Digestive Enzymes for Better Digestion

Enzymes are biological catalysts. Until recently, it was thought that all enzymes were protein in nature. It is now known that ribonucleic acids and other non-protein substances can have enzymatic activity as well. Digestive enzymes include pancreatic enzymes, plant-derived enzymes, and fungal-derived enzymes. There are three classes of digestive enzymes: proteolytic enzymes needed to digest protein, lipases needed to digest fat, and amylases needed to digest carbohydrates. In many cases health care practitioners will prescribe digestive enzymes as supplements for individuals suffering from conditions caused by malabsorption (i.e. cystic fibrosis, pancreatic insufficiency, etc.). Additionally, pancreatic enzymes have been prescribed for use by individual that are experiencing indigestion that cannot be attributed to a specific cause.

While not substantiated by any meaningful scientific studies, some professionals believe that some allergies come as a result of partially undigested protein. It has been proposed that proteolytic enzymes may help to reduce allergies by further breaking down undigested protein to a size where they cannot cause allergies.

It has also been suggested that proteolytic enzymes such as trypsin, chymotrypsin, and bromelain that are partially absorbed by the body may have anti-inflammatory and antitumor effects. Proteolytic enzymes may also improve the body's immune system whereby increasing the body's ability to fight off illnesses.

Dosage and Administration

Proteolytic enzymes, lipases, and amylases as supplements are often taken together. Pancreatin, a compound containing all three digestive enzymes, is a common for of supplementation. Three to four grams of pancreatin with each meal is likely to help digest food in some people with pancreatic insufficiency.

Those with chronic pancreatitis need to discuss enzyme intakes with their physician. Some individuals with pancreatic insufficiency caused by pancreatitis are given very high levels of enzymes to improve fat digestion, under the supervision of a doctor. It has also been suggested that since pancreatin is rapidly emptied from the stomach during digestion, people taking these enzymes may obtain better results by spreading out supplementation throughout the meal.

For specific supplementation recommendations follow the directions on the manufacturer packaging.