How Digestive Enzymes Can Help Food Intolerance

The root cause of food intolerance is an inability to digest certain foods due to lack of an inherent digestive enzyme—resulting in digestive discomfort. That’s where supplemental digestive enzymes can be especially helpful.

For example, approximately 65 percent of adults have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Lactose is a sugar in milk and milk products that is broken down by the enzyme lactase, which is produced in the small intestine. If the lactose is not broken down, it can produce a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, especially gas, bloating, cramping pain and diarrhea.

Taking supplemental lactase enzyme can help digest the lactose and allow people with lactose intolerance to reduce or even eliminate symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that many people who are lactose intolerant also have trouble breaking down milk proteins as well. Therefore, products that combine lactase with protein-digesting enzymes (proteases) are usually a much better choice.

Using digestive enzyme supplements for food intolerance
Not only can digestive enzyme supplementation make the dietary approaches to food intolerance work better, in many cases enzyme supplementation may be even more useful than dietary changes. While an enzyme supplement can be helpful in one part of the digestive system, it may be totally inactive in another. That’s why mixtures of carefully blended enzymes have been shown to work three times stronger and work more than six times faster than leading other enzyme preparations.

The recommended method is to take one or two capsules of the enzyme formula before each meal for 14 days. Improving digestion via supplemental enzymes is often all that is necessary to eliminate a food intolerance.

Can digestive enzymes help with gluten intolerance?
Yes, products that combine protein-digesting enzymes known as proteases and the specific gluten-digesting enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV) can really help.

The popular solution for gluten and casein intolerance is to follow a gluten-free, casein-free diet and eliminate the offending proteins. Beneficial grains for replacement of gluten sources include amaranth, quinoa and a variety of rice, such as brown, red, black and wild rice. Casein is found in milk and dairy products, so when avoiding gluten and casein, it’s important to read food labels carefully.

While this approach usually reduces discomfort, there are often hidden sources of gluten or casein in foods that can cause symptoms. That’s where supplemental digestive enzyme preparations come in—they can help people tolerate lower levels of gluten or casein intake, especially during the initial phase of gluten and/or casein avoidance.

Look for products that provide DPP-IV, which is thought to be one of the key enzymes responsible for the digestion of these proteins and is known to be found in lower amounts in the intestinal lining of individuals with gluten sensitivity and intolerance. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between the level of DPP-IV and intestinal damage in people with gluten sensitivity. In other words, the lower the DPP-IV level, the more significant the damage to the intestinal lining.

Final comment from Dr. Murray
Digestive complaints affect nearly one out of four people. In most cases, the symptoms reflect disturbed digestive function or food intolerance rather than an underlying disease. Functional gastrointestinal disorders include occasional indigestion or heartburn, functional dyspepsia, excessive flatulence and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Supporting digestion by using digestive enzyme preparations and other natural approaches is often the best route to elimination of these bothersome (and sometimes embarrassing) symptoms.