Systemic enzyme supplements that enhance digestive system function can help increase the body’s ability to utilize the nutrients consumed
As many as 70 million Americans are faced with a digestive disease according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, accounting for 21.7 million hospitalizations and nearly a quarter of a million deaths every year, causing a renewed interest in systemic enzyme supplements.
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology adds that gastrointestinal symptoms, in general, appear to affect roughly two-thirds of the population. The most common symptoms reported include heartburn and acid reflux, followed by abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
Some patients turn to digestive systemic enzyme supplements for help with both symptoms and disease. These supplements are designed to assist the body with the healthy — and hopefully asymptomatic — breakdown and digestion of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. A quick look at the research suggests that they may offer this benefit, and more.
Digestive systemic enzyme supplements and overall health
A 2016 review of the evidence indicates that digestive enzyme supplements can be “a reliable help” in treating digestive function impairments. They often work by impacting the organs involved in the production of digestive enzymes, namely the pancreas and small intestine.
In some cases, the supplemental enzyme’s positive effects lie in its ability to negatively regulate enzyme secretions. Others are formulated to serve as a replacement for digestive enzymes that the body either lacks completely or in part. One example involves people who are lactose intolerant. Replacing the body’s native lactase can help reduce or resolve this intolerance.
Impact of supplements on nutrient absorption
Since digestive enzymes assist in the breakdown of food-based substances, if these enzymes aren’t present or are lacking in their ability to perform this function, the body may not be getting the nutrients it needs for maximal health. This is especially problematic when certain diseases exist, such as cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis can reduce nutrient absorption, in part, by inflaming and degrading the organs that assist with digestion — the pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and intestines. Research explains that this disease impacts fat digestion most often and that replacement enzymes can help ease this effect.
Relief for patients with IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder, impacting between 10-15% of the adult population according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Though, it is estimated that half of the people with IBS have not been diagnosed and, therefore, are not being treated by a gastroenterologist.
IBS patients often experience gastrointestinal issues after eating, which include bloating and diarrhea. In a 2017 study of 29 patients, it was discovered that 34% were deficient in a particular enzyme: sucrase isomaltase. Of those with this deficiency, 60% reported having post-meal diarrhea, 40% had abdominal pain, and 40% experienced bloating.
While the research population was too small to say conclusively that enzyme deficiency can lead to more cases of diarrhea, the study’s authors suggest that sucrase maldigestion should at least be considered when treating patients with IBS. Plus, all of the patients with a sucrase enzyme deficiency also had concomitant lactase deficiency, adding another level of complexity to this disease and the digestive enzymes that could be involved.
The connection between digestion and immunity
Each of the three macronutrients plays a role in immunity. For instance, one study reports that marathon runners and triathletes who consumed carbohydrates after heavy exertion had lower levels of physiologic stress than when compared to athletes consuming a placebo. And if the body isn’t able to break down protein adequately, it can have “detrimental effects” on T-cell function according to another piece of research, increasing one’s risk of infection.
Systemic enzyme supplements that enhance digestive system function and enable a more effective absorption of carbs, protein, and fat can help increase the body’s ability to utilize the nutrients consumed. This benefits the immune system by providing the substances it requires for maximum protection against infection and disease.
Digestive enzyme supplements for improved mental health
Not only can supplementing digestive enzymes help improve physical health and immunity, but they may play an important role in mental health as well.
A 2015 study involved 101 children between the ages of 3-9 who had autism spectrum disorder. Some of the children were given digestive enzymes and the remainder received a placebo. After three months, the digestive enzyme group had “significant improvement” in not only their gastrointestinal symptoms but also their emotional response and general behavior.
Based on studies such as those outlined here, digestive systemic enzyme supplements appear to offer many health benefits, some of which extend well beyond easing gastrointestinal distress.