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Taking a Look at How Digestive Enzyme Supplements Help with Bloating FAQ

Posted by pernille jensen on
digestive enzymes

As a naturopath, bloating is probably the #1 thing I get asked about, shortly followed by brain fog and weight loss. Bloating that happens more than 1-2 x a week and is uncomfortable or even painful, is a sign of digestive dysfunction that requires some dietary or lifestyle change to resolve it.

Luckily, digestive enzymes help for most common causes of bloating and they’re safe and easy to access and use. We’ve put together this article as a little crash course and FAQ for enzyme supplements in the hope that it provides a few lightbulb moments for our audience.

What are digestive enzymes and enzyme supplements?

Digestive enzymes are chemicals that our pancreas makes naturally after eating, to help us break down the carbohydrates, fats, fibres and proteins in our diet. This process maintains good health by ensuring nutrients from food are properly absorbed and prevents microbial overgrowth and the development of food sensitivities.

Enzymes help to fully digest our food and help to improve gut health by preventing large food particles being absorbed into the blood stream where the immune system can be triggered and cause allergy – type reactions. Proper digestion also prevents large food particles being fermented by bacteria and yeasts and causing bloating or altered bowel motions.

What symptoms or issues can enzyme supplements help to manage?

Supplemental enzymes are typically recommended by naturopaths and nutritionists to improve digestive capacity in people who show signs of not producing enough stomach acid or pancreatic enzymes. Supplemental enzymes are often used to relieve bloating, excessive fullness and tiredness after eating. Another common sign is having an upset stomach or loose stool after a fatty meal (think pizza or a café brunch).

Supplemental enzymes can reduce food sensitivities and improve outcomes in health conditions that impair healthy digestive processes. A few of these conditions can be chronic stress, IBS and inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune conditions (particularly Hashimotos thyroiditis) and SIBO or candida overgrowth.

Enzymes can assist with mineral and nutrient deficiencies and the fatigue they cause. Long term impaired digestion results in food passing the length of the digestive tract without many nutrients being absorbed from it. Some medications such as antacids and anti-inflammatories add to this problem, too. If you’re on a prescription medications and are concerned about your digestion, talk to your naturopath, pharmacist or GP about how to best manage your gut health alongside your prescription.

How do supplemental enzymes improve digestion?

Supplemental enzyme products add additional enzymes to the stomach and intestines with the food we eat to break it down more efficiently. They come as small capsules that you take with meals and they can be made from animal pancreatic enzymes or plant based sources.

Enzymes {digest+debloat} by The Gut Co, is fully plant-based and vegan.

While all quality (TGA listed) enzymes reduce incidence of food sensitivities,

some specific enzymes improve non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance symptoms. Enzymes from the fungi Aspergillus oryzae; protease, amylase and glucosamylase, help to break down the gliadin & gluten in gluten containing foods. Tilactase from Aspergillus oryzae, also helps to break down lactose, reducing reactions in people with lactose intolerance.

How to take your digestive enzyme supplement?

Start slow and build your way up. 1 capsule with breakfast and dinner for the first 2-3 days then increase to 2 capsules with every meal.

Take your enzyme supplement with your meals, no more than 15-30 minutes before a meal as having it too early can reduce its effectiveness and cause nausea. Having it with food ensures that its working to break down that meal, prevent bloating and help you absorb the nutrients in your food.

How long does it take digestive enzymes to work?

Digestive enzymes typically reduce the severity of bloating and fatigue after meals in the first 2-3 days of regular dosing, you can notice continued improvement over the first few weeks. For managing more long term conditions like gut dysbiosis or food allergies and sensitivities, 4 weeks up to 8 weeks or even longer can be needed. Over this time your microbiome begins to restore, allowing your gut lining to rebuild and your immune system to reduce its reactivity to food or microbial triggers.

There is no maximum amount of time that you can take digestive enzymes for, they’re safe long term and improve health by increasing nutrients absorbed from your food and keeping your microbiome in check. 

Are there side effects?

Any effects caused in the first week of introducing enzymes are less likely to be true ‘side effects’ and are often signs that the enzymes are working and your body is adjusting to the change. Some people experience an upset stomach, irritability or mild allergy symptoms. These are only short term and should pass on their own within a few days of onset. This is primarily caused by bacteria and yeasts like candida dying, because of increased enzymes in the small intestine and lack of undigested food passing by for them to ferment for their survival. While it may feel a bit disheartening to experience, a die-off reaction is actually a very positive sign. If any adverse changes persist beyond a week, or are causing considerable discomfort, seek advice from a naturopath or GP.

