Chronic pain patients are only one subset that can benefit from proper digestive enzymes production
Supplemental digestive enzymes are an underutilized tool in the chiropractic community. With proper use, digestive enzymes can improve digestion and facilitate healing from a range of inflammatory conditions.
Though the body produces digestive enzymes on its own, poor nutrition and other lifestyle factors can impede the production of these essential digestive components. If you are working with a patient who is struggling with poor digestion, inflammation, an injury or chronic pain, you should consider adding digestive enzymes to their healing protocol. Though the research on digestive enzymes is still in early stages, clinical experience supports a broader use of digestive enzymes in supplemental form. Chiropractors should be knowledgeable enough to prescribe a good-quality digestive enzyme supplement to patients who might benefit.
Enzymes at every stage of digestion
Digestive enzymes like protease, amylase and lipase are produced throughout the digestive tract and facilitate the assimilation of essential nutrients from food. Enzymes are secreted at every stage in the digestive process, from the time that a bite of food enters your mouth until it leaves the colon. Many important enzymes are produced by the pancreas and secreted into the small intestine, where much of the hard work of digestion takes place. And, the body is smart enough to secrete different enzymes for different foods. Amylase breaks starches down into sugars, while protease breaks proteins into amino acids and lipase breaks fats into individual fatty acids.
Basically, enzymes work to reduce the size of food particles and facilitate their assimilation through the brush border of the small intestine. Individual enzymes are like factory workers that take a nutrient molecule and decide how big or small it should be for optimal assimilation. If the body isn’t producing enough enzymes or producing them in the right balance, patients won’t be able to assimilate all of the nutrients they are consuming from food. This hinders the body’s ability to repair and recover. Remember: Healing can only take place if the body is receiving and assimilating the right nutrients from food.
Digestion does not mean absorption
If a patient is experiencing digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation or bloating, they may be struggling to digest foods for which they lack the proper enzymes. Though a comprehensive approach to treating gastrointestinal distress should involve more than just enzymes, you should always include a good-quality digestive enzyme in your repertoire of treatment options.1,2
If a patient takes a digestive enzyme supplement and feels better, congratulations! You have identified and corrected the problem. If a patient takes a digestive enzyme supplement and only shows some improvement, you may need to add additional supplements and/or treatments to their protocol. Over time, a digestive enzyme supplement will facilitate the assimilation of more nutrients from food. This means a patient’s health will improve to the point that they may be able to produce their own enzymes without supplemental support. At this stage, you can work with a patient to wean them off of all but the most essential supplements for long-term maintenance.
Digestive enzymes for chronic pain
Studies also show that individuals suffering from chronic pain can benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation. Because enzymes facilitate the absorption of nutrients from food, they are useful in providing relief from chronic pain and in speeding recovery from surgery.3,4,5
When the body is getting 100% nutrition, it knows how to heal itself. Digestive enzymes also facilitate healing from sports injuries.6,7,8
Because digestive enzymes facilitate the absorption of more nutrients from food, they accelerate the body’s natural healing process and prevent painful scar tissue from forming. If an old injury has healed badly, digestive enzymes facilitate the absorption of nutrients that help to break down fibrin scar tissue and remove it from the body.
Finding the right digestive enzymes
To start prescribing supplemental digestive enzymes, start by identifying a high-quality brand of supplements you can trust. If the product isn’t made well or contains harmful fillers, it won’t produce the improvements in patient outcomes that you’re looking for. Typically, a high-quality supplement maker will disclose information about how the supplement was made, how their quality control processes operate, and exactly why you can be confident in its quality. Don’t just buy anything you can find on the shelf at Walmart or GNC. Though finding a good-quality supplement can take time and effort, the results will be absolutely worth the effort.
Once you’ve identified a high-quality product, start by prescribing it to patients who are most likely to benefit. Over time, you will start to see improvements in patient outcomes, and this will build your confidence that you are taking the right approach. Just remember that digestive enzymes are only one part of a comprehensive treatment plan — they can help, but they’ll make the largest difference if a patient is also eating a healthy diet, living an active lifestyle and managing daily stress. When you provide counselling in these areas, you can really make an enormous difference in each patient’s life.
TODD SINGLETON, DC, is an author, speaker and consultant who has been a chiropractor for more than 25 years. He ran the largest MD/DC/PT clinics in Utah before switching to an all-cash nutrition-based model in 2006, and now spends his time training other chiropractors how to successfully implement nutrition-based systems in their offices. For more information call 801-903-7141 or visit DoctorSingletonsArticles.com.
1. Simadibrata, M., Wanders, R. J., Jan, G., Tytgat, G. N., Lesmana, L. A., Daldiyono, & Ariawan, I. (2003). Examination of small bowel enzymes in chronic diarrhea. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 18(1), 53–56.
2. Ianiro, G., Pecere, S., Giorgio, V., Gasbarrini, A., & Cammarota, G. (2016). Digestive enzyme supplementation in gastrointestinal diseases. Current Drug Metabolism, 17(2), 187–193.
3. Klein, G. A., Kullich, W., Schnitker, J., & Schwann, H. (2006). Efficacy and tolerance of an oral enzyme combination in painful osteoarthritis of the hip. A double-blind, randomised study comparing oral enzymes with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Clinical and experimental rheumatology, 24 (1), 25-30.
4. Singh, T., More, V., Fatima, U., Karpe, T., Aleem, M., & Prameela, J. (2016). Effect of proteolytic enzyme bromelain on pain and swelling after removal of third molars. Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, 6(9), 197.
5. Frank, S. (1965). Use of chymoral as an anti-inflammatory agent following surgical trauma. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, 55(10), 706–709.
6. Deitrick, R. E. (1965). Oral proteolytic enzymes in the treatment of athletic injuries: A double-blind study. Pennsylvania Medicine 68, 35-37.
7. Rathgeber, W. F. (1971). The use of proteolytic enzymes (Chymoral) in sporting injuries. South African Medical Journal 45, 181-183.
8. Kerkhoffs, G. M. M. J., Struijs, P. A. A., de Wit, C., Rahlfs, V. W., Zwipp, H., & van Dijk, C. N. (2004). A double blind, randomised, parallel group study on the efficacy and safety of treating acute lateral ankle sprain with oral hydrolytic enzymes. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38(4), 431.