What Are Digestive Enzymes And Do They Help IBS?

Digestive enzymes are proteins that have the function of breaking down different types of food matter. Different enzymes work on different types of food matter.

Enzymes are important for the proper digestion of our food. Most people are capable of producing enough enzymes on their own, thus adding more may not be of much benefit. However, adding more usually doesn’t do any harm either. It can be hard to tell if you body is deficient at producing enough enzymes, so ultimately it is worth trying. Problems that are occurring in the upper digestive system, could lead to issues later on in the lower digestive system.

I personally did not see major improvement after taking digestive enzymes. At some points I felt a bit more nauseated after taking a digestive enzyme pill before eating, however this probably has more to do with me overeating during these occasions rather than the enzymes causing the problem themselves.

What Kind of Enzyme Products?:

What you should look for is a vegetable based product that contains a majority or all of the enzymes listed below(see the Enzyme Glossary). Animal based products may not be as stable in the gut. Not all these Enzymes work in the stomach, some work in the small intestine, so it’s important they’re not destroyed before leaving the stomach.

I would suggest trying the following products:

You may also want to try bromelain, which is an enzyme extracted from pineapple separately as it has been shown to reduce inflammation & do other things, like help with sinus congestion. You’ll want to find one mixed with quercetin, which is a plant-derived flavonoid. Quercetin has been shown to help with things like heart disease, cancers & respiratory illnesses. Might as well bundle two good things together at onceĀ :)!

I’d recommend Now Foods Quercetin with Bromelain.

How To Take Enzymes

One method is to take an enzyme pill with water about 15 – 30 minutes before you start eating a meal. Alternatively you can can open the pill itself and mix the enzyme powder with other foods, such as apple sauce.

If you feel that taking enzymes are improving your symptoms you can try increasing the dosage amount. If you feel they’re making your symptoms worse, stop taking them or reduce the amount you’re taking. You can try adding more later. Ultimately it will be your call, just beware it can take some time(weeks) before you start seeing a change. Take it slow and monitor how you’re feeling daily.

Here’s a quick “Enzyme Glossary” which may be of some use:

  • Protein Enzymes(Protease)
    • Pepsin – Breaks proteins into peptides(smaller proteins “chains”).
    • Trypsin – Created by the pancreas, it too helps break down proteins into peptides.
    • Peptidase – Breaks peptides into amino acids(building blocks for proteins).
    • Bromelain – Does not occur normally in animals. It comes from pineapple & breaks down proteins. It has anti-flammatory qualities.
    • Papain – Similar to Bromelain except derived from the Papaya fruit.
  • Starch & Sugar Enzymes(Amylase)
    • Lactase – Breaks down the milk sugar, lactose.
    • Diastase – Breaks down vegetable starches.
    • Sucrase – Breaks down sugars & starches.
    • Maltase – Breaks down malt sugars.
  • Lipase – Breaks down fats.
  • Cellulase – Breaks down mainly plant fibers.