According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of all Americans tried to lose weight between 2013-2016. The most common methods of weight loss included exercising, limiting portion sizes, and increasing intake of fruits and vegetables (1).
But when these tried-and-true tactics fall short, could digestive enzyme supplements increase your weight loss efforts? Studies show enzymes can help improve digestion, stomach bloat, and overall gut health — but what's the deal with digestive enzymes and weight loss? For those who follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and make other positive lifestyle changes, enzyme supplements might help remove those remaining stubborn pounds.
In this article, you'll learn about the connection between digestive enzymes and weight loss, how enzymes can help improve your overall digestive health, and why not all enzyme supplements are created equal. You'll also learn how to select a digestive enzyme supplement, including which ingredients you want to see on the label, and which ones you should avoid altogether.
What Are Digestive Enzymes?
Natural enzymes are proteins that create chemical reactions in your body. Digestive enzymes help your body break down food and absorb nutrients (2). Unlike probiotics, which are mainly concentrated in your stomach, enzymes are made in your mouth, stomach, small intestine, and pancreas.
A well-oiled digestive tract depends on the presence of digestive enzymes, which break down undigested food into lipids, minimize the risk of food intolerances, and reduce the presence of toxins (3).
What Happens If You Don't Have Enough Enzymes?Sometimes, the human body doesn't produce enough digestive enzymes on its own. In these cases, your digestion will slow down considerably, leading to uncomfortable symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, and cramping (2). Here's why that happens: Specific digestive enzymes break down specific types of foods in your body. Therefore, if you become deficient in one of these enzymes, you won't be able to break down certain foods. For example(3):
- Lipase breaks down fat into fatty acids
- Amylase breaks down carbs into simple sugars
- Protease breaks down protein into amino acids
Health Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
If you're wondering, "What are the benefits of digestive enzymes, and why do I need them?" the answer is pretty straightforward: You need digestive enzymes in order to have a healthy gut. Digestive enzymes help treat leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, indigestion, and other side effects of poor digestion (4)(5).
Not having enough enzymes has been linked to severe autoimmune diseases and digestive issues, including ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, and Crohn's disease (6). Digestive enzymes also decrease the likelihood of developing food sensitivities, Celiac disease, and lactose intolerance (more on this below). Food sensitivities, in turn, can damage your gut microbiome and immune system, leading to stomach pain and a decrease in gut bacteria (7).
Digestive Enzymes and Weight Loss: Can They Help You Lose Weight?
Digestive enzymes and weight loss have long been linked, as these proteins help break down fats in the body. Scientists believe that the enzyme lipase, in particular, might be the secret to increased metabolism, fat loss, and weight loss. In 2012, researchers at the University of Copenhagen were able to manipulate lipase, making the enzyme work three times harder than before (8).
The study showed that enzymes don’t work all the time — in fact, most only work 15% of the time. However, through the study, scientists were able to force lipase into "working longer hours" so to speak, putting them to work 45% of the time (8). What does this mean for the digestive enzymes and weight loss connection? Quite a bit. Some scientists believe that being able to turn enzymes on and off could help cure diseases linked to obesity, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even acne (8).
How Can You Get More Digestive Enzymes?
Certain foods, like bananas, soy sauce, papayas, pineapples, avocados, and fermented veggies (such as pickles and kimchi), naturally contain digestive enzymes. You can also make lifestyle changes to promote enzyme levels, such as reducing stress, drinking bone broth to repair your digestive tract, and limiting your intake of processed foods.
However, when lifestyle changes aren’t enough, you may need to turn to enzyme supplements to help improve your digestive system. That said, not all supplements are created equal.
5 Things Your Digestive Enzyme Supplements Should Contain
Digestive enzymes are critical for nutrient absorption. If you’re experiencing digestive issues and need to get more enzymes in your diet, supplementation can help. However, don’t just pick any supplement off the shelf. Do your research, read labels, and choose a high-quality supplement that can support your digestive enzymes with the following ingredients:
Lactase is responsible for converting lactose — the sugar found in dairy products — into glucose. Lactase is produced in the lining of your small intestine, then split into smaller sugars, glucose and galactose. Those who can’t produce enough lactase on their own can develop lactose intolerance (9).
Amylase helps break down carbohydrates and starchy vegetables into sugars. Amylase is produced twice in your body: first in the mouth, making it the first enzyme used in digestion, and second in the pancreas (10). Amylase helps improve your digestion, boosts energy levels, and helps alleviate stress within the body.
Lipase helps your body break down fat, which could help with weight loss (8). Working alongside protease and amylase, lipase can improve a number of different digestive conditions, such as Celiac disease, IBS, gallbladder malfunctions, and cystic fibrosis.
Cellulase helps break down fiber, which is the non-digestible carbohydrate found in plants. Cellulase is helpful in controlling blood sugar levels, eliminating toxins, and improving cholesterol levels (12).
Protease helps break down proteins in the body. Once broken down, proteins are converted to amino acids or peptides. Protease is linked to a number of health benefits, including improved blood circulation, reduced inflammation, and decreased symptoms of osteoarthritis (13).
Avoid Digestive Enzymes With These Things
When shopping for a digestive enzyme supplement, avoid products containing artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, and additives. You should also search for a product that's free of gluten, lactose, and dairy.
Happy Mammoth Vital Digestive Enzymes are 100% organic, gluten-free, GMO-free, preservative-free, sugar-free, and vegan. Each ingredient is ethically sourced and environmentally sustainable, as well as being paleo and keto-friendly.
Digestive Enzymes Have Numerous Health Benefits
Digestive enzymes are a natural protein found in the body that helps you break down food. Without enzymes — or when your enzyme levels become too low — you can experience a number of digestive issues, including bloating, gas, and stomach pain. It could also lead to more severe conditions, including IBS, celiac disease, Crohn's, or colitis.
Digestive enzymes come with multiple potential health benefits, including weight loss. If your body doesn't produce enough enzymes on its own, you can take enzyme supplements to boost your levels and reap the benefits. Just remember to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or making major changes to your diet.