was so impressed with the product, I recommended it to a friend of mine who has similar/ongoing issues. I even set up and subscribe and save for myself.

That is, until I received my 2nd bottle of this product (pictured left). I only had a few pills left of my first bottle and dumped them into my 2nd bottle, which allowed me to see the color difference. I didn’t think anything of it, at first, as sometimes different batches of stuff like this can have different hues. That was until day three of taking the new batch and feeling the SAME uncomfortable, and embarrassing side effects (bloating and painful gas) that I’d felt from a different product.

I dug the bottle out of the trash to find out I’d been sent, without my knowledge or consent, a different formula. The formula is also different from what is shown to be sold.

I’m mainly frustrated by this as, if you can imagine, I had been SO happy to have found a product that worked so well for me, only to have it change and now work so horrifically.

I have canceled my subscribe and save and will be seeking a full refund for this 2nd bottle.

Wholesome Wellness Digestive Enzymes Plus Prebiotics and Probiotics

Cost:

$25 for 180 Capsules (90 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

wholesome wellness probiotics plus enzymes

Top Positive Review:

Sam G Schultz
5.0 out of 5 stars This new product is taking the supplement world by storm…and rightfully so.

Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2021

I was about to go look for a replacement for the supplement I ordered for my gut problem because it did not work on me. I finished the contents of the whole bottle and yet, I still suffer from IBS and abdominal cramps. Having learned through experience that supplements are a little more like trial and error, I was caught on the wrong side of the equation. Hence, it’s back to square one for me. As I was frantically looking for a replacement to attend to my symptoms, I happened to chance upon this page about digestive enzymes. Seeing the similarity with my previous supplement, I took interest on this and placed an order. Who knows, maybe this time, I’d be finally on the right side.

I made the following observations about the product:

a. Logistics was great as it arrived way ahead of committed time.
b. Packing and handling were superb as it was neatly packed, sealed and delivered in very good condition.
c. The capsule/pill was of the right size and easy to swallow.
d. There was no aftertaste discernible.
e. And it worked super-fast!!

This being another trial and error part, I expected very little of it. To my surprise, it hadn’t taken 3 days and all my problematic symptoms were gone!! No more IBS, no more cramps and my bowel movement has gone back to normal. Finally, a supplement that I can boastfully say is the perfect one for me!! No more trial and error!! From here on, it’s smooth sailing for me and my gut.

Top Negative Review:

Kevin Crenshaw
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT a substantial enzyme source

Reviewed in the United States on March 6, 2021

218 people found this helpful

Vitamistic Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics & Prebiotics

Cost:

$16.97 for 120 Capsules (60 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

Vitamistic Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics & Prebiotics

Top Positive Review:

Benji
5.0 out of 5 stars smooth, small, easy to swallow, works quickly

Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2019

61 people found this helpful

Top Negative Review:

Cassandra DeRose
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
Reviewed in the United States on January 1, 2021
I have used other digestive enzymes and these unfortunately disappoint. The other brands I used worked for the most part, but still gave me side effects. I was hoping for a product that was better. However, these are worse and I feel NO difference whatsoever. My bowels have not improved, and my stomach feels no better. Hopefully it will work for you! I am sad, I was really looking forward to this product after all of the great reviews.

Purely Optimal Digestive Enzymes Plus Prebiotics & Probiotics

Cost:

$24 for 180 Capsules (90 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

Purely Optimal Digestive Enzymes Plus Prebiotics plus Probiotics

Top Positive Review:

Vinh W. Thai
5.0 out of 5 stars Please don’t change the formula . If it works, stay with it

Reviewed in the United States on July 14, 2020

53 people found this helpful

Top Negative Review:

Muhammad
1.0 out of 5 stars IF YOUR A BODYBUILDER DON’T GET IT

Reviewed in the United States on August 21, 2020

By far is the worst digestive enzyme I ever took, it made me super full and bloated which is completely the opposite of what digestive enzymes should do and as a bodybuilder eating a lot of protein digestive enzyme play a big role to the diet , also 2 make us eat more.
I took one dose when the bottle arrive on my lunch and until dinner I couldn’t eat anything i was so bloated so full I barely can even drink water I forced my dinner and missed my daily regular meals.
I took my second dose it actually made it worse , now I’m going to return it for a full refund and go back to “Now” probiotic or Digestive enzyme.. maybe people giving a good review cuz you can get a bonus bottle like what it says on this paper that come with it I’m not quite sure I didn’t even bother to go to that website and check it out, or they want to have something to block their appetite but it’s completely the opposite of what digestive enzymes should do to you the feelings and everything…

Enzymedica Digest Gold + PROBIOTICS

Cost:

$44.24 for 90 Capsules (90 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

Enzymedica Digest Gold PROBIOTICS

Top Positive Review:

D Carbajal
5.0 out of 5 stars Best stuff on earth

Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2018

Top Negative Review:

Nick Evanish
2.0 out of 5 stars No luck for me.

Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2016

Vitalitown Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics

Cost:

$9.99 for 60 Capsules (30 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

Vitalitown Digestive Enzymes Plus Probiotics review

Top Positive Review:

dkelley
5.0 out of 5 stars I’ve purchased this product 3 times already. Works well!

Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2021

 

Top Negative Review:

Denise
2.0 out of 5 stars May not be for everyone.
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2021
Gave me terrible stomach pain might have been too much for my stomach.

Divine Bounty Digestive Enzymes with Probiotics & Prebiotics

Cost:

$16.95 for 90 Capsules (90 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

divine bounty capsules

Top Positive Review:

Jaws
5.0 out of 5 stars This made a difference

Reviewed in the United States on September 4, 2018

Top Negative Review:

Jane K
1.0 out of 5 stars A very TMI review, read at your own risk.

Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2019

I bought this product based on research in addition to all of the 5-star reviews this product received. I have a lot of IBS-like symptoms in addition to bloating. I’m seriously in the bathroom all morning sometimes because my body’s digestive system is just shot. So, when I saw recommendations on this product I thought I’d give it a try. Especially after many people claimed that their stool was a lot firmer and less frequent/normalized after taking this enzyme.

Well, I’ve been taking it for a few weeks now and all I can say is it did not help me, and honestly? I felt worse taking this. It did not firm up my stool whatsoever, in fact, I found it to be looser than before and much more frequent than when I wasn’t taking anything for it. I tried to wait it out, but I’ve decided I just cannot take this enzyme anymore. The frequent bathroom trips and constant bloating I received from this enzyme was not worth it. I was more miserable taking it, so much that I am better off not taking anything.

This may work for others, but it did not work for me. This is just my personal experience with it.

Life Extension Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes with Probiotics

Cost:

$39.90 for 120 Capsules (120 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

Life Extension Enhanced Super Digestive Enzymes with Probiotics

Top Positive Review:

Harley
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2017

Top Negative Review:

Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars

Reviewed in the United States on July 1, 2018

Nutra Champs Digestive Enzymes with Prebiotics & Probiotics

Cost:

$23.95 for 180 Capsules (180 servings)

Ingredients / Servings: 

Nutra Champs Digestive Enzyme

Top Positive Review:

SmtShopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Worked for Me!

Reviewed in the United States on April 14, 2018

Top Negative Review:

Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not order this product if, you think it will help with gut bloating.
Reviewed in the United States on October 26, 2018
I used this product for two weeks gave me severe stomach aches, constipation and could not burp or pass gas. I will never order this again, I thought I was having a heart attack, so painful. I wish, I could get my money back.

Pure Food DIGEST (Probiotics + Enzymes + Prebiotics + Soothing Herbs)

Cost:

$23.99 for 60 Capsules (60 servings) * 2-pack Subscribe & Save price with 20% coupon “2021” applied

Ingredients / Servings: 

pure food digestive supplement ingredients

Top Positive Review:

Benji
Deborah A. ZahnSimmons
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT Product for Next Step on Health Journey!

Reviewed in the United States on May 10, 2021

My mother and I have been using this product for the past several months and Pure Food Protein Powder product for years. What drew me to THIS company is their transparency, dedication to clean ingredients, and lack of fillers and sweeteners (keeping it SIMPLE and whole). I have been thoroughly impressed with their customer service and amazing response time to ALL my inquiries. Scott himself takes the time to individually respond with sincerity, I’ve never had that experience with a company before. He makes me feel like I matter as a customer.
As we have been using Digest, my mother and I have both been very satisfied with our results and “regularity”. Although it might be TMI, there is so much that your excrements can indicate about your overall health and Digest has continued to improve these areas as our guts adjusted to the new flora. I have also physically noticed less bloating in my lower abdomen, which what woman wouldn’t want that.
Overall I highly recommend this product and other Pure Food products to my family and friends regularly.
PS the Pure Food blog also has some amazing resources and interesting article for anyone who is on a health journey.

