When you’re shopping for enzymes, you may see the phrases “enteric coated” and “non-enteric coated” on different products. If you’ve looked into these phrases, you may be alarmed to see that enteric coating often means the product is coated with plastic and other harmful substances. Naturally, you don’t want to consume plastic. So you need to find solutions that provide the benefits of enteric coating without plastic. We provide those solutions through the use of an enteric coated powder that encompasses the enzymes instead of damaging capsules.
At the end of the day, you want to choose systemic enzymes that do their job without causing undue harm to your body. That means you should shop for products that can easily absorb in the intestinal tract to ensure that they offer the full benefits of the substances within but don’t require you to ingest plastic or other harmful substrates.
AST Enzymes products address all of these issues by adding an enteric coating to the enzymes themselves instead of using capsules. Our enteric-coated serrapeptase, for example, provides all the digestive benefits of enteric coating without plastic consumption.
We don’t use plastics or plastic capsules in our enteric coatings to prevent health-related issues. Instead, we use Methacrylic Acid Copolymer (MAAC), which is the most gastro-resistant version compared with ones used by competitors. Our enteric-coated enzymes are able to reach the small intestine with higher activity to ensure full systemic enzyme therapy.
Although probiotics don’t generally need an enteric coating — they’re bacteria, and they’re able to survive in harsh environments — some forms of probiotics do need an enteric coating. Vegetarian-sourced (plant-based) enzymes are a bit less delicate and generally do not require assistance in the form of an enteric coating. None of our enzymes or probiotics use phthalates in their enteric coatings.
Let’s talk more about MAAC. What is it? MAAC is a safe, food-grade compound that has no known side effects. Compared with Hydroxypropyl Methycellulose Phthalate (HPMCP) — one of the most commonly used enteric coating compounds on the market — MAAC carries fewer risks and is safer on the gastrointestinal tract. This compound is considered GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and is approved for use by the Food Safety Authority.
What is Enteric Coating?
The word “enteric” is derived from the Greek word for intestine. Enteric coating is a special coating used on oral medications and supplements that helps a substance maintain a certain makeup or quality even when exposed to harsh acids inside the stomach. Enteric coatings are found on a wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications and supplements, from everyday aspirin tablets to beneficial systemic enzymes and nutritional supplements.
Usually, enteric coating refers to a layer of lipids, waxes, fatty acids and sometimes phthalates (plastic) that coats capsules, but it may also refer to a plastic-free powder or another compound. Its purpose is to protect the capsule from being denatured in highly acidic environments within the digestive tract. Your stomach isn’t the most hospitable environment for certain substances, and enteric coatings help enzymes do what they’re supposed to do throughout their digestive journey.
What Enteric Enzymes Do in the Digestive Tract
What’s so interesting about enteric coated enzymes is that they have the unique ability to adjust to various environments. For example, they will help pills stay resistant in high-acidity environments such as the stomach, but still allow them to dissolve in low-acidic (basic) environments, such as the intestine. Think of enteric coated probiotics or enzymes like chameleons: they’re “smart” enough to adjust based on what’s around them. In the end, this can help the body improve absorption of the capsule’s contents.
These types of capsules can also be thought of as optimizers: they work within the unique conditions of the gastrointestinal system to heighten performance of what’s inside at the exact right time. For this reason, specific medications should be enteric coated. For example, insulin tends to rapidly degrade in the stomach, so enteric coated insulin must be used to prevent the drug from being released early, before reaching the intestine.
Enteric-coated aspirin, including almost all kinds of low-dose aspirin besides chewable tablets, is also regularly used to help improve delivery and make digestion easier. Many aspirin labels say “coated” or “safety coated.” These types of coatings are also commonly used to create “time-release” drugs in order to prevent the medication from absorbing into the body too soon. Medications with that phrase on the label most likely have enteric coatings.
The Benefits of Enteric Coating
Besides the fact that enteric coatings can help sensitive enzymes and other substances survive in the highly acidic conditions of the stomach, they also have various other benefits.
One of the most common myths associated with taking enzymes is that they break down in the stomach and become ineffective. Enteric coated enzymes such as our MAAC enzymes ensure that this doesn’t happen by allowing them to dissolve in the intestine. Coatings are necessary for delicate enzymes, because stomach acids may prematurely release active ingredients and then destroy them before they can be properly absorbed. In other words, enteric coatings allow enzymes to work at the best possible level.
After you swallow a pill or capsule, it sits and churns in the stomach for up to two hours, exposing it to a highly acidic environment (somewhere between pH 1-4) that can compromise the makeup of the supplement. Enteric coating powder like MAAC prevents the stomach from dissolving the enzymes too early and from losing their effectiveness. Studies show that enzymes may lose activity in the low pH environment of the stomach, which is why enteric coatings are so important when dealing with enzymes and other particularly fragile supplements.
- Gentler on the Stomach — Enteric coated medications are said to be gentler on the stomach, since they move past the stomach and absorb in the intestinal tract. This is especially favorable when taking medications, such as aspirin, that tend to cause upset stomach or nausea.
- Easier to Digest — In the case of fatty acid or fish oil supplements, an enteric coating may help prevent gross fish-tasting burps and aftertaste while also allowing the body to better absorb the Omega-3 oils and other nutritional components that are beneficial to the body when properly absorbed.
- Won’t Dissolve in the Mouth — Certain drugs and supplements that are acid-activated but aren’t enteric coated may dissolve in the mouth or esophagus, which is not ideal for helping substances absorb in the bloodstream. Enteric coated capsules solve this problem.
What About the Plastic?
Now that we know that enteric coatings have certain benefits — from helping enzymes absorb into the bloodstream to making capsules easier on the stomach — let’s talk a bit about their makeup. As previously mentioned, many enteric coatings are made up of phthalates, which can actually make you sick and affect your body’s hormones. It’s not fully known what effects these chemicals have on human health, but new studies emerge every day.
Although the U.S. has not outright banned phthalates in pharmaceutical products, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it could be on the horizon. Following the example of a similar ban in the European Union, the U.S. banned the use of certain phthalates in children’s toys, and have even linked them to fertility problems in men and women. Scientists have also connected phthalates to childhood obesity, asthma, neurological problems and cardiovascular issues.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not outlaw the use of phthalates in pharmaceuticals. However, they do provide a myriad of limitations and note that in animal studies, some phthalates have been shown to be developmental and reproductive toxicants. We don’t want to dissuade you from choosing enteric coated medications with phthalates, but it is certainly something to look into.
Are Enteric Coatings Safe?
When weighing enteric coated versus non-enteric coated enzymes and medications, it’s important to determine whether or not they’re safe. The simple answer is: it depends. Take a stroll through the pain relief aisle at any major drugstore and you’ll see rows upon rows of medications with enteric coatings. Of course, the most common example of this is over-the-counter aspirin. So, does that mean they’re safe?
We simply don’t know for sure, but we do know that phthalate-based coatings are linked to some serious — and frankly, frightening — health issues. This is why we’ve chosen to avoid the use of phthalates all together in our products. Despite this, we do know that many pharmaceutical manufacturers actually use enteric coatings to make products safer.
For example, the vaccine for typhoid fever is almost always treated with an enteric coating to ensure that the medication’s potency isn’t comprised in the stomach. The best thing you can do to get the benefits of enteric coatings (and, thus, the full benefits of the medications or supplements themselves) is to choose products with no phthalates.
How We Use Enteric Coatings
As you now know, AST Enzymes uses safe, phthalate-free enteric coatings to strike a good balance between product efficacy and safety. Let’s take a look at some of our products to see exactly how we use enteric coatings to enhance our systemic enzymes.
Many people take serrapeptase for support to the respiratory and sinus systems as well as the muscles, joints and tissues. Some people prefer to take a blend of enteric coated serrapeptase and enteric coated nattokinase (such as our Serracor-NK®) for added circulatory support. All of our serrapeptase-based enzymes are enteric coated to ensure that they properly pass through the small intestine into the blood stream.
Serrapeptase is a microbial-sourced enzyme, which means that it’s much more fragile than other types of enzymes. For that reason, an enteric coated serrapeptase is a necessity for the best results. Serrapeptase is sourced from delicate microbials, meaning it must be treated with a reliable enteric coating in order to ensure proper delivery to the intestine.
Excellacor, which is made with enteric coated serrapeptase, is a good choice for anyone looking for systemic enzymes to support overall metabolic health, blood circulation, recovery from muscle soreness and joint and tendon health. Our Ultimate Metabolic Formula is another one of our popular enteric coated enzymes featuring serrapeptase. It provides healthy joint function, injury recovery and fibrin metabolism.
What About Probiotics?
Interestingly, we use spore-forming probiotics, which are a unique example of a supplement that doesn’t require an enteric coating. Why? Essentially, these supplements are mostly just bacteria, and as you know, bacteria is pretty tough. In other words, it can survive in super-harsh environments. In many cases, spore-forming probiotics rely on their own natural defenses to get past your stomach acid. Probiotics as well as vegetarian-sourced enzymes, like bromelain and papain, have inherent qualities that make them resistant to harsh stomach acid, so they do not require enteric coatings.
For these reasons, we do not use enteric coatings in our systemic enzymes or any other probiotics, but instead use spore-forming probiotics. These enzymes can help enhance immune cell function and cell metabolism through proteolytic enzymes, which are naturally occurring plant enzymes that break down proteins and help deliver potent antioxidants and other nutritional support to the body. Unlike more fragile enzymes like nattokinase and serrapeptase, plant-based enzymes don’t require help via enteric coatings.
As you can see, not all types of medications, many types of enzymes and supplements require an enteric coating, and not all enteric coatings are created equally. We determine whether or not to add an enteric coating based on the unique attributes of the supplement itself as well as the most desirable location for absorption.
We hope that this article has helped you learn more about enteric coatings and their benefits. At the end of the day, we strive to help our customer base stay informed about various different types of enzymes as well as their features and benefits. Choosing phthalate-free enteric coated enzymes over enteric coated capsules (plastic) is a good choice for anyone looking for a safe yet effective option. We’re always available to answer any questions you may have about systemic enzymes, probiotics and digestive enzymes.