How long does it take for digestive enzymes to work? This is a big question many people are wondering when they begin taking digestive enzymes. Read on to find out how long it really takes for enzymes to start working, giving you the results you need!

Digestive enzymes have become more popular over the last decade. These enzymes are most likely taken before a meal in order to help the digestion process which can stop unwanted symptoms like gas and bloating. 

In our last post on digestive enzymes, we learned that there are many benefits in taking proteolytic enzymes on an empty stomach. Benefits include anti aging effects and the prevention of chronic diseases. 

To learn more about what digestive enzymes are and the benefits of taking them on an empty stomach visit our blog 6 Benefits of Taking Digestive Enzymes on an Empty Stomach.

Back to this post! We’re going to dive deep into how long does it take for digestive enzymes to work, how long should you take digestive enzymes for, should I take digestive enzymes with protein shakes, and what’s an advanced stool test.

How Long Does it Take for Digestive Enzymes to Work and What are They?

Digestive enzymes break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins when they are secreted by the gastrointestinal system. They not only break down food, they also absorb nutrients. [1]

We contain natural digestive enzymes in our body, but sometimes those aren’t enough and lead to unwanted symptoms like gas, fatigue, bloating and diarrhea. This is where adding a digestive enzyme supplement aids in fighting those symptoms. We’ve also learned that taking digestive enzymes on an empty stomach can aid in fighting chronic diseases and increase longevity. Dr. Neal Smoller, holistic pharmacist, has an excellent Kool-Aid Analogy on how digestive enzymes work with food.

Typical digestion starts when we look at food and we start getting hungry or our mouth salivates. The saliva moistens our food to begin breaking it down. After this, the food is being digested through many steps and functions in the body. This automatically ends in the large intestine and then in the rectum, where stool is pushed out. [2]

When we supplement or add digestive enzymes to our diet, this allows food to be broken down easier, avoiding uncomfortable symptoms. How long does it take for digestive enzymes to work? Digestive enzymes need about ten minutes to get to the stomach and begin working. This is why the best time to take digestive enzymes is on an empty stomach. It allows the enzyme to fully digest into the body so it can work on food once we eat. [3]

Digestive enzymes work for about an hour after taking them then eating. This is when enzymes are breaking down the nutrients and helping to absorb vitamins and minerals. [4]

When will I see Results From Digestive Enzymes?

Next, we’re going to dive into how long does it take for digestive enzymes to work and when you will start feeling results. Like anything else, your body needs to adjust  to new things. Especially supplemental enzymes, helping your body break down food. You can expect to start seeing improvement in bloating, stomach pains and diarrhea within a few days after taking digestive enzymes. 

There was a study that tested the effects of digestive enzymes on common digestive problems. The results showed that after five days of treatment, similase (a digestive enzyme supplement), was significantly better in reducing abdominal pain than domperidone (an anti nausea medication). [6]

Another study done by Wade Lightheart showed performance athletes started seeing benefits after taking a high volume of prolyetic enzymes (proteases) for 90 days. This study focused on performance rather than bloating and gas symptoms. This makes sense because taking digestive enzymes on an empty stomach lead to decreased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. [7]

Something good to keep in mind—as we know, digestive enzymes break down nutrients. So this means in order for them to do their job, you need to make sure you are fueling your body with nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.

Yes, if you eat a donut digestive enzymes will help to digest the fat. Though, because the enzymes’ role is to break down nutrients, if you are not consuming  nutritious foods the enzymes will have nothing to break down resulting in bloating, inflammation and fatigue. [5]

Can I Take Digestive Enzymes Every day?

The answer is it depends. 

Typically a healthy person does not need digestive enzymes because the body already makes them. But if you are diagnosed with an enzyme deficiency or you commonly get gas and diarrhea symptoms you can take them daily. Enzyme supplementation can play an important role in many malabsorption disorders [8,10].

If you’re looking to prevent chronic diseases and increase longevity it is also good to take proteolytic enzymes daily on an empty stomach. Plant source enzymes, bromelain and papain contain proteolytic enzymes and are beneficial to take everyday. [9]

If you find yourself relying on digestive enzymes to combat unwanted symptoms without having a deficiency, it may be time to set up a virtual coaching call with one of our dietitians to help you figure out the underlying cause of the issues.

How Long Should you Take Digestive Enzymes?

You might be wondering, how long should you take digestive enzymes for? As I mentioned, it is okay to take digestive enzymes everyday depending on your body and goals. Although, if you start experiencing increased bloating, gas, diarrhea or irritation in your stomach, maybe it’s time to stop taking them or try a different formula. [11]

One study showed that proteolytic enzyme supplements helped to heal a wound by speeding up tissue growth. So after a surgery or if you have bad cut it’s probably a good idea to take enzymes until the wound heals. [12]

Our body changes over time. Some people can develop deficiencies that they never had before or someone’s digestive issues can go away. The best way to know how long should you take digestive enzymes depends on if you need to take them or what your symptoms are. You can take them for as long as you need to. If you begin experiencing side effects, limit your consumption or stop taking them.

Foods to Take Digestive Enzymes With

Many people question if they can take digestive enzymes with certain supplements and snacks. We’re going to get into some common questions about what you can take your digestive enzymes with.

Should I Take Digestive Enzymes With Snacks?

Yes! If the snack is a food you experience unwanted symptoms with, you should take digestive enzymes with snacks. It’s best to always read the suggested use label to know when you should take them and how.

Should I Take Digestive Enzymes With Protein Shakes?

Protein shakes can be a post workout snack or even replace a meal. Many people wonder, should I take digestive enzymes with protein shakes? The answer is for sure! One of the many functions that digestive enzymes have is to break down proteins into amino acids.

