Good digestion is very important for being able to absorb and use the nutrients we obtain from our diet. Our digestive system naturally produces enzymes to break down the food we eat, but due to many factors, we sometimes can’t produce enough to break down our food and absorb all the nutrients from our diet.
To help with this, supplements which contain a complex of enzymes have been created for those who need a bit of extra help and also want the health benefits that plant-based enzymes can offer.
Think of it this way: if you have a car, you would want to be able to use that fuel efficiently, so you get more ‘bang for your buck.
Enzyme supplements can help us assimilate nutrients from our diet better. They can help take the strain off the digestive system when we’re under stress so that we can break down food and absorb nutrients better.
The great thing about a plant-based diet is that it contains natural enzymes already. Pineapple’s, for example, is a great source of bromelain which is able to help break down protein in the diet. Different fruits contain different enzymes when they are eaten raw.
Unfortunately, cooking destroys these enzymes in the diet and that’s why it’s important to eat a balance between cooked and raw foods.
However, if you want to boost your enzyme intake, there is a simple way to do that! Enzyme supplements contain a variety of enzymes that can help you digest your food better and also provide unique health benefits.
If you’re in a rush, I’ve listed below 4 great enzyme supplements for you to choose from! Keep reading if you would like to read a review of my top 3 products.
Should vegans take enzyme supplements?
This will be different for each person, as not everyone needs to take enzymes while they’re on a vegan diet. Enzymes are useful because they act as catalysts and can help people with impaired or weak digestive systems as well as those trying to heal from diseases.
1. Digestive conditions
- Digestive symptoms – If you have any kind of frequent bloating, gas, stomach pain, acid reflux, you may benefit from taking digestive enzymes. Many of these symptoms fall under IBS or IBD, which digestive enzymes have been shown to be beneficial for improving symptoms. 
- Crohn’s disease – Many people have had success using digestive enzymes to help with Crohn’s disease by assisting the body in breaking down food and putting less stress on the digestive system.
- Enzyme insufficiency – As people get older they produce fewer enzymes and other factors which trigger acid production in the stomach.
- Low gastric acid – A condition known as Hypochlorhydria is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Due to this problem, usually from old age or medications, the body has a harder time breaking down and absorbing nutrients.
If you have any of these specific issues, then you may benefit from taking an enzyme supplement.
2. You’re new to a vegan diet
When transitioning to a vegan diet you might notice all sorts of strange things happening. It’s not the easiest of rides for everyone because your old symptoms and problems can reappear temporarily before you heal.
It’s not uncommon for people to need a little bit of time to adapt to their new diet and digestive enzymes can help speed up this process. I’ve researched and written an article about people who are vegan and experiencing stomach pain, which you should definitely check out so you can avoid these issues.
Top 3 vegan enzyme supplements for better digestive health
#1. Nested – Super Enzymes to help improve the digestive system
Nested is a popular and well-known brand amongst vegans for their ethical sourcing of ingredients.
Nested Super Enzyme supplement contains 11 enzymes to help improve the break down of starches, protein, and fats, and also relieve symptoms related to digestion.
It contains amylase, protease, and lipase, all of which can assist in helping break down food in the stomach.
They’ve also added peppermint, ginger root, and fennel seed.
Who should take this supplement?
The enzyme supplement was designed to help improve digestion and symptoms such as bloating, gas, heartburn, and constipation.
Nested super enzymes supplement has a lot of great reviews with many people saying that it helped with their digestive issue related to stomach infections.
If you’re healing from any kind of digestive condition, used too many antibiotics, or are just transitioning to a vegan diet, this supplement is perfect for you!
Contains 11 strains of active plant-sourced enzymes to improve digestion, making it completely natural and suitable for vegans.
All of Nested’s products have been third-party tested and certified.
#2. Digest Wise – Enzyme Supplement for Vegans
DigestWise was designed to be used before meals to help improve and speed up digestion, allowing your body to free up resources to improve wellness and energy.
It contains 10 enzymes which have been independently tested in the lab to show their effectiveness.
This supplement main focus is on improving digestion rather than including enzymes which have known health benefits other than being able to aid digestion.
Who should take this supplement?
If you’re after an enzyme supplement which is low cost but contains a large number of digestive enzymes, then this supplement is perfect.
It’s great for people who are just transitioning to a vegan diet and want to assist their body in breaking down the new foods being introduced into the diet.
There are also many positive reviews for this supplement with people saying that it helped them improve stomach pain, as well as reduce bloating when eating certain types of foods.
The supplement was created to help with three things:
- Better digestion – As the supplement contains a broad spectrum of enzymes, it can help you digest all macronutrients from your diet and help reduce the likelihood of digestive problems such as bloating, cramp, and gas after eating problematic foods such as beans and legumes.
