You try out a lot of products, diets, supplements and spa services on the quest for flawless skin. There might be one option you haven’t looked into yet, though: taking digestive enzymes. These supplements may help your body better break down and absorb nutrients. They could also help reduce the inflammation in your gut, which is important for clearer skin.
Here’s a look at why digestive enzymes may be the boost your skin has been missing.
What are digestive enzymes, anyway?
If you think back to biology class for a second, you may recall that enzymes like amylase and lipase break down complex sugars and fats in the body. “Digestive enzymes are naturally secreted by our body tissues,” explains Anna Guanche, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in Calabasas, CA. “Many are stored in the gallbladder and released when necessary to break down foods into their smaller components in order to allow our bodies to use and absorb the food as nutrients.”
In other words, when you eat a salad for lunch, you rely on digestive enzymes to help break down the kale, chicken and croutons for your body to fuel off of. “Digestive enzymes break down components of foods, such as proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, so that the nutrients can be better absorbed,” adds Sejal Shah, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City and RealSelf contributor. “These enzymes naturally occur in the digestive tract, but can be supplemented as well.”
Digestive enzymes and your glowing skin
So digestive enzymes are important for the body, but you might still be wondering, what does that have to do with my skin? It turns out, potentially a lot. Think of it this way: No matter how many healthy foods you consume, your skin won’t glow unless your body is absorbing the nutrients from them like vitamins A, C, E and zinc. “When you properly digest food you have access to higher amounts and quality of nutrients, which could, in turn, nourish the skin better,” says Guanche. “Nutrient absorption is improved when food becomes more bioavailable. In some cases, this could help with acne, but it’s very individual.”
The other potential benefit of digestive enzyme supplements is that they may help heal a leaky gut. Irritation and inflammation in the gut can lead to a host of skin problems including acne, eczema and rosacea. “The health of our microbiome and gut can have effects on the health of our skin,” confirms Anthony Youn, M.D., holistic plastic surgeon, Realself contributor, and author of The Age Fix Diet. “Decreasing inflammation in the gut, which digestive enzymes may help do, might improve acne for some people.” Youn says that’s why doctors often recommend taking enzyme supplements in combination with gut-healthy probiotics.
Although studies about the connection between gut health and healthy skin are limited, you may want to bring up digestive enzymes at your next dermatologist appointment if you suffer from acne or another condition causing inflamed skin.
Are digestive-enzyme supplements for you?
You may be a good candidate for supplemented digestive enzymes if you are lactose intolerant, or don’t digest different foods like gluten well. You also might want to try them if you suffer from digestive issues like IBS.
But keep in mind, digestive enzymes are relatively new to the market. There are currently limited scientific studies about how they benefit the body and the connection to healthy skin, which means there could be side effects. “A normal, healthy person produces digestive enzymes, unless their pancreas is defective, so some people may experience constipation from these supplements,” says Guanche.
That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking digestive enzymes. Youn also recommends working with a functional medicine practitioner or naturopathic physician who can work out a full-spectrum enzyme blend tailored specifically to your needs.