“After age 20, your body starts producing fewer enzymes which can make digesting certain foods harder, leading to stomach woes,” says the website of Zenwise, a popular source of digestive enzyme supplements on Amazon. “Replenishing those with Digestive Enzymes can help you enjoy digestive delight.”

Help Zenwise’s bottom line delight is more like it.

Our bodies make digestive enzymes that break down food into nutrients that we can absorb.

“The enzymes are secreted by the digestive tract starting in the mouth, but most digestive enzymes come from the pancreas,” says Kyle Staller, director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“This idea that we all have low-level digestive enzyme deficiency or that we could all benefit from a little boost doesn’t fit with our understanding of how the pancreas or enzymes work,” he notes.

“You need to have a loss of almost 90 percent of pancreatic enzymes to have GI effects that you would notice. The pancreas is very resilient. And there’s really no evidence that we produce fewer digestive enzymes as we age.”

What’s more, “so many of the symptoms that these enzyme supplements claim to treat are common and could be caused by a slew of different conditions,” says Staller. “To claim that they are all the result of low digestive enzymes is disingenuous.”

The only exceptions: people who have diagnosed pancreatic insufficiency or those with lactose intolerance.

“Lactase pills work for lactose intolerance,” says Dennis Savaiano, professor of nutrition science at Purdue University. “Take them with your milk.”

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