Digestive enzymes: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
Complete a free online enrollment application to find out if you’re eligible to pay only $49 per month for your Digestive enzymes medication with our help.Get started today
Digestive enzymes are made naturally by your body to help break down the food you eat so your digestive tract can absorb vital nutrients such as proteins and carbohydrates that your body needs. Digestive disorders such as food intolerances and other health conditions can cause your body to not make enough of these enzymes. Treating this deficiency with digestive enzyme supplements can help improve your gut health, manage your condition, and prevent complications.
Digestive enzymes are typically derived from bovine (cow) and porcine (pig) sources. However, there are plant-based enzymes available as well. The list below includes the best digestive enzymes available over-the-counter or by prescription and their pricing:
List of digestive enzymes
|Zenpep (pancrelipase)||Zenpep is indicated to treat exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).|
|Creon (pancrelipase)||Creon is indicated to treat exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).|
|Pertzye (pancrelipase)||Pertzye is indicated to treat exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).|
|Pancreaze (pancrelipase)||Pancreaze is indicated to treat exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).|
|Arco Lase (digestive enzymes)||Arco Lase is indicated to treat EPI and chronic pancreatitis or pancreatectomy.|
|Digepepsin (digestive enzymes)||Digepepsin is indicated to treat EPI and chronic pancreatitis or pancreatectomy.|
|Gustase (digestive enzymes)||Gustase is indicated to treat EPI and chronic pancreatitis or pancreatectomy.|
|Viokase (digestive enzymes)||Viokase is indicated to treat EPI and chronic pancreatitis or pancreatectomy.|
|Lactaid (lactase)||Lactaid is indicated to treat lactose intolerance.|
|Sucraid (sacrosidase)||Sucraid is indicated to treat congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency.|
|Cholbam (cholic acid)||Cholbam is indicated to treat bile acid synthesis disorders and peroxisomal disorders.|
|Beano (alpha-galactosidase)||Beano is indicated to prevent gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.|
What are digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are natural substances made by your digestive system to help you break down and digest food. They are primarily produced by the pancreas, but can also be secreted by your salivary glands, gallbladder, liver, and by cells on the surface of your intestines.
Digestive enzymes can also be found in foods such as fruits and vegetables. Pineapples contain a digestive enzyme that helps digest proteins called bromelain. Papaya contains a type of proteolytic enzyme called papain. Other foods such as raw honey, mangoes, bananas, and avocados contain 1 or more digestive enzymes.
Digestive enzymes are typically divided into 3 major types: amylase, protease, and lipase. Some other common digestive enzymes that are made in your small intestine include lactase and sucrase. Digestive enzymes are given when your pancreas does not make or release enough digestive enzymes into your stomach to digest food. They are typically used as replacement therapy to treat conditions such as chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and various gastrointestinal diseases.
Digestive enzymes are different than probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms that live in your gut and help promote healthy digestion. Digestive enzymes are proteins that help break down food so you can more easily absorb their nutrients.
How do digestive enzymes work?
In your body, most digestive enzymes are made by your pancreas or small intestine. There are 3 major types of digestive enzymes, which are grouped according to their function:
- Amylase. This enzyme breaks down carbs such as starches into simple sugars.
- Protease. Enzymes such as trypsin and pepsin break down proteins into smaller peptides and amino acids.
- Lipase. This enzyme breaks down fat into fatty acids and glycerol.
Some other digestive enzymes that are made in your small intestine include:
- Lactase, which breaks down lactose from dairy products.
- Cellulase, which helps you digest fruits and vegetables.
- Sucrase, which breaks down sucrose into fructose and glucose.
What conditions are digestive enzymes used to treat?
When you have a deficiency in digestive enzymes, you can have problems breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. Digestive and pancreatic enzyme supplementation is used to treat many conditions that cause enzyme deficiencies, including:
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pancreatic cancer
- Celiac disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastrointestinal or pancreatic surgery
- Shwachman-Diamond syndrome
Are digestive enzymes safe?
When taken as prescribed, digestive enzymes are safe and effective. You tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
- Hypersensitivity to any component of the digestive enzyme product
- Acute pancreatitis
- Are taking blood thinners
Can you take digestive enzymes while you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
Digestive health is often impaired during pregnancy. Digestive enzymes can help improve digestion and nutrient absorption, which is beneficial for the mother and baby. They can also help relieve gas, heartburn, and bloating. While there are no animal reproductive studies involving digestive enzymes, case reports found that there was no drug-associated risk of major birth defects, miscarriage, or other adverse outcomes.
There is no data on whether digestive enzymes are found in breast milk, but they are minimally absorbed from the mother’s GI tract, so it is not expected to affect the infant. It is generally thought to be acceptable to take digestive enzymes during lactation.
What are the common side effects of digestive enzymes?
Some common side effects of Digestive enzymes include:
- Flatulence (gas)
- Stomach cramps
Digestive enzymes can sometimes cause severe adverse effects, including:
- Serious allergic reactions
- Increased risk of bleeding with bromelain
This is not a complete list of side effects and we encourage you to consult with your healthcare professional for medical advice about any possible side effects.
How much do digestive enzymes cost?
Digestive enzymes are very expensive with an average cost of around $7,000 per year.
You can purchase Digestive enzymes for $49 per month from NiceRx if eligible for assistance. Prices at the pharmacy vary by location, strength, and quantity, as well as your insurance status.
Related resources for digestive enzymes
- Digestive enzymes tablets – Uses, side effects, and more. WebMD
- Digestive enzymes. RxList
- Digestive enzyme supplementation in gastrointestinal diseases. National Library of Medicine
- Digestive enzyme supplements. HopkinsMedicine
- Understanding digestive enzymes: why are they important? Healthline
- Digestive Enzymes 101: why they’re important. Cleveland Clinic