A good or high quality digestive enzyme supplement contains a broad spectrum of enzymes, rather like a multivitamin. The best products supply a blend of 13 different enzymes, which assist in digesting the various components of your food. Each is responsible for the breakdown and absorption of a particular type of nutrient. When reading the labels on enzyme products, the first thing to check is whether the enzymes come from animal or nonanimal sources. For example, some enzymes, including amylase, lipase and protease are derived from the pancreases of pigs or sheet. Although much of the research to date has involved these pancreatic enzyme supplements, they have limitations. For one, they are vulnerable to destruction by stomach acid. To prevent this, manufacturers usually apply a coating to the supplements, but in clinical studies, coated enzymes were less effective than those without coatings.
Another concern about animal enzyme supplements is that they work only a specific, limited pH range usually found only in the small intestine. Unfortunately, people whose digestion is compromised may not have the necessary pH levels to activate the enzymes. In comparison, vegetarian enzymes that is, those from nonanimal sources remain active over a broad pH range, which means they should work throughout the entire digestive tract.
The broad spectrum of these enzymes can break down all the primary components of food-proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. Animal enzymes are most effective at digesting proteins: while they help a little with carbohydrates and fats, they do nothing at all for fiber.
Vegetarian enzymes begin digesting food almost immediately after they enter the stomach. As they pass by feedback receptors farther along in the digestive tract, the receptors signal the rest of the body that it doesn’t need to produce as many digestive enzymes because some of the food is already broken down. This way, the body doesn’t expend as much energy on the digestive process. On the other hand, animal enzymes don’t get to work until food reaches the proper pH level, usually in the small intestine. By then, the body has already churned out extra digestive enzymes.
Manufacturers cultivate vegetarian enzymes in a carefully controlled environment that’s free of pesticides and other contaminants, while animal enzymes come from pigs that have been raised on genetically and chemically altered feed and treated with steroids and antibiotics. Also, because vegetarian enzymes can be more concentrated than animal enzymes, a single capsule can have more enzymatic activity. Generally speaking, you can get the same amount of activity or more from fewer vegetarian supplements.
Incidently, when you are shopping for enzyme supplements, check to be sure that not only the enzymes but also the capsules are vegetarian.