Digest With Digestive Enzymes

The technology to supplement digestive enzymes with meals has been around for several decades. Digestive enzymes are designed to mimic and assist with the body’s production of digestive enzymes, especially those of the pancreas. In terms of leaky gut, the better one breaks down and digests their food the less irritation that is caused on the small intestine lining. As well, nutrients can be absorbed better and the body becomes healthier, including the small intestine. In terms of research, the journal Nutrients reports that leaky gut contributes to undigested food fragments may act as pro-inflammatory agents that cause immune system dysfunction as they enter the blood circulation of the body. Therefore, you can see the importance of not only eating healthy but having proper digestion of food.

There are different types of digestive enzymes. Prescription digestive enzymes are known as exogenous pancreatic enzymes. These types of enzymes are normally prescribed by doctors in a limited number of conditions such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (condition characterized by fat in the stool, weight loss, pancreatic inflammation and elevated blood pancreatic enzymes). These prescription enzymes are normally derived from pork or beef sources. There are also over the counter supplements available that contain pancreatic enzymes. There can be problems with the survivability of pancreatic enzymes in low pH stomach acid. However, enteric coated (coating that protects against stomach acid and allows substance to stay intact until small intestine) tablets have been shown to work well.

A second category of enzymes are the plant enzymes. This includes enzymes such as bromelain taken from pineapple and papain from papaya. These enzymes aid in the digestion of protein.

Many doctors like myself use microbial derived enzymes. These are enzymes that are generally produced from the fermentation of fungus. For example, fungi such as Aspergillus oryzae and Aspergillus niger are grown on wheat or rice bran and given other substances that encourage enzyme activity. Once this occurs the enzymes go through laboratory purification and then are dried, concentrated, and standardized for their activity (potency). These types of enzymes can be used in formulas to not only breakdown fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, but also specialty uses such as gluten (people with celiac disease still need to avoid gluten), sugar, plant fiber, lactose, and other compounds.


Gut-Brain Axis

An example of the gut-brain connection and the benefit of supplemental enzymes was seen in a study published in the journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience. The double-blind, randomized clinical trial involved 101 children with autism spectrum disorder who were give digestive enzymes or placebo. Researchers found that the group receiving the supplemental enzyme therapy for 3 months had significant improvement in several categories of testing including emotional response, general impression autistic score, general behavior, and digestive symptoms.


They Really Do Work

Research has shown that the stool level of enzymes, known as fecal elastase, are low in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diarrhea type (IBS-D). According to a paper published in the Journal of Digestive Diseases, the use digestive enzyme supplementation was shown to be effective for post meal diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D). In addition, other studies have shown digestive enzymes improve other symptoms including abdominal distention, belching, diarrhea, abdominal pain, epigastric burning, flatulence, bloating, belching, a feeling of fullness, and loss of appetite.

Enzymes are quite safe to use. High protein activity enzymes should be used with caution for those with active ulcers.


Dr. Mark Stengler NMD, MS, is a bestselling author in private practice in Encinitas, California, at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine. His newsletter, Dr. Stengler’s Health Breakthroughs, is available at www.americasnaturaldoctor.com His clinic website is www.markstengler.com



Graham, D. Y., Ketwaroo, G. A., Money, M. E., & Opekun, A. R. (2018). Enzyme therapy for functional bowel disease‐like post‐prandial distress. Journal of Digestive Diseases, 19(11), 650–656. https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-2980.12655

Riccio, P., & Rossano, R. (2019). Undigested food and gut microbiota may cooperate in the pathogenesis of neuroinflammatory diseases: A matter of barriers and a proposal on the origin of organ specificity. Nutrients, 11(11), 2714. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11112714

Saad, K., Eltayeb, A. A., Mohamad, I. L., Al-Atram, A. A., Elserogy, Y., Bjørklund, G., El-Houfey, A. A., & Nicholson, B. (2015). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of digestive enzymes in children with autism spectrum disorders. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience, 13(2), 188–193. https://doi.org/10.9758/cpn.2015.13.2.188