Digestive enzymes assist and speed up the chemical processes associated with digestion. In most cases, our bodies naturally produce enzymes that are capable of digesting food. However, individuals with certain health conditions and disorders may require the use of supplements to supply enzymes that aid digestion. Although many people with pancreatic disorders often require the use of prescription pancrelipase, the benefits of digestive enzymes in healthy individuals remains uncertain.
The following digestive enzymes are classified by the type of biochemical molecules on which they exert their effects:
- Lipase-(Fats, Lipids)
- Amylase-(Sugars, Carbohydrates)
Within each group, there are many subtypes of enzymes that are naturally produced by our body. In addition, digestive enzyme may also be contained in the foods that we eat. Some of the most common digestive enzymes found in supplements are derived from fruit sources.
Bromelain is a protease enzyme that is harvested from the stem of pineapples. Besides assisting in the digestion of proteins, it may also stimulate the muscles of the intestinal walls. Bromelain is often included a major ingredient in many digestive enzyme supplements. Since it is derived from pineapples, it may trigger an allergic reaction in people with pineapple allergies.
Papain is also a common ingredient included in digestive enzyme supplements. In contrast to bromelain, papain is a protease enzyme that is harvested from papaya fruit. Papain is also used to aid in the digestion of proteins. However, it can trigger an allergic reaction in person with allergies to papaya.
Digestive Enzyme Benefits
Although evidence to support the benefits of digestive enzyme supplements in healthy individuals is inconclusive, certain dietary enzymes have shown to be beneficial in people with specific health conditions. Lactase is an amylase that helps to break down lactose, a carbohydrate commonly found in dairy products. It can be of great benefit for individuals who suffer from lactose intolerance. Also, patients who suffer from a disorder of the pancreas are often prescribed pancrelipase to aid in the digestion of meals.
Digestive Enzyme Side Effects
An allergic reaction can occur in those who are sensitive to enzymes derived from certain plants or fruits. An allergic reaction may include the appearance of an itchy rash. More severe cases that include swelling of the mouth and throat, or difficulty breathing requires immediate medical attention. Since digestive enzymes exert their effect in the stomach and intestines, patients may experience symptoms of upset stomach or diarrhea. In addition, patients may experience nausea and vomiting.
The use of digestive enzymes may cause a fibrosing colonopathy. This occurs when enzymes cause damage and irritation to the inner linings of the intestinal tract. Although the mechanisms causing this adverse effect are unclear, fibrosing colonopathy is a serious medical condition. In theory, digestive enzymes can interfere with the healing of intestinal ulcers or perforations. Since digestive enzymes can interfere with medications and exacerbate certain health conditions, patients should always contact a physician before using digestive enzyme supplements.
Disclaimer:The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.