Digestive Enzymes: Side Effects, Avoidance and Benefits

Digestive enzymes are an essential part of a healthy diet, but if you have any digestive problems like colitis or Crohn’s disease, it can be difficult to eat the recommended amounts. This article discusses some key differences between digesting well and digesting poorly, with examples of symptoms that could lead you down the wrong path.


Suppose you suffer from digestive problems, including acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or nutrient malabsorption (a frequent problem among the elderly). In that case, digestive enzymes might be one of several nutritional supplements that can assist. Many raw fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple and papaya and certain fungi and animals, contain digestive enzymes. When we take these enzymes as a supplement, we may benefit from improved nutrient absorption from our meals. That is one of the helpful digestive enzyme side effects; however, there are also digestive enzyme side effects that might be harmful to your health.

Today, a growing number of individuals, particularly those with specific health issues, use digestive enzymes. This includes gastrointestinal disorders including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, hypochlorhydria (a lack of stomach acid), and pancreatic insufficiency (too little pancreatic enzymes). While digestive enzymes are generally safe and helpful supplements to take, some individuals may have digestive enzymes side effects, particularly those taking drugs that may interfere with digestive enzymes.

Why Is It Important to Digest Enzymes?

Pancreatic enzymes, plant-derived enzymes, and fungal-derived enzymes are all included in the phrase “digestive enzymes.” Digestive enzymes may be able to aid with gastrointestinal (GI) problems by assisting in the appropriate breakdown of meals.

What are the functions of digestive enzymes? They assist in converting bigger molecules contained in meals (carbohydrates, protein, and lipids) into more readily absorbed particles (amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, simple sugars, and nucleic acids) that the body may utilize to operate generate energy. Specific digestive enzymes are produced in the human body to aid in the absorption of various meals. Lipases, which break down fat, proteolytic enzymes, which break down protein, and amylases, which break down carbs, are the three types of digestive enzymes.

The following are some of the advantages of digestive enzymes:

  • First, assisting in the reduction of the risk of nutritional malabsorption. This is more common in the elderly and may be caused by low stomach acid or a lack of digestive enzymes/enzyme insufficiency.
  • Relieving acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms (IBS).
  • Bloating, gas, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, and exhaustion are just a few of the digestive problems that may be managed.
  • By relieving stress on the gastrointestinal system, it may aid in the treatment of leaky gut.
  • Preventing symptoms of food intolerances, such as gluten, casein, and lactose intolerances, by breaking down difficult-to-digest proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Enzyme inhibitors that prevent nutrients from being absorbed are being combated. Peanuts, wheat germ, egg whites, almonds, seeds, beans, and potatoes are all high in these nutrients.
  • Symptoms of liver illness, pancreatic cancer, pancreatic insufficiency, and cystic fibrosis may be helped.

Side Effects of Digestive Enzymes

Is using digestive enzymes safe? Yes, in most circumstances; nevertheless, some persons may be affected by the adverse effects of digestive enzymes. Therefore, taking enzymes is typically thought to be unnecessary unless someone has digestive issues and is experiencing unpleasant symptoms since the body should create sufficient quantities on its own.

But, most individuals handle digestive enzymes well; however, if you take a large quantity and disregard dosage guidelines, you’re more likely to have digestive enzyme side effects.

The following are some of the possible side effects of consuming digestive enzymes:

  • Stomach aches, cramps, and an upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Headache
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Blood sugar fluctuations
  • Reactions due to allergies
  • Abnormal feces/changes in bowel motions

The following are signs that you may be allergic to components in a digestive enzyme supplement:

  • Breathing, speaking, or wheezing difficulties
  • Mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat swelling
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Itching and rash on the skin
  • Skin that is red, swollen, blistered, or peeling

Drug Interactions with Digestive Enzymes

Before supplementing on your own, see a health practitioner for guidance with personalized enzyme treatment if you are presently taking drugs or have a chronic health concern. Your doctor can evaluate which digestive enzymes are the safest and healthiest for you based on the medicines you’re taking, your symptoms, and your medical history. You may also inquire with your pharmacist about any potential drug interactions.

Before using digestive enzyme supplements, talk to your doctor if you have a history of liver or gallbladder illness or if you have stomach ulcers.

In general, digestive enzymes do not have a high risk of serious medication interactions. However, some digestive enzyme interactions, such as with the medications Warfarin, miglitol, and acarbose, are conceivable. Warfarin is an anticoagulant medication that prevents blood from clotting and forming blood clots. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors include acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset) (oral anti-diabetes medications). It’s conceivable that taking these meds together with digestive enzymes may limit the medications’ or enzymes’ activity.