Top Negative Review:

Brooklynns Nanny
2.0 out of 5 stars No change in gastroparisis but did give me a headache.
Reviewed in the United States on April 1, 2021
Gives me a migraine everytime I take it. Tried for a week and no improvement.

Wrap Up: How to Find the Best Digestive Health Supplement for You

When looking at all-in-one digestive health supplements that contain probiotics, enzymes, and prebiotics, these are the criteria we recommend paying attention to:

  1. Amount of Enzymes / Probiotics / Other Ingredients: the more strains of probiotics, the more potential microbiome diversity and benefits. But more CFUs does not always mean better though! Some people’s guts are overly sensitive to certain strains and hundreds of billions of CFUs are definitely not needed. If you’re new to probiotics and enzymes, we recommend looking for a product with 1-10 billion CFUs per serving. As far as enzymes go, look for something that has at least 100 mg of a combination of carbohydrate-, fat-, and protein-digesting enzymes. Prebiotic fiber and GI-friendly herbs are also a bonus.
  2. Cost: Expect to pay around $.25 – $1.00/capsule for the best digestive enzyme plus probiotic supplements. In most cases, you get what you pay for and cheaper formulas tend to contain smaller amount of enzymes and sit on shelves longer, which can render much of the probiotic bacteria ineffective.
  3. Ingredient Sources: It’s important to understand where the ingredients in your digestive health capsule is coming from. Most of these manufacturers source their ingredients from China, where quality standards are often lower. Products that source all ingredients from the U.S. are going to cost a little more but are worth the extra cost because you know what you’re getting is safe and effective. If they don’t tell you where their ingredients come from, it’s probably a good bet it’s from the cheapest source possible overseas, especially with larger brands. W
  4. Manufacturing: All reputable probiotic plus enzyme formulas are produced in cGMP facilities, which means there are strict quality control and testing measures in place to ensure your safety and product efficacy.
  5. Doctor-developed: You want to make sure a safe, efficacious amount of each ingredient is in the product. That’s why we only recommend trusting digestive health formulas that are developed by GI health experts.
  6. Reviews: Read the reviews carefully. Oftentimes you’ll see many manufacturers with positive reviews that are several years old but when you look at recent reviews, customers are not happy about a formula change (this happens frequently when small companies get acquired by big ones).

Try Pure Food DIGEST with This Limited Time Deal

Digestive Enzymes vs Probiotics: What’s the Difference?

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Benefits of Each

In this guide, we will answer all of your most common questions about digestive enzymes:

  • What are digestive enzymes, what do they do, and where do they come from?
  • Digestive enzymes vs probiotics: what’s the difference?
  • What do digestive enzymes help with?
  • Which enzyme should you take to break down carbs, fats, proteins, etc.?
  • What’s the best time to take digestive enzymes and probiotics? 
  • Do you need an enzyme supplement?

Let’s get started …

What Are Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes help break down food in your mouth and gut so nutrients are released and can be absorbed across the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream.

Therefore, one of the main things digestive enzymes do is to increase the bioavailability of nutrients. In other words, they help your body digest certain foods better

Where Do Digestive Enzymes Come From?

Our bodies make some types of digestive enzymes. They’re produced in your saliva and as exocrine secretions from the pancreas when you consume food.

Digestive enzyme supplements come from three different sources: animals, plants and microbes.

Animal-sourced

These include pancreatin, pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin. Pancreatin includes many of the enzymes necessary for digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (proteases to break down proteins into amino acids; amylase to break down complex carbohydrate molecules into manageable sugars; and lipase to help break down fats).

Plant-sourced

Plant-sourced enzymes include bromelain (from pineapple), papain (from papaya), and gluten-specific proteases, which help break down proteins.

Microbial-sourced

These enzymes come from fungi and bacterial sources and can be used by vegetarians and vegans instead of animal-based enzymes. Common enzymes in this group include amylase, glucoamylase, proteases, lipase and multiple types of saccharidases including lactase (to digest lactose), alphagalactosidase (for digesting beans, legumes and cruciferous vegetables) and cellulase (to help digest cellulose in plants).

Are Digestive Enzymes the Same As Probiotics?

Digestive enzymes and probiotics can both help you improve digestion but they’re not the same. Probiotics are living microorganisms that may provide certain health benefits when ingested while digestive enzymes are non-living molecules that help you digest specific foods better.

