Taking enzyme supplements can help support healthy digestive function. Enzymes may help you break down certain parts of your foods, improving regularity and supporting more comfortable digestion. But not all enzyme supplements are created equal. Some contain fillers; others contain fewer or lower quality enzymes that may not be as effective as higher quality enzymes. To ensure that you are using high quality digestive enzymes, it’s important that you learn how to read a digestive enzyme label. With proper knowledge of how enzymes are labeled and sold, you can compare products and choose the one that’s right for you.
Let’s look at the type of information you should look for on each enzyme supplement label sold in the United States.
The first number to notice when comparing enzymes is the serving size. Sometimes you have to take one enzyme supplement, and sometimes two. If the serving sizes are not the same, the enzyme product with the bigger serving size may appear to have more enzymes or more active units, even if it doesn’t.
Some enzyme products may contain oils, extracts or herbs, such as peppermint oil or garlic powder, to offer other natural support for health. These may be listed above the enzymes on the label, but may not contain amounts.
While it is important in reviewing these items to understand what is in the product you are taking, you should continue reading down the label to see what enzymes the products contain.
Enzymes Measured in Active Units
Next, the enzyme label should include the actual enzymes included in the product. All enzyme names end in the suffix “-ase”, such as protease and cellulase. Different enzymes can aid normal digestion of different types of food. For instance, lactase helps break down lactose, the sugar in milk.
Enzymes are different than vitamins or minerals, which can be measured by milligrams and include a percent of daily recommended value. No enzymes should be measured by weight. Instead, they are measured by active units. These are the numbers you really need to pay attention to when comparing enzyme products.
Active units are a standardized measurement accepted by the Food and Drug Administration. These are a measurement of how many active enzymes are contained in each serving. Each enzyme is measured in different units. Examples include:
- Amylase – DU (Alpha-amylase Dextrinizing units)
- Cellulase – CU (Cellulase unit)
- Invertase – IAU (Invertase Activity unit)
- Lactase – LacU (Lactase unit)
- Lipase – FIP, LU, FCCLU (LU= Lipase unit)
- Maltase – DP (degrees Diastatic power)
- Protease – HUT (Hemoglobin Unit Tyrosine base), USP
Quality enzyme products use these standard abbreviations, not weight, on their labels. When comparing two enzyme products, be sure they both use active units so you can properly compare which offers more support for healthy digestion. In general, the higher the number of active units, the more support you may receive.
However, some products may include more active units than your body can actually use. Before purchasing an enzyme, you may want to research what each particular enzyme does and how many active units is considered to be a good amount for effective supplementation.
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At the bottom of the label, you’ll find other ingredients listed. These are generally the ingredients used to create the capsule that contains the enzymes. Some enzyme companies offer vegetarian capsules and others use animal products; some products may contain egg. It’s especially important to pay attention to this section if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Common ingredients include:
- Gellan gum
- Gelatin (may come from animal sources)
Some products may also contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you want to avoid these ingredients, don’t purchase a product that contains:
Enzymedica digestive enzymes are 100% vegetarian, and they never include any binders, fillers, flow agents or excipients. They are also certified Vegan and Kosher, when available.
Allergy Warning or “Contains No:”
The last section to notice on an enzyme label is a section on common food allergens. This section may not appear on all enzyme product labels, but is important if you have any food sensitivities.
In this section, you can find out whether the product contains egg, gluten, dairy or other common food allergen ingredients. It may also mention if the product was made in a place that works with products that contain egg, nuts or other ingredients. If you have a food allergy, you should make sure that you find this information on the label of any enzyme product that you are considering purchasing.
Learn more about enzymes, nutrition and healthy digestion by visiting our blog.