Enzymes digestion ABC. When and why to use them?

Enzymes are needed to keep the body's metabolism running smoothly, and a lack of enzymes can lead to health problems. Find out more about them.

Enzymes digestion ABC. When and why to use them?
Pineapple: The ABC of enzymes. When and why use them? Photo by Fernando Andrade / Unsplash

The cells of the human body contain enzymes, also known as ferments. Certain enzymes are involved in the digestive system. Some enzymes are important for the immune system and enzymes that are involved in reducing inflammation. Indeed, sometimes these natural biochemical processes do not work well enough and enzymes need to be supplemented.

Enzymes are synthesized in the body and this is natural. The enzymes needed for the digestive system are produced in the pancreas, stomach and small intestine, and the salivary glands also secrete enzymes to help break down food. Other enzymes synthesized by the body are important for nerve function, breathing, and muscle function.

The main role of enzymes

So, enzymes are essential for the smooth running of the body's metabolism, and their deficiency can lead to health problems. For example, nutritional disorders occur when pancreatic enzymes are deficient. The consequences are unpleasant - flatulence or increased gas formation in the intestines.

Bloating, gurgling, liquid flatulence, and sometimes pain often cause discomfort. Regular experience of such symptoms is bound to be distressing, disrupting the usual rhythm of life.

Another thing to consider is that a lack of digestive enzymes also means that the body is not getting all the nutrients and fat-soluble vitamins it needs. This can have consequences such as avitaminosis, intestinal dysbacteriosis, anemia, or impaired normal functioning of the immune system.

Enzymes as medicine

If the body is not producing enough enzymes and they are unable to do its job, your doctor may prescribe enzyme therapy. About 3000 enzymes have been discovered. Modern pharmaceuticals have developed formulations - different combinations of enzymes that can help the body with metabolic processes. Preparations contain, for example, amylase, lipase, papain, bromelain, trypsin, and protease. These are natural substances that the body understands.

Enzyme preparations can be helpful if:

pancreatic insufficiency;
chronic or acute inflammation;
cystic fibrosis;
Coeliac disease;
liver disease;
inflammatory bowel disease.

Enzyme preparations are also recommended as an adjunct to basic therapy. For example, if:

herpes virus infection;
traumatic oedema, haematoma;
chronic inflammation of the oral cavity;
inflammation of the ears, throat, and sinuses;
inflammation of the airways or joints;
inflammation of veins and other organs.

Your doctor may also prescribe enzymes as an additional treatment after surgery.

Most enzyme preparations are over-the-counter, but there are some (for example, to improve pancreatic function) that can only be obtained from a pharmacy with a prescription from your doctor. Often, pharmacy customers ask for an enzyme preparation that they have read good reviews about on the internet.

However, it is advisable to talk to your doctor first, as it is always important to understand whether its use is really necessary and will solve the problem. Furthermore, only a doctor can recommend the most appropriate dosage.

It should be borne in mind that a pharmacist is competent enough to advise on herbal compatibility, so when purchasing enzyme preparations it would be useful to tell them about the medication you are already taking. The pharmacist will then be able to assess whether there are any risks of interactions between the medicines and the enzyme preparations.

For example, care should be taken when taking enzymes at the same time as taking antibiotics, as the concentration of active substances in the body may increase. Some enzyme preparations are not recommended to be taken at the same time, for example with drugs that prevent blood clots.

How to properly ingest enzymes?

Enzyme preparations are different and their use may vary. Here are some nuances of use.

Take the enzyme preparation to improve digestion during or shortly after a meal with a glass of water.

If swallowing is difficult, the enzyme capsule may be opened and the contents added to a sour, soft food or liquid - yogurt, applesauce, apple, orange, or pineapple juice.

If the enzyme preparation is intended for the treatment of inflammation, it should be taken half an hour before or one and a half hours after a meal with a glass of water and should not be chewed or divided to avoid damaging the tablet shell.

Can I overdose on enzymes digestion?

Enzyme preparations can be overdosed and may also have undesirable side effects. The symptoms are similar in both cases but are more likely to disappear when the dose is reduced.

Possible symptoms include:

Diarrhea and nausea;
Decreased appetite;
Altered fecal consistency, odor, color;
Less commonly, bloating and a feeling of fullness.

If you experience any side effects or allergic reactions while taking an enzyme preparation, you should stop taking the medicine and consult your doctor. A pharmacist can also provide advice within the scope of his/her competence.