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Do I Need Digestive Enzymes?

Digestive enzymes as food additives help to break down different types of foods and improve absorption of nutrients. Most healthy people have sufficient natural digestive enzymes, but some people with certain health problems need to take digestive enzyme supplements to improve their digestion. There are several different kinds of digestive enzymes, including lipases, proteolytic enzymes and amylases, says the University of Michigan Health System. Each type of digestive enzyme has a unique function. Also, lactase enzymes are a specific type of digestive enzyme for people who are lactose intolerant, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Other digestive enzymes include bromelain, papain, pancreatin and pancreatic enzymes.

 

Lactase enzymes help to break down and digest lactose, a milk sugar in dairy products, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. People who are lactose intolerant lack lactase enzyme. Proteolytic enzymes work to properly digest proteins and are derived from animal-based sources, while amylases act to digest carbohydrates, says the University of Michigan Health System. Lipases play a crucial role in the digestion of fats. All digestive enzymes react to temperature and pH to activate certain chemical reactions in food substances. Proteolytic enzymes in particular, include the pineapple-derived bromelain, chymotrypsin, trypsin, serrapeptase and pancreatin, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

 

Your doctor may recommend that you take digestive enzyme supplements if you have pancreatitis or pancreatic insufficiency, celiac disease, food allergies, Crohns disease, acne rosacea, chronic yeast infections or candidiasis, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, says the University of Michigan Health System. Proteolytic enzyme supplements in particular are sometimes recommended for treating indigestion, chronic musculoskeletal pain, including tendonitis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, shingles, breast engorgement, and neck pain, as well as for supporting surgery and radiation therapies, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Chymotrypsin and trypsin supplements are most often used for pain, sprains and strains, while lactase enzyme supplement is used primarily for treating lactose intolerance or sensitivity.

 

Digestive enzyme supplements usually contain all three major enzyme types, notes the University of Michigan Health System. Pancreatin is a specific type of supplement that contains lipases, amylases and proteolytic enzymes. Proteolytic enzymes are sometimes used without adding lipases and amylases, taken in the form of the plant-derived bromelain and papain supplements, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Alternatively, you can get proteolytic enzymes like chymotrypsin and trypsin derived from animal pancreases. Follow your physicians instructions for the proper dosage of these digestive enzymes, tailored to your specific health status and medical condition.

 

Digestive enzyme (Foodchem) supplements can cause certain side effects like gastrointestinal upset and potential allergic reactions. Digestive enzymes have been linked to fibrosing colonopathy, a condition causing damage to the large intestine, in children suffering from cystic fibrosis, warns the University of Michigan Health System. Some digestive enzyme supplements can interfere with certain nutritional supplements and medications. For example, bromelain and papain can increase the effects of blood-thinners like Coumadin and cause potential bleeding risks, cautions the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Bromelain can also interact negatively with certain antibiotics and sedatives, while pancreatin can inhibit folate absorption. Consult your doctor about these and other health risks before you begin taking digestive enzymes.

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