How to Take Digestive Enzymes

Lactose
A bowl of lactose on a wooden cutting board. (Image: HeikeRau/iStock/Getty Images)

Digestive enzymes help your body break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Your digestive system uses natural enzymes, but in some cases taking certain enzyme supplements can help improve digestion. These enzymes include papain and bromelain from papaya and pineapple fruit, which help to digest proteins. If you are lactose-intolerant, your doctor may recommend lactase supplements, which are the enzymes that digest milk sugars. Another type of digestive enzyme called amylase helps reduce bloating and gas by helping you digest complex sugars found in legumes and vegetables.

Step 1

Refer to the label on the side of the packaging of your digestive enzyme supplement. Determine the correct dosage you will need to take, and double-check the expiration date to make sure the supplement is safe to take. There is no standard dose; the amount will vary based on the type and strength of the enzyme supplement. Most digestive enzyme supplements are available without a prescription, while some, such as lactase, may also be prescribed by your doctor.

Step 2

Determine when to take the enzymes. This should be clearly noted on the instruction label of the product. If you are unsure, ask your pharmacist or nutritionist. Some types of digestive supplements are to be taken with your meal, while others should be taken shortly before eating. For example, a lactase enzyme supplement to help digest milk should be taken immediately before consuming milk and other dairy products.

Step 3

Ingest the digestive enzyme supplement dose with a glass of water to help you swallow it. If you are using enzyme drops, use a dropper to add the correct amount of liquid supplement to water or milk. Chewable tablets should be carefully chewed and not swallowed whole.

Tip

If you have a digestive disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome, your doctor may recommend certain digestive enzymes to help reduce symptoms. Take the enzyme supplement exactly as prescribed for your treatment.

Warning

Some types of digestive enzyme supplements, such as those from fruits, can react with blood-thinning medications, increasing your risk of bruising and bleeding.

If you are on any type of medication, consult your doctor before taking these supplements.

In some cases taking digestive enzymes can cause side effects such as upset stomach, diarrhea or an allergic reaction. If you experience any adverse effect, stop taking the supplement immediately and seek the advice of your doctor.

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