Your body produces enzymes but does not produce probiotics, so they must be consumed through the diet or supplemented.

Who Should Take a Digestive Enzyme Supplement?

First, it’s important to understand that an enzyme will only help improve digestion of a food if it’s the right type of enzyme for the right type of food.

Second, digestive enzymes will also only help improve digestive symptoms if those symptoms are  related to poor digestion of particular nutrients or enzyme deficiency. 

What Causes Digestive Enzyme Deficiencies? 

There are many reasons why our bodies often don’t make enough digestive enzymes. One of the main reasons is poor exocrine pancreatic function. The causes of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are quite diverse and include:

  • Problems with the endocrine part of the pancreas such as insulin dysregulation from diet high in refined carbohydrates and diabetes
  • Gall stones that block the bile duct and reduce/halt the flow of pancreatic juices (biliary stasis)
  • Poor function of the Sphincter of Oddi
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Micronutrient deficiency
  • Protein deficiency
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates causing hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and diabetes
  • High calorie intake
  • Too little or too much exercise

Other factors that also impact digestive enzyme output are:

  • Consuming foods or drinks that promote intestinal inflammation including coffee, alcohol, sugar, and highly processed foods
  • Individual food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, corn, soy etc.
  • Chronic GI infection or inflammation
  • Repeated antibiotic exposure, which affects gut microbiota, digestive and liver health
  • Physical, emotional or psychological stress
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Aging

Symptoms of Digestive Enzyme Insufficiency 

Symptoms of digestive enzyme insufficiency usually appear in the gut and may include:

  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Irritable bowel type symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Gut microbiota dysbiosis
  • Undigested food in the stools
  • Stools that float (steatorrhea)
  • Feeling full after only a few mouthfuls
  • Food allergies and intolerances

And for some folks, the lack of enzymes can become a chronic insufficiency that may lead to obesity, allergies and poor immune function, depression and anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, fatigue, autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Types of Digestive Enzymes and Benefits of Each

Different types of enzymes have different benefits. Here are some of the most common ones:

ENZYME CLASS

TYPE / SOURCE

FUNCTION

LipasesLipase / humans, plants and microbes
Essential for digestion of fats.
ProteasesGluten proteases / microbes
Digest gluten and casein.
Alkali proteases / microbes
Digest proteins with pH 4.0-11.
Acid proteases / microbes
Digest proteins within pH 2.0-6.0.
Bromelain / pineapples
Digest proteins.
CarbohydrasesAmylase / humans and microbes
Digest starch and glycogen-specific enzymes and gluten.
Amyloglucosidase / plants and microbes
Digest amylase disaccharides into monosaccharides. Works best with amylase.
Lactase / humans (babies), plants and microbes
Digest the milk sugar lactose.
Alpha galactosidase / microbes
Digest raffinose, stachyose and verbascose in legumes, whole grains and some vegetables.
Invertase / humans, plants and microbes
Digest sucrose and maltose.
Fibrolytic EnzymesPhytase / plants and microbes
Digest phytic acid from nuts, seeds, and grains.
Cellulase / plants and microbes
Digest cellulose, a plant fibre found in fruit and vegetables.

What to Expect When Taking Digestive Enzymes and/or Probiotics

When introducing new bacteria and/or an enzyme supplement into your system, it’s common to experience a brief increase in GI activity like gas, bloating, etc. This normally lasts 1-2 weeks max and is your body’s way of acclimating to a shift in the balance of bacteria in your microbiome. If symptoms persist past this point, it’s probably a good idea to stop.

After a couple weeks, you should notice less of these types of symptoms, as long as you’re taking the supplements at the right times. Which leads to our next topic …

When Is the Best Time to Take Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics?

It’s best to take digestive enzymes and probiotics either right before or with a meal to maximize their time of being in contact with food. Try taking them before or with your largest meal or two of the day to start, and then before/with other meals as-needed.

You should not take probiotic or enzyme supplements first thing in the morning or on an empty stomach because you will likely experience an increase in gas and bloating (note: per the section above, it’s normal to have some of these symptoms even if you take the supplements with food for the first couple weeks). Give your body time to adjust!

Do You Need Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes, or Both?

If you’re having gut issues, the first thing you should do is go visit a licensed healthcare provider who can help you determine if you have an enzyme deficiency. We also recommend scheduling an appointment with an allergist to see which foods, if any, you may be having adverse reactions to.