Can I become dependent on digestive enzyme supplements?

No. Regular dosing with supplemental enzymes does not appear to reduce the body’s ability to produce enzymes over time. Other digestive support products that contain hydrochloric acid replacement with betaine hydrochloride can further reduce stomach acid production with long term use. However aromatic herbs like ginger and cinnamon, and digestive enzymes are safe and effective and do not cause dependence with long term use.

Safety considerations:

It is important to note that while digestive support can help to manage some food sensitivities, it WILL NOT cure or treat coeliac disease or severe allergies that cause anaphylaxis or severe swelling & pain. If you have an allergy like this to something like shellfish or peanuts, you will likely still never eat those foods, you will just digest your non-trigger foods far better and improve your wellbeing, generally.

There is also a warning for people diagnosed with pancreatitis, if you’ve ever had this condition, ask a doctor before beginning the supplement.

Are digestive enzymes safe in pregnancy or breastfeeding?

There haven’t been any studies done in pregnant or lactating women to assess safety, so it’s important that new mums ask their naturopath, midwife or doctor before introducing digestive enzymes.

Are fungus – derived enzymes going to impact candida overgrowth or mould illness?

Quality enzymes that are TGA listable in Australia, like the ones used by The Gut Co, are made from specific strains of “pharmaceutical grade” Aspergillus. The enzymes are extracted by a complex process that isolates protein compounds (enzymes) from the raw material. No living Aspergillus cells remain in the final product and therefore cannot colonise or infect people, or exacerbate existing mould illness.

Also, in regard to candida overgrowth, fungal skin conditions and oral or vaginal thrush, enzymes reduce their growth by two important mechanisms;

  • Enzymes break down the biofilms that opportunistic yeasts can hide behind, once they’re exposed, bacterial metabolites, stomach acid and bile salts reduce their growth.
  • Without abundant undigested food particles, overgrown yeasts lose their food source and begin to die off naturally.

Another tip for better digestion…. Eat mindfully. Take 5 big deep belly breaths with long exhales before beginning your meal. Feel your hips in your seat, your feet on the floor and notice what your other senses are picking up, such as what your food smells like. You will know this has worked and you’re ready to eat when you feel a little extra saliva in your mouth.

Chew your food thoroughly, 30 chews per bite is optimal however this might not be practical for everyone, so chew until your food is a mushy paste before swallowing.

 Learn more about The gut Cø’s own digestive enzyme supplement; Enzymes {digest and debloat} here.

 

References:

Ann Arbour Holistic Health; https://annarborholistichealth.com/dn-faq/ , Copyright Gary Merrell 2022.

Ciacci, C., Franceschi, F., Purchiaroni, F., Capone, P., Buccelletti, F., Iacomini, P., Ranaudo, A., Andreozzi, P., Tondi, P., Silveri, N.G. and Gasbarrini, A., 2011. Effect of ß-Glucan, Inositol and digestive enzymes in GI symptoms of patients with IBS. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Serv15, pp.637-643.

Hausch F1, Shan L, Santiago NA, Gray GM, Khosla C. Intestinal digestive resistance of immunodominant gliadin peptides. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2002 Oct;283(4):G996-G1003.

Hills RD Jr, Pontefract BA, Mishcon HR, Black CA, Sutton SC, Theberge CR. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 16;11(7):1613. doi: 10.3390/nu11071613. PMID: 31315227; PMCID: PMC6682904.

Nongonierma AB1, FitzGerald RJ. Susceptibility of milk protein-derived peptides to   dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) hydrolysis. Food Chem. 2014 Feb 15;145:845-52. 

Swami, O.C. and Shah, N.J., 2017. Functional dyspepsia and the role of digestive enzymes supplement in its therapy. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol, 6(5), p.1035.

Untersmayr E, Jensen-Jarolim E. The role of protein digestibility and antacids on food allergy outcomes. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Jun;121(6):1301-8; quiz 1309-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.04.025. PMID: 18539189; PMCID: PMC2999748.

 

 

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