The body gets the fuel it needs. You eat, the food gets digested properly and you live your life as a healthy individual. Which means your pancreas and other responsible organs are producing the digestive enzymes you need to break down the food into “building blocks”.
Enzymes such as lipase, amylase and protease break down fat, carbohydrates and proteins respectively. These nutrients are soaked up in our bloodstreams.
But what happens when an error appears in the natural process?
When your body stops secreting digestive enzymes or doesn’t produce enough of them, digestive problems such as constipation, bloating and lactose intolerance occur. And when the body does not get enough fuel – it does exactly what any other machine would do in its place – it stops working the way it should and issues such as chronic fatigue start to interfere with the quality of your life.
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What are Oral Digestive Enzymes?
The health issues related with digestive enzymes will drive you to the doctor, who will suggest that you take oral digestive enzymes or digestive enzyme supplements. These are supplements to provide your body with a sufficient quantity of enzymes to speed up the digestion process and battle the digestive problems. The enzymes present in the supplements are extracted from animals such as cows and, plants and fruits such as papaya.
Digestive enzymes are naturally present in a lot of fruits and the doctor might recommend you to eat those fruits to cure minor digestive issues. For example, a special type of protease called “bromelain” is present in pineapples which breaks down proteins in the body. Similarly, papayas also have a type of protease called papain and it is found that the supplement present in papayas alleviates constipation and bloating. Mangoes and bananas contain amylases which break down carbs into sugars which the body then easily soaks up.
Likewise, digestive enzymes are also present in raw honey, which is beneficial for a number of reasons. In addition to proteases and amylases, honey also contains diastases and invertases which break down starch and sucrose respectively.
Digestive enzymes are available over the counter and are available both in capsule and tablet form, which may either be chewable or non-chewable.
Benefits of Digestive Enzymes
The body needs digestive enzymes to quicken the digestion process and any insufficiency leads to digestive issues. Therefore, the most obvious advantage of using such medication is that it helps with indigestion.
A lack of digestive enzymes causes several problems in the body. Their role is vast and interconnected with all other parts of the body. For example, our neurotransmitters need amino acids to function effectively. These amino acids are created when the digestive enzymes do their magic and break down proteins. Insufficient enzymes means our mood and mental health will be affected. Memory and focus will also be blurred. Taking digestive enzymes will resolve this issue.
Likewise, our skin needs nutrients – as you might have heard when browsing through the internet about skin-care. A large range of products are available to treat your skin and the saloon lady might suggest that you undergo a number of treatments to get the “glow”. Truth is, skin problems might arise when it isn’t receiving the nutrients that it needs. Digestive enzymes will, therefore, ensure that the skin receives an adequate amount of nutrients and indirectly, will help you get clearer skin.
It’s not just the skin that needs nutrients; the entire body needs them. Without the right number of enzymes, the process of break-down of food will slag and so will you. You might start to feel tired more often or you may get more headaches. Digestive enzymes will ensure that the break-down of carbs is done quickly – which are key components in energy production.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a blanket term used for a condition that involves recurrent abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea. A small-scale pilot study was carried out to test the effectiveness of the digestive enzyme pancrelipase in relieving IBS symptoms. A control group was given placebo and results indicated that the digestive enzyme helped with bloating, pain and cramping.
Similarly, the digestive enzyme bromelain (recall that it is found in pineapples and breaks down proteins) is said to provide some relief to patients of inflammatory bowel disease. This was tested out on mice – but the area is still under-researched and studies do not provide a clear-cut result.
There are some other areas where digestive enzymes could prove to be beneficial. While results of studies are still blurry and unreliable, these supplements have allowed some patients to witness improvement in symptoms.
Examples include cancer, autism, arthritis and muscle soreness.
Side Effects and Precautions
As with any other medicine, digestive enzymes might pose a number of side effects. However, these usually do not appear unless you are taking a really high dosage.
Side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, nasal congestion, swelling of legs, neck pain, dizziness, rash, low or high blood sugar, abnormal faeces, renal cyst, viral infection, muscle spasms and flatulence.
Some people might experience an allergic reaction to this medicine.
The list above is not exhaustive and other side effects may occur.
It is recommended that you consult a doctor before using digestive enzymes who will provide you with a dosage that is in line with your digestive issue. Moreover, it is important that you tell the doctor all the other medicines that you may be taking – especially, blood-thinners which may have a harmful interaction with digestive enzymes. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, do not take the medicine without a prescription.
Keeping the non-chewable tablet in the mouth for too long may cause irritation in the mouth. Moreover, if you are opening the capsule and mixing the powder with water, be careful not to inhale the powder as it might lead to an asthma attack.
Digestive enzymes are essential to your body as they are responsible for breaking down food into easily absorbable components. If your body is not producing enough digestive enzymes, the doctor will recommend you to take oral digestive enzymes or at the very least, eat fruits in which these enzymes are naturally available.
The medication usually does not pose a lot of side effects unless taken in high dosages but necessary precautions must be taken and interactions must be considered.