There does appear to be some benefit to taking a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes (this is called a synbiotic).

While digestive enzymes will help you break down food and absorb its nutrients, the probiotics will create a natural protective layer of bacteria and the prebiotic fiber will help “feed” the good bacteria.

What to Look for In a Digestive Enzyme / Probiotic / Synbiotic Supplement

Our criteria is admittedly more stringent than others but here’s the checklist we recommend using:

  1. Formulated by a doctor or credentialed healthcare expert.
  2. Contains multiple strains of probiotics and enzymes at safe, efficacious doses.
  3. Ingredients sourced from North America or Europe.
  4. Delayed release capsule or spore-forming probiotics used to ensure most probiotics reach your small intestine.
  5. Third party tested for pathogens and other contaminants and post-production testing done on each batch to ensure you’re getting what it says on the label.

About Our Probiotic / Digestive Enzyme Supplement, DIGEST

If you’re considering a supplement, here’s some more information about our product, Digest, and what sets it apart from other digestive health supplements:

pure food digestive enzymes plus probiotics ingredientscompare digestive enzyme probiotic supplements

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How to Reduce Anxiety Naturally: Foods, Supplements, and Techniques That Actually Work

If you’ve ever felt “butterflies in your stomach” or “gone with your gut”, you’re likely getting signals from an unexpected source hidden in the walls of your digestive system.

Scientists call this “second brain” the enteric nervous system (ENS) and it’s made up of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from your esophagus to your rectum, connected by a giant nerve called the vagus nerve.

How, exactly, does this “gut-brain axis” affect your mental health? What role, if any, do microbes in our gut play in how we feel when we’re stressed and anxious? Can you reduce your anxiety levels just by changing the way you eat? What are some proven strategies you can use for reducing anxiety, starting right now?

We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article.

The Role of the Enteric Nervous System (ENS)

how to reduce anxiety without medicationThe ENS controls digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination, according to Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Pasricha states:

The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.

The ENS may trigger emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. Dr. Pasricha noted:

For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around.

This means that inflammation in your gut may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.

But feelings like anger, anxiety, sadness, surprise—all of these (and others) can also be the cause of symptoms in the gut.

With that in mind, let’s explore some strategies proven by research to help you reduce inflammation in your gut, which can help you significantly reduce your stress and anxiety as a result.

What to Eat to Decrease Your Anxiety and Stress Levels

Food plays a vital role in helping to control anxiety and stress. Let’s look at what to eat and what not to eat if you want to reduce your anxiety.

What Not to Eat

  1. Sugar: A diet low in sugar can starve out undesirable bacteria in the gut, leading to a positive effect on the gut-brain axis. Also, anxiety is often associated with hypoglycemia, a condition in which blood sugar drops to an abnormally low level a few hours after a sugary meal or drink. Balancing blood sugar is crucial to keeping symptoms of anxiety at bay.
  2. Saturated Fat: Diets higher in saturated fat and added sugars have been associated with higher anxiety levels.
  3. Alcohol: Drinking booze is also associated with higher levels of anxiety. Moderation is key.

What to Eat

  1. Vegetables and Whole Grains: Studies have found that people who eat more vegetables and non-refined grains are less likely to suffer from anxiety.
  2. Unsaturated fats: A meta-analysis of 14 studies found that people who suffer from depression and anxiety consumed lower levels of healthy monounsaturated fats (from olive oil, fish, and nuts).
  3. Fermented foods: Fermented foods like sauerkraut have beneficial microbes that may play a role in stress, anxiety, and depression. Aim to add a serving or two of fermented vegetables to your diet each day.

Specific diets, such as a low-FODMAP diet (a diet low in carbs and sugars), eliminate certain foods that can produce gas and bloating in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) patients. But this diet is hard to adhere to and may not be healthy in the long run because you’re forced to eliminate so many beneficial foods.

Supplements That May Help Improve Your Mood and Decrease Feelings of Anxiety

By now, you know that a healthy diet is crucial for physical well-being. Researchers in recent years have also begun to study whether certain supplements can improve gastrointestinal health and your mood.

Here are some of the most promising ones:

1. Probiotics

Probiotics have been shown to help improve the overall balance of your gut flora, leading to a “broad healing effect” in multiple body systems.

Researchers have found that manipulating the gut microbiota with probiotics may help manage symptoms of mental disorders.