It is important to look at the nutrition label because some protein shakes or powders already contain digestive enzymes. In this case you wouldn’t need to supplement with the shake.

Some protein powders that already contain digestive enzymes are:

Garden of Life Organic Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder

  • Contains 22 grams of protein 
  • 0 grams of sugar
  • Contains probiotics to aid in digestion 

Kos Vegan Protein Powder 

  • Best tasting vegan protein powder
  • Contains 20 grams of protein
  • Is great for a meal replacement 

LyfeFUEL Meal Replacement Shake

  • Offers 18 grams of protein
  • Includes a variety of vitamins

Vega Sport Premium

  • Contains 30 grams of protein
  • Offers BCAAs to help build protein in muscle
  • Includes tart cherry and tumeric reducing inflammation

Ka’Chava Meal Replacement Shake

  • Best tasting meal replacement shake
  • Contains 25 grams of protein
  • Con: 6 added sugars

Orgain Perfect Meal Powder

  • Offers 25 grams of protein
  • Contains 10 grams of fiber and 80+ superfoods
  • Con: 5 grams of added sugar along with 4 grams of monounsaturated fat 

Check out our post on the 13 Best Plant Based Protein Powders if you want to learn more about plant based protein powders.

When you Shouldn’t Take Digestive Enzymes

You shouldn’t take digestive enzymes when you are taking specific medications like blood thinners or diabetes medications. Digestive enzymes have been known to interfere with Warfarin. Enzymes, papain and bromelain can increase Warfrin’s blood thinning effect. If you are taking any of these medications it’s best to talk to your doctor before adding a digestive enzyme to your diet. [17]

Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes

What are probiotics? How are they different from enzymes? Can we use them together? Many people mix up probiotics and digestive enzymes because they both aid in gut health. They are actually two very different things that may give more benefits when working together.

Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain the “good” bacteria and yeast that can aid in overall digestion and gut health. When you don’t eat a lot of probiotics, your body can be fatigued or your immune health can go down, causing you to get sick. [13]

Some common foods rich in probiotics are greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. The most common types of probiotics you can find on nutrition labels are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. 

Digestive enzymes are different from probiotics because enzymes are chemically breaking down food particles in order to help with digestion, whereas probiotics are bacteria. They both can be beneficial when taken together. 

If you have a food intolerance you will most likely be taking digestive enzymes. Probiotics have also been known to help with intolerances. Studies have shown that probiotics can help with gluten and dairy intolerances. If you have an intolerance or deficiency, I would recommend taking digestive enzymes and probiotics together. [14, 15]

When adding a probiotic to an enzyme supplement containing lactose and pancreatic enzymes, there was an advantage in managing gastrointestinal disorders. So when people ask how long does it take for digestive enzymes to work, adding a probiotic could help digestive enzymes work faster. [16]

Like probiotics, glutathione is a supplement that pairs well with digestive enzymes. Glutathione helps to bind enzymes so that they can digest properly and carry out nutrients to different parts of our bodies. Consuming a turmeric based food after taking digestive enzymes can help to convert the enzymes to glutathione, helping our cells work properly.

Why you Should Take an Advanced Stool Test

You may be wondering, what the heck is an advanced stool test and why should I take one? Advanced stool tests can actually be very important in gut health and figuring out what is really going on in your body.

So, what is an Advanced stool test? This stool test can determine different gut disorders that may be in your body by examining leukocytes, fats, pancreatic enzymes, bacteria and parasites. After you give the physician your stool sample, they use different forms of testing like microscopic examination and microbiological testing. [18]

Advanced stool tests will tell you all the microbes in your gut as well as the “good” bacteria. You will learn what foods you can enjoy and which you should minimize. Advanced stool tests have been shown in early detection of some cancers like liver and colon cancer. [19, 20, 21]

There is so much to learn by participating in an advanced stool test. Ultimately you can find out how similar gut issues between people can have a different underlying cause based on your unique body. Fixing your gut and knowing how your body works can help you finally lose weight, stop symptoms and reduce your risk for chronic diseases. [19]

Maybe you haven’t heard of advanced stool tests. This is because many clinicians have not tested the gut microbiome in regular clinical practice. If you want to take an advanced stool test or find out what’s really going on with your gut I recommend talking to a dietitian or someone who specializes in gut health who uses this way of testing. [22]

Summing up all the Questions on Digestive Enzymes

There you have it! We’ve answered all the common questions out there on digestive enzymes. 

We learned that you can take digestive enzymes everyday. You should take them for as long as you need to. Maybe your goal is to stop unwanted symptoms like gas, bloating and fatigue. Maybe you have a gluten intolerance. Maybe you are taking proteolytic enzymes to get the longevity benefits. No matter which person you are, feel free to take enzymes unless you react to them in a negative way. In that case stop taking them or switch brands.

A common question is, should I take digestive enzymes with snacks? Digestive enzymes can be taken with snacks and smoothies, but if you use vegan protein powder, check the label. Maybe vegan protein powders already contain digestive enzymes and you don’t need to supplement with that meal. Don’t take digestive enzymes if you are taking a diabetes medication or blood thinner. Talk to your doctor before you start adding digestive enzymes to your diet.

Probiotics have a different role then enzymes, though they do both aid in digestion. Taking both can help with deficiencies and intolerances, leading to benefits in overall digestion. If you are concerned about your gut health and you want to learn more about what is really causing your symptoms, take an advanced stool test. You can learn all about the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut as well as what foods you should avoid. You might even be able to detect cancer early.

So, how long does it take for digestive enzymes to work? It takes about ten minutes for enzymes to get to the stomach to start working. After that, you can start seeing benefits usually after a few days. Stop your unwanted symptoms and try supplementing with a digestive enzyme. If you find that your issues aren’t being treated, talk to a dietitian to find the underlying cause.


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