Digestive enzymes seldom interact with antibiotics, so they may be used together if required. Digestion enzyme supplements are normally safe for pregnant women to use, but there hasn’t been much study on how they affect nursing.

Avoiding the Negative Effects of Digestive Enzymes

What digestive enzymes should you take?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to digestive enzymes. Because enzymes are nutrient-specific and aid in the absorption of various meals, the ideal digestive enzymes to take vary on the individual. It’s a good idea to take a full-spectrum enzyme mix that comprises a range of different enzymes for overall digestive health.

Here are some suggestions based on why you’re taking digestive enzymes:

  • Pancreatin, which is a mixture of all three pancreatic enzymes, is found in almost all goods.
  • If you’re having problems with your gallbladder, look for digestive enzymes that include more lipase and bile salts.
  • If you find betaine HCL mentioned as a product component, double-check that it also includes pepsin.
  • If you have problems with sugar absorption from dairy products, consider taking a lactase supplement.
  • If you have an autoimmune or inflammatory illness, consider taking a protease supplement, which aids in protein digestion.
  • Look for enteric-coated delayed-release capsules to prevent the enzymes from breaking down in the stomach.

Remember that proteins, carbohydrates, starches, and fats all need different kinds of enzymes, so unless a particular enzyme is required, taking a supplement that covers all bases may be the best option.

You may also want to look for a combination that contains herbs that aid digestion, such as peppermint and ginger. So you prevent swallowing potentially dangerous contaminants and additives present in certain supplements, be sure to buy from a reputable brand and/or get advice from your pharmacist or doctor.

What is the recommended dosage of digestive enzymes?

The dosage is determined by the product being used. Prescription digestive enzymes, for example, are usually given in different doses than over-the-counter enzymes. Because using a high amount of enzymes might have unwanted effects, always read product warnings carefully. Some individuals need more pancreatic enzymes than others, so keep in mind that the amount of each enzyme may need to be adjusted based on your specific requirements.

Keep in mind that some meals (particularly raw/fermented foods) may aid in the production of natural digestive enzymes. Therefore, incorporate the following enzyme-rich foods into your diet, preferably raw or uncooked: pineapple, papaya, kiwi, kefir, yogurt, bananas, mango, miso, soy sauce, and tempeh (fermented soy products), sauerkraut, kimchi, avocado, bee pollen, apple cider vinegar, and raw honey.

When is the best time to take digestive enzymes?

Take digestive enzymes approximately 10 minutes before each meal or with your first bite of food for the greatest outcomes and lowest chance of adverse effects. Protease supplements, in addition to digestive enzymes taken with meals, may be taken in between meals. Start with a modest amount of enzymes, such as one or two per day with one or two meals, and gradually increase or change your dosage based on your response.

Digestive enzymes should be taken separately from calcium- or magnesium-containing antacids since the two may interfere with each other’s efficacy.

Is it possible to combine probiotics with digestive enzymes?

If you want to improve your digestive health, you may take probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements. Probiotics and digestive enzymes are found in several goods. Take enzymes before a meal and probiotics after or in between if you’re taking them separately. Probiotics may also be found in fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Probiotics may help restore gut microbiota balance, assist digestion, and relieve symptoms like gas and bloating.

Final Thoughts

If you have any concerns about digestive enzymes’ adverse effects or interactions, you should speak with your doctor. First, check to see if any drugs you’re taking have the potential to interfere with digestive enzymes. Next, discuss any other possible reasons why you shouldn’t take digestive enzymes with your doctor, as well as strategies to check your progress and see whether the enzymes you’re taking are helping you (for example, you can track whether certain symptoms are improving).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can taking digestive enzymes be harmful?

A: Taking digestive enzymes can be harmful if you take them without a doctor’s prescription. If your doctor has prescribed these for you, then they’re not only safe but beneficial because it helps break down food and absorb nutrients better.

When is the best time to take digestive enzymes?

A: One of the best times to take digestive enzymes is when you are having a meal. This will allow your body’s system that breaks down food to work faster. If you eat at different times, then taking them with meals would give the most benefit and not waste any time in digestion.

What are the benefits of digestive enzymes?

A: Other than feeling better and helping your digestive system function at its best, digestive enzymes can also help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Plus, they are great for other aspects of health as well!

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