And a 2019 review study published in the journal General Psychiatry revealed that over half of the 21 clinical studies included in the review showed positive results in treating anxiety symptoms through regulation of intestinal microbiota.

The review looked at two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions). Both probiotic and non-probiotic (diet and exercise) interventions were found to be effective.

It’s important to note that multiple probiotic strains across varying studies were used and contributed to positive outcomes in improving gut-brain connectivity and, hence, anxiety. Diversity is key.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been shown in small studies to have a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms. More research is needed but because of its other many benefits, we highly recommend magnesium as a front-line supplement for most adults.

3. CBD

While human-based research on CBD and anxiety is fairly limited at this point, there are several small studies that have been conducted:

  1. A 1993 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology followed four groups of 10 people. Groups were given either CBD, Valium, ipsapirone, or placebo. The results suggested that ipsapirone and CBD have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties in stressful situations.
  2. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, “CBD reduces anxiety in social anxiety disorder (SAD).”
  3. A 2015 review published in the journal Neurotherapeutics found that CBD may help improve the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

4. L-lysine and L-arginine

A double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study showed that taking a combination of the amino acids L-lysine and L-arginine can help reduce mental stress and anxiety.

5. Kava

Kava is a plant extract made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. There is evidence that suggests kava may be a useful way to treat mild anxiety.

How I Have Personally Reduced My Anxiety Dramatically

These are the strategies I have personally used that have been most impactful for reducing and controlling my stress and anxiety:

best sleep dietResearch shows eating a diet high in certain foods (like sugar) is associated with higher anxiety levels. So how do you know what the “right” foods for you are?

My advice: avoid fad diets and one-size-fits-all approaches to nutrition. Different foods affect people different ways and I think we’re entering a very exciting new chapter of personalized nutrition.

To that end, I highly recommend getting a microbiome test from Viome and an allergy test at a physician’s office. These two tests will tell you exactly what foods to eat more of and which ones to avoid based on your unique gut bacteria.

how drinking impacts sleepHaving a drink or two a day may have some longevity benefits … but the problem with drinking alcohol to help ease anxiety is people who do so are more likely to develop a dependence to booze.

Let the record show I still enjoy my glass or two of wine each night but my days of hard drinking are long gone, thankfully, and it has definitely made a difference in my quality of sleep.

You sleep much worse when you’re drunk, by the way, for those of you who still have friends who think they sleep better when they’re inebriated.

sleep gratitude connectionExpressing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to feel better. It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re writing down things you’re grateful for. It’ll help shift your thoughts away from what’s not going well for you now so you can focus more on what is. 

how exercise affects sleepExercise is a “keystone habit,” which means it leads to other healthy habits. When I feel stressed and anxious, working out always helps me feel better (I’m partial to strength training and playing basketball).

It’s no secret that taking care of your body is one of the best ways to quell anxiety and feel better about yourself.

deep breathing for sleep

Your brain may control your body, but the body can also control the brain. Deep breathing is a powerful tool that can be used to shift your brain-state and the stress response quickly.

Research shows deep breathing can help lower cortisol, a stress hormone your body produces when you’re anxious. It can even reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.  There are many different deep breathing techniques you can.

To learn some tools and techniques we recommend for using your breath as a weapon to stop anxiety in its tracks, check out our article How to Breathe Better

creativity for insomniaWhat’s your creative outlet? I love cooking, playing guitar, writing, and gardening. Doing these things makes me happy because I get to create, learn, and improve every single day.

I recommend scheduling time every day (even 5-10 minutes!) to work on something creative. Doing this every day significantly reduced my anxiety.

Through creativity and imagination, we find our identity and our reservoir of healing.

Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH

best sleep tips for insomniaIf you’re sleep-deprived, you are likely exacerbating your anxiety. Make sleep a priority.

See this guide for details on how to do it: How to Sleep Better.

nature sleep impactStudies show that spending time outside in nature can reduce anxiety and stress levels. So whenever you’re feeling anxious, go take a walk … preferably somewhere with trees and/or green space.

best expert sleep advice everThere’s no better way to feel better, in my humble opinion, than spending quality time with family and friends and bringing your full attention to being with them. That’s the real “secret sauce” to kicking your anxiety to the curb (at least temporarily).

A proactive approach focused on diet, supplements like probiotics, and breathwork may be a good place to start in controlling anxiety. But you should always consult a healthcare professional if you’re dealing with chronic anxiety or depression.