- Improves absorption – The more nutrients we can obtain from the food we eat, the fewer vitamin supplements we need to take.
- Better energy – The theory is that if you spend less time on digestion, your body can focus its resource and energy elsewhere.
Contains 10 plant-based enzymes to help improve digestion.
The supplement does not require any refrigeration to retain its potency so it’s great for travel.
It has been manufactured in the United States and has been independently tested by a lab.
#3. Rainbow Light – Advanced Enzyme System – Whole Food Enzyme Supplement
In just one serving you get 10 plant-sourced enzymes to help you break down starches, fats, protein, as well as other digestive enzymes to improve absorption, lower inflammation and have other beneficial systematic effects.
Aside from the digestive enzymes, it includes bromelain derived from pineapples and papain from the papaya fruit. Both of these fruits have known and proven benefits beyond the digestive system.
They’ve also included herbs like ginger, turmeric, fennel, apple pectin, and green papaya, and peppermint, all of which can help reduce stomach issues.
Who should take this supplement?
Vegans who want a comprehensive and broad enzyme complex supplement should opt for this supplement. It covers the main digestive enzymes and adds in a few other systematic enzymes which have been shown scientifically to improve health and help speed up healing.
Reviews are very positive with some people saying that it helped reduce symptoms of acid reflux, gas, bloating, and other symptoms. There are also reports by some people who have had their gallbladder removed finding this supplement beneficial.
It contains whole foods rather than synthetic ingredients.
All ingredients are vegan-friendly, non-GMO, and it does not contain any of the common allergens like soy, nuts, eggs, gluten, etc.
Frequently asked questions about digestive enzymes
#1. Can’t you just eat raw food to get enzymes instead?
This is a question that is asked a lot. In fact, some people say that you should eat a 100% raw food diet because you retain all the enzymes in the food.
The problem with this is that it’s almost impossible to get an equivalent dose of enzymes as you can in a supplement. However, if you’re interested in which foods contain beneficial enzymes, here’s a short list:
- Pineapple – Contains bromelain which aids in the digestion of protein.
- Papaya – Contains papain which helps with the digestion of proteins and may help improve IBS symptoms according to some studies . This enzyme is also included in many enzyme supplements.
- Mango – Contains digestive enzymes called amylases which will help break down foods high in starch to simple sugars.
- Avocados – Avocados contains an enzyme known as lipase which can assist in breaking down fat.
- Kimchi – A great vegan probiotic source which includes bacteria that produce lipases and amylases.
- Ginger – Contains zingibain which helps digest proteins and improves symptoms like bloating, nausea, and gas.
#2. Won’t the enzymes be destroyed by the stomach if I take them?
Obviously, nobody wants to be throwing money away.
Many of the enzymes present in these supplements are active in the stomach and survive their journey through the digestive tract where they can go on to have beneficial effects in the whole body.
Some plant-based based enzymes can be effective and used in a broad range of conditions (pH range) in the stomach and small intestine.
#3. Where do enzymes come from which are not produced by the body?
Enzymes are found in all kinds of plants, fruits, and vegetables. In pineapples, there is bromelain, which proteolytic enzyme. In papayas, we can find papain.
One enzyme less well known is from kiwis called actinidin. However, it’s also found in mango, bananas, and other fruits.
Some of the enzymes found in foods have uses purely as an aid to improving digestive health, while others can be absorbed and utilized and have anti-inflammatory, immune system modulating, and healing effects.
#4. Are enzymes dangerous to take?
Some people are worried that enzymes will cause your stomach lining to break down or digest the soft tissues in your mouth and gut. The good news is that this is not true.
Enzymes act to help break down the foods we consume and are prevented from breaking down healthy nondenatured proteins in the body. There are many mechanisms by which plant-based enzymes are prevented from doing any kind of damage to the digestive system.
#5. Will you need to continue taking them?
One of the worries some people have about taking enzyme supplements is that our body would stop producing its own digestive enzymes. Once again, enzymes will not cause this to happen.
If there is a small decrease in enzyme production, it will return to normal shortly after discontinuing the supplement.
#6. When should you take a digestive enzyme supplement?
Ideally, you should take it before you have your meal. Some manufacturers recommend you take a supplement for up to 30 minutes before you eat your meal for the best results.
Vegan enzyme supplements can be a useful addition for people with a history of digestive issues. They’re also great for people who are struggling with their transition to veganism and helping break down legumes in the diet.
If you are going to be taking enzymes, consider also taking vegan probiotics. These can help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut for better health.
Reviewed and updated: July 2019.