There are a wide variety of digestive enzyme supplements on drugstore shelves for addressing stomach discomfort. But what precisely can they accomplish, and who stands to gain from them? Here is all the information you require on these over-the-counter supplements.
An Overview of Digestive Enzymes
Proteins called enzymes operate as catalysts for different bodily chemical processes. Your body (more particularly, your gastrointestinal tract) naturally creates digestive enzymes that help in digestion and nutrient absorption while also breaking down the carbs, proteins, and fats in the food you eat.
According to Rudolph Bedford, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. A digestive enzyme shortage may obstruct this nutritional absorption and produce gastric discomfort in some patients, including those with chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and even lactose intolerance.
According to Dr. Bedford, a lack of these enzymes can cause any of the following symptoms:
Doctors may suggest a digestive enzyme supplement for those experiencing these symptoms. According to Dr. Bedford, they’re essentially substituted for the enzymes your body no longer produces in adequate amounts.
Different Types of Digestive Enzyme
Since 1948, when the use of digestive enzyme supplements and other digestive aids was mentioned in the medical text Physician’s Desk Reference, these products have been readily available. There are three major categories that control how the body breaks down nutrients, despite the fact that there are 20 different types of over-the-counter enzymes in use.
These enzymes are created by the body naturally, but they are also sold as over-the-counter supplements. They consist of:
- Amylase. An enzyme that converts carbs and starches into sugars is made in the pancreas and salivary glands.
- Protease. The small intestine of the organism receives this enzyme after it is generated in the pancreas. It converts amino acids from proteins.
- Lipase. This enzyme is produced in the pancreas and stomach and breaks down lipids into glycerol and fatty acids.
These three digestive enzymes are mostly animal-based and come from bovine and porcine sources when taken as supplements. Enzymes derived from microorganisms and plants are also available, though.
Additionally, there are two versions of these supplements: non-enteric-coated and enteric-coated. Slow release is a feature of enteric-coated tablets, which helps to prevent the pills from breaking down inside the stomach. An upset stomach and nausea may be lessened by selecting a coated pill.
Advantages of Digestive Enzyme Supplementation
Digestive enzymes may be helpful when used in conjunction with conventional therapies to treat conditions like pancreatic cancer, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis, according to research. Even celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the small intestine, may benefit from supplementation with these products, according to some research.
A digestive enzyme supplement can make it more comfortable for persons with lactose intolerance, a common illness in which the body cannot handle the sugars found in milk products.
According to Dr. Bedford, your small intestine secretes an enzyme called lactase that aids in the breakdown of the specific sugar contained in dairy products. He suggests taking the enzyme before a meal if you’re taking digestive enzymes as supplements.
As soon as the food enters the stomach, the enzyme should begin to function, he explains. You might need to take one before and one while you’re eating if it’s a big meal.
Pros and Cons of Digestive Enzymes
Dr. Bedford warns that taking replacement digestive enzymes may have some unwanted effects, such as nausea, cramping in the abdomen, or constipation. And while they are frequently used in the treatment of illnesses affecting the gastrointestinal system and are generally regarded as safe supplements, Dr. Bedford advises against taking an over-the-counter supplement without your doctor’s consent.
Before you decide to begin taking any of these enzymes, he advises, “bring your concerns to your physician and allow them to first do some basic testing like blood tests before you decide to start taking any of these enzymes,“
The Best Ways to Find Digestive Enzymes
You may decide to only buy supplements that have been examined by a third party because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor dietary supplements as thoroughly as it does drugs. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) seal is the one to check for as it is the sole national standard in the U.S for testing supplements.
If your supplement has the NSF mark, it has been examined for pollutants like mold and dangerous germs, heavy metals like mercury and lead, and the ingredients it claims to include.
Sources of Digestive Enzymes in Foods
There are also easy, natural ways to improve your enzyme intake, according to Dr. Bedford, if you regularly experience signs of a digestive enzyme deficit like bloating, cramps, or diarrhea. Consider including the following foods in your diet:
According to Dr. Bedford, “all the foods you can imagine that are healthy for you, they do have their own digestive enzymes that may help in digestion.” He also advises following a low-fat diet and ingesting fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Overall, the body produces digestive enzymes on its own. However, there have been instances where some individuals were unable to sufficiently create them. You most likely lack these enzymes and may require supplementation if you experience bloating, cramps, diarrhea, gas, bad-smelling stool, or undesirable weight loss. Although digestive enzymes are generally considered to be safe, it is still important to consult your doctor about your concerns because taking digestive enzyme supplements carries a risk of nausea, abdominal cramps, and constipation.