WHAT TO BUY Advanced Formula InflammEnz ($23.50; naturamart.com). This highly-concentrated formula contains bromelain, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and may help ease symptoms of osteoarthritis.
WHY IT WORKS Bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant, is thought to neutralize inflammation-causing biochemicals in the body. As an anti-inflammatory, bromelain supplements may be effective at reducing pain after surgeries or injuries, reducing the swelling and pain of arthritis, easing sinusitis, and relieving inflammation of the colon.
CAVEAT If you’re hoping to ease chronic inflammation, such as the symptoms of arthritis, Houston highly recommends finding a doctor or naturopath who is experienced in the use of enzymes to help you. “You need to take large amounts of supplements frequently to see results, and it can be difficult to figure out systemic treatment on your own,” he explains. Many distributors will only sell InflammEnz to healthcare professionals.
WHAT THEY DO Enzyme supplements can ease digestive woes such as acid reflux, heartburn, cramping, gassiness and bloating; reduce inflammation of the joints and muscles, and treat specific conditions caused by enzyme deficiencies. Some people experience weight loss after taking digestive enzymes.
SEE RESULTS Digestive changes are often noticed with the first dosing. For other maladies, it may take several weeks to see results, so be patient and willing to experiment with dosages and formulations.
WHO SHOULD TAKE THEM While anyone can benefit from digestive enzymes, research suggests people with conditions like lactose intolerance, cystic fibrosis, autism, pancreatitis, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or chronic pain can experience dramatic benefits. But be aware that thus far, enzyme supplements have not been shown to “cure” any disease or condition.
ENZYMES VS. PROBIOTICS There’s an important difference between probiotics and enzymes. Probiotics, like acidopholus and bifidus, are live organisms that produce enzymes to help our digestive tract function normally, while enzymes are proteins our body creates. Taking the two together can actually make each do its job better.
CHOOSING A SUPPLEMENT Devin Houston, Ph.D., founder of Houston Nutraceuticals, recommends, “Look into the backgrounds of the people behind the products and the claims they make, and learn how each different enzyme works in your body.” He recommends choosing a high-potency dosage based on activity—shown on the label as HUT, DU, FCCLU, for example—instead of weight.
Eat your enzymes!
Most of us eat cooked and processed foods at least some of the time, and processing and cooking may inactivate or destroy the enzymes in our food, meaning our bodies have to create more enzymes and work harder to digest it. According to Eric Braverman, M.D., adding more enzymes to our diets via the foods we eat is always the best place to start. All fresh, raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes, but papaya, pineapple, and sprouts are especially potent. Adding these to your diet may help give your digestive